Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

Heart outside my body

February 5th, 2018

Elizabeth Stone (whoever she is) once said that “making the decision to have a child… is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body.”

Most of the time, when I read this quote on a pretty background while scrolling through Pinterest, I roll my eyes. That is everything that is wrong with parenting these days, I think. Parents are just too absorbed in their children.

And then my baby gets her first cold.

All my children

I remember it with Tirzah Mae, a few weeks after she came home from the hospital. She was snuffling and gasping and we’d been trained into terror of RSV by the NICU staff.

We took her to our doctor, who smiled indulgently at these first time parents freaking out about a simple cold. He described the warning signs of something worse than just a cold and sent us home (thankfully, he didn’t /doesn’t subscribe to the “give a baby antibiotics just to ease troubled parents’ minds” line of thought.)

Even knowing that Tirzah Mae’s cold was just a cold, I still felt with every labored breath that my heart was rattling outside my chest – and that said heart was just about to break.

Somehow, it doesn’t get easier. Beth-Ellen was a term baby. Her objective risk of serious complications of a cold is lower than the other children’s risk was. I’m a more experienced mom and have weathered dozens of colds.

But when Beth-Ellen got a cold this weekend, at just shy of six weeks old, my heart was out there coughing. And when she lost her voice and could only squeak instead of screaming? My heart, oh my heart, squeezed until it’s crushed. And when she started wheezing with every breath in and out? I was sure she was dying – and that I was dying with her.

And just as I’m about to wake my husband and tell him we need to head to the ER (but am worried because, for some reason, it seems like every time we go to the ER, the problem resolves while we’re there and I look like a fool) – anyway, just as I’m about to wake Daniel and head off to the ER, I remember where my heart actually belongs.

My heart doesn’t belong in my children’s chests. It doesn’t even belong in mine. My heart belongs to God.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5 ESV)

Sure, I’d prayed for Beth-Ellen at our evening devotions, and earlier when she’d come up in my prayer app. But during all this worrying? I hadn’t been entrusting her to the Lord.

I stopped. I confessed my lack of trust. I prayed for healing and for wisdom to know when to have Beth-Ellen seen. I entrusted my daughter to God’s care, entrusted my heart to him.

And the labored wheezing settled, the noisy breathing calmed, the restless sleep eased. My daughter slept in peace.

And I did too, my heart still walking outside my body, but this time walking with the one who holds it – and my daughter – so tenderly.

My heart and my daughter can find rest in God alone.

To paraphrase the Psalmist: Why so troubled, O my heart? Put your trust in God!

A Christmas gift

December 26th, 2017

After 55 hours of labor, we were pleased to welcome Beth-Ellen Irene Garcia into the outside world on Christmas Day.

She was born at 42 weeks, just like her mother before her, and, by the grace of God, via an unmedicated vaginal birth after 2 cesarean sections.

Welcoming Beth-Ellen into the family

She is the answer to prayer, a delightful Christmas present. But, as the reporter from our local news forced me to clarify, Beth-Ellen is not the greatest Christmas present ever.

As I told the reporter (unfortunately, the most important part got left out of the news clip), that distinction is reserved for another baby, one born over 2000 years ago. Because while Beth-Ellen came on Christmas to be a part of our family, Jesus came as “not just a member of our family but someone who came to make us a member of God’s family, and that’s truly the greatest gift. And what a treasure we have to be able to share that with our daughter, our Beth-Ellen.”

Rejoicing in the Incarnation – and in this precious gift we get to share Christ’s gift with.

Family worship (or, quit complicating things so much)

November 9th, 2017

We knew even before we had children that we wanted family worship to be a thing in our household.

We also knew that the thought of family worship was overwhelming and intimidating. We knew how hard it could be to be consistent in personal devotions – and how many times we’d stopped and started at attempts to spend devotional time together as a couple. How on earth could we do family worship?

It just so happened that we have children who don’t do a great job at sleeping – and I started reading Tirzah Mae a Bible story from The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories by Mary Batchelor (which my mom gives a story a baby shower gift) every night before putting her to bed.

Then, last Advent, I got out the Advent wreath and we made a point to light the appropriate candles and sing a Christmas hymn after supper each evening.

As we got ready to put away our Christmas decorations, it struck us that we’d been complicating the idea of family worship overmuch – and that we were missing out on a great opportunity to train our children as a result.

We combined the Bible story I’d been reading with the hymn we’d made a habit of singing, added a time of family prayer at the end – and now we have family worship almost every evening.

It turned out to be that simple. We get the kids in their jammies after supper and then choose a hymn to sing. We read from a story Bible (we’re actually reading through The Ology by Marty Machowski right now, having gone through the Old and New Testaments in story form twice now – we plan to alternate going through the storyline of Scripture and doing something more theological/doctrinal like this.) Finally, we pray together – Tirzah Mae and then mama and then papa (Louis isn’t quite talking yet.) Then it’s kisses and toothbrushing and off to bed.

Simple and totally doable, now that we quit complicating things so much.

Take heart

October 24th, 2017

“What’s this song about?”

It’s a question Tirzah Mae asks me a half dozen times a day.

It’s a question I love to answer because it forces me to listen to the music that’s on, forces me to articulate the message in simple terms.

But this time, the question discomposed me. We were in the car listening to a random “Christian” CD we’d borrowed from the library. A “Christian” CD that was basically the prosperity gospel set to music.

I blustered a bit. “Well, this song has bad theology. It’s saying that if we trust in Jesus, we won’t have any problems.”

And as the song promised believers would be “on top of the world” and as the singer ad libbed what sorts of things believers would be “on top” in (money, physical health, possessions, families, fame, more money, more possessions…) As the song pushed on with its false promises, I was reminded of – and told my daughter of – a true promise Jesus made:

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
~John 16:33 (NIV)

I told my daughter that God promised that we would have hard times, but that those who believe in Jesus have Jesus to walk with them during the hard times on this earth – and that those who believe in Jesus have the promise that God will set everything right in the end.

And then I had to stop lest the tears obstruct my ability to drive.

But I kept thinking on the promise of God for a good long while. I was moved to worship the God who has overcome this world – even though all has not yet been put to right. And I was moved to pray for those pitiful souls who are clinging to a false promise of ease in this life and do not know the joy of trusting Christ for what HE has promised (and will surely bring to pass).

“If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
~1 Corinthians 5:19 (ESV)

Tirzah Mae’s question was a simple one – and one I didn’t really know how to answer – but the process of attempting to answer it turned what had been background noise (and theologically incorrect background noise at that!) into an opportunity to worship God and pray for the lost.

Take heart, dear believers, who feel on the bottom of the world – whether because of a job you hate, an income that doesn’t seem to make ends meet, relationships that are broken, health problems that seem insurmountable, or any other thing. Take heart, Christ has overcome the world.

And, if you have been placing your hope in this world – in the pursuit of fame and fortune and comfort and family or in any other thing – know this, those things will never satisfy. All the hope this world offers is hollow. Place your trust in Christ – he has overcome this world.


June 12th, 2017

Tirzah Mae peeled the barcode off her new water bottle and affixed it to her shirt.

I noticed it on our way out of the grocery store and began to tease her.

“We need to find a scanner so we can see how much you cost.”

“Are you a bargain or are you pricey?”

I contemplated adding the numbers I knew, the ones I’ve quoted to others.

Half a million dollars.

That was the sticker price for her first twenty-nine days outside the womb. (Neither we nor our insurance company paid the sticker price.)

I thought back to my question: “Are you a bargain or are you pricey?” Yes.

I didn’t quote that number to my daughter, couldn’t quote that number.

Instead my daughter listened and watched, a bit baffled as her mother choked out the words: “You’re neither. You’re priceless. Because you’re made in the image of God.”

So she is. And so are you.

Am overwhelming truth.

Repeating my Father’s words

April 5th, 2017

One of the most fascinating parts of being the mother of a verbal toddler is having a window into Tirzah Mae’s thoughts.

Her internal dialogue is external. She speaks whatever is on her mind.

When she’s debating whether to follow my instructions or not, she repeats my common refrain: “You have a choice” and congratulates herself with my own “good decision.”

And then there are the dogs. Tirzah Mae is terrified by dogs – and our next door neighbor has three or four large ones that bark often.

When Tirzah Mae sees or hears them, she often runs to me in fear pronouncing “Doggie woof-woof!”

I’ll remind her that the doggies are behind the fence, that they can’t hurt her. And I’ll let her hang on to my leg as long as it takes before she resumes whatever she was doing.

But after dozens or hundreds of reminders, Tirzah Mae has started reminding herself. She’ll be outside playing and the dogs will bark. Then I’ll hear her reminding herself “Behind the fence, can’t hurt you.”

Hearing her childlike trust in my pronouncements, hearing how she is constantly reminding herself of the truth that came (originally) from my lips, I am challenged.

I’m challenged because, while I’m not afraid of dogs, there are plenty of other things I’m afraid of. And I debate obedience more often than I care to admit.

Will I respond with the irritation I feel or with the soft answer I know God desires me to use? Will I dwell in the fear-world that says I’ll never have friends in this still-sometimes-strange-seeming-place or will I continue to reach out to people? Will I believe the inner voice that says I deserve [a bath, a plate of nachos, to not be touched for just a few minutes] or will I believe that serving my family is a privilege? Will I let myself be lured into self-pity over not having time to blog or will I trust that God has called me into this time and season and that it is good, even if I’m not blogging all about it?

Tirzah Mae’s internal dialogues spoken out loud challenge me to reframe my own internal dialogues.

Instead of running over my own words again and again and again, I would do better to repeat my Father’s words. He is trustworthy.

I need to remind myself of the truth of God’s word.

When I want to respond with irritation, I can remind myself of God’s patience with me. I can remind myself that I want my words to “bring grace to all that hear” (Eph 4:29). When I feel alone, I can remind myself that Jesus was rejected by those he came to serve – and I can remind myself that I have been given the “Helper, to be with [me] forever” (John 14:16). When I want to tell myself that I deserve my own comfort, I can remind myself of Christ who “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant” (Phil 2:6-7). When I am tempted to self pity, I can remember that “for those who love God all things work together for good” that I might be “conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:28-29).

Like Tirzah Mae, I can repeat my Father’s words, reframing my internal dialogues to conform to the truth as He has revealed it.

Lord, help me to do so, day by day.

Getting to Know Ignatius

February 10th, 2017

Ignatius was an early church father who was bishop of Antioch of Syria. We know of him from a collection of letters he wrote to various churches (and to Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna) while enroute to Rome, where he expected to be martyred as a witness to Christ.

Ignatius’s letters follow a relatively predictable arc: Ignatius greets the church and writes them some encouragement before settling upon his primary message: the church must be unified in order that she can combat heresy.

For Ignatius, unity means complete submission to the bishop. Ignatius is a strong proponent of the monoepiscopacy, that is, of a single strong bishop as leader of the church in a specific area. Ignatius regards the bishop as analogous to Christ, the presbyters (also called elders) as analogous to the apostles, and the deacons as analogous to angels and the servants of the presbyters. Given this understanding of church governance, Ignatius’ insistence on unity with the bishop makes sense (even if it does grate on these Protestant ears!) However, it is important to note that Ignatius does not urge unity and submission to the bishop for its own sake. Ignatius’ primary goal is that the church remain free from apostasy and heresy – and he sees unity under a selected bishop as a way of attaining that. In his letter to the Ephesian church, Ignatius writes that the one who separates himself from “the bishop and the whole church” is “a wolf in sheep’s clothing, while he presents a mild outward appearance.”

Regarding the relationship of the church to the bishop, Ignatius writes:

“For your justly-renowned presbytery (church), being worthy of God, is fitted as exactly to the bishop as the strings are to the harp. Thus, being joined together in concord and harmonious love, of which Jesus Christ is the Captain and Guardian, do ye, man by man, become but one choir; so that, agreeing together in concord, and obtaining a perfect unity with God, ye may indeed be one in harmonious feeling with God the Father, and His beloved Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”

~Ignatius to the Ephesians

Ignatius was particularly concerned with two dueling heresies: the heresy of the Judaizers and the heresy of the Gnostics. The Judaizers insisted that Christian believers follow the Old Testament laws and become Jews in order to have salvation in Christ. The Gnostics argued that Jesus did not truly come in the flesh but only in the appearance of the flesh (called “docetism”).

Most of Ignatius’ arguments against docetism are propositional: “Now He suffered all these things for us; and He suffered them really, and not in appearance only…” (Ignatius to the Smyrnians) But some of Ignatius’ writings sing with praise for the salvation Jesus wrought through His humanity:

“Being incorporeal, He was in the body; being impassible, He was in a passible body; being immortal, He was in a mortal body; being life, He became subject to corruption, that He might free our souls from death and corruption, and heal them, and might restore them to health, when they were diseased with ungodliness and wicked lusts.”

~Ignatius to the Ephesians

(I had to look up “impassible” – and discovered that it means incapable of suffering pain. While Ignatius does not make this clear, it seems theologically correct that Jesus was physically impassible prior to his incarnation – but he was not incapable of suffering anguish in an emotional or “soulish” sense.)

In another letter, Ignatius speaks of the heretics thus:

“For they speak of Christ, not that they may preach Christ, but that they may reject Christ; and they speak of the law, not that they may establish the law, but that they may proclaim things contrary to it.”

~Ignatius to the Trallians

At other times, Ignatius channels the apostle Paul, proclaiming that if Christ only suffered in appearance, then Ignatius’ sufferings, imprisonment, and impending martyrdom are worthless (see 2 Corinthians 15).

In his letter to the Ephesians, Ignatius gave a test by which to distinguish false teachers. False teachers, Ignatius says, speak of their own accord and for their own glory, while God speaks as the Trinity (the Son does not speak of his own accord but what he hears from the Father, etc.) and for the glory of the Trinity (the Holy Spirit glorifies Christ, etc.)

While most of Ignatius’ letters to the churches focus on combating heresy and encouraging unity under the bishop, his letter to the Romans sharply departs from the norm. The letter to the Roman’s is almost entirely focused on one goal and one goal alone: the Roman church is not to seek to prevent Ignatius’ impending martyrdom, either through prayer or through legal means. Ignatius desires to be martyred as a testimony and wishes no one to stand in his way.

Another departure is Ignatius’ letter to a fellow bishop, Polycarp. This letter consists primarily of instructions to Polycarp and to Polycarp’s flock, with little to no discussion of pure doctrine. The letter to Polycarp is about orthopraxy rather than orthodoxy.

I’ve enjoyed reading Ignatius’ letters as part of my study of church history. As I alluded to above, I do not find myself in agreement with Polycarp’s monoepiscopacy – I believe the Scriptural pattern describes a plurality of elders who share responsibility for the body and to whom the pastor is accountable, rather than a single leader who bears responsibility and to whom the elders are accountable. On the other hand, reading Ignatius’ defenses of Christ’s humanity (in particular) has encouraged me to reflect upon the Incarnation and to better worship the Incarnate God.

Ignatius at a Glance
Date: ~35-108
Location: Antioch
Key theological points:

  • Arguments against Judaizers
  • Arguments against docetism
  • Defense of the monoepiscopacy

Key writings: Letters to a number of churches and to Polycarp


  • Litfin, Bryan. Getting to Know the Church Fathers. Chapter 1: Ignatius of Antioch
  • Schaff, Philip. Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 1 (available at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library)

Church History: The Age of Jesus and the Apostles

January 27th, 2017

This year’s main spiritual goal is to “grow theologically through a study of church history”. To that end, I’m using Bruce L. Shelley’s Church History in Plain Language as a spine and reading original sources and biographies to supplement my study. This month’s section was “The Age of Jesus and the Apostles, 6 BC – AD 70.” In other words, the New Testament Age. Because I am already relatively familiar with this stage of church history, this was an easy month. I read Matthew, Acts, and Ephesians as my original sources and selected two books on Paul from my local library (only one of which I finished, as seen below.) I also found one of Shelley’s recommended readings at my library and read that.

Core Reading: Church History in Plain Language
The two chapters on “The Age of Jesus and the Apostles” are easy reading. They summarize the narrative portions of the New Testament, giving some historical details drawn heavily from the below-mentioned Great People of the Bible and How They Lived.

Supplemental Reading:

Great People of the Bible and How They Lived by Reader’s Digest
Bruce included this work in his recommended readings for this section – and I’m glad he did. I’ve only read the New Testament section (so far), but I’ve found this to be a highly readable retelling of the narrative of the New Testament with appropriate historical details added in text and with photographs and illustrations. Given that this is a secular work, I would have expected significant skepticism about the words and works of Christ, as well as how the apostles interpreted said words and works – but this is not a skeptical work. In fact, it is quite the opposite. I especially enjoyed the discussion of temple politics and the divisions between the Pharisees and Sadducees and the discussion of the divisions between the Jerusalem Jews and the Hellenists. Another thing I’d never thought of was how the locus of ministry in the New Testament shifts from Galilee (during Jesus’ early ministry) to Jerusalem (during Jesus’ late ministry and the apostles’ early ministry) to Antioch (from which Paul and Barnabas’s missionary journeys were launched.)

Paul: In Fresh Perspective by N.T. Wright

This is a small but dense work edited from some lectures Wright gave at Cambridge University. I found it difficult to find time to read it because it required my full attention (something in short supply!) to get Wright’s points. Nevertheless, I am glad I read this. Some points I found useful:

  • Wright points out Paul’s consistent use of the word “Christ”, which we tend to think of as little more than Jesus’ surname, but which conveyed quite a bit more in Paul’s Jewish context. Specifically, Paul was consistently pointing to Jesus’ messianic role – what Wright calls an “apocalyptic” context. Wright discusses some of the expectations the Jews of Paul’s time would have had surrounding the term “Christ” and what that would have meant to them. To remind myself of this context, I’ve been mentally substituting “The Promised Messiah and Savior” whenever I read “Christ” in the New Testament.
  • Occasionally, I hear the cross in the Roman world compared to an electric chair – “You’d never hang an electric chair around your neck.” But Wright points out that the cross was not simply a means by which Rome carried out executions. It was a symbol of Rome’s might, particularly its power over conquered peoples. The cross represented the power of Rome to kill those who oppose. Yet the subversive nature of the gospel stated that the cross represents the power, not of Rome but of God, not to kill but to save.

Paul: The Mind of the Apostle by A.N. Wilson

I gave this book up after 50 pages, having grown tired of passages like this:

“If readers of the New Testament choose to believe that Paul never set eyes on Jesus and that he had no psychological interest or compulsion to inspire him throughout the thirty years in which he preached Jesus Christ Crucified other than the testimony of the friends of Jesus, whom he had barely met, then that reader is entitled to his or her point of view.”

I understand that not all biographers of Biblical persons consider the Bible to be the authoritative word of God – but I’d prefer not to represented by a straw man. Only a reader of the New Testament who is determined to disbelieve it will assume Paul’s reason for believing was “the testimony of the friends of Jesus whom he had barely met.” Scripture plainly states in Acts 9 and 22 that Paul’s reason for his “obsession” with Jesus was a personal encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus. Call the Damascus road experience a hallucination if you like, but don’t pretend that the Bible gives no explanation for Paul’s zeal.

The Christian and Clinical Depression or Anxiety

January 25th, 2017

In recent years, I’ve seen an increasing number of articles for a Christian audience about clinical depression and anxiety. Most have sought to explain why “just get over it” is unhelpful advice (amazing that needs explanation!) and why having clinical depression or anxiety does not mean that one is unspiritual. More than a few have derided the use of Philippians 4:6 “Be anxious for nothing” or Psalm 42/43 “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Put your hope in God” when talking to someone who is experiencing clinical anxiety or depression. These articles have served a necessary role of educating believers on the psychological conditions many believers suffer with. They have helped believers become more understanding of the multifaceted aspects of anxiety and depression. They have hopefully helped believers understand the benefits of physical and pharmaceutical approaches to managing depression and anxiety.

But I fear these articles have had an unintended (at least I hope it’s unintended) consequence of allowing believers suffering from clinical depression and anxiety to justify disobedience to God.

Now, lest anyone mistake what I am saying, I am not saying that using medication, talk therapy, or a variety of stress management techniques is being disobedient to Christ. I use medication, light therapy, and a variety of lifestyle management techniques to manage seasonal affective disorder and have used medication and lifestyle management techniques to deal with bouts of major depression. I do this with a clear conscience, seeing no Biblical evidence that using these tools to manage my depression is wrong.

But I fear we can easily take the leap from “clinical depression and anxiety are biological with biological cures” to “clinical depression and anxiety are biological therefore I don’t need to be obedient to God’s commands regarding my thoughts and attitudes.

This, friends, is a lie from the pit of hell.

Just as a broken leg doesn’t exempt us from our call to “not neglect to meet together” (Heb 10:25), even though it makes assembling with other believers more difficult, neither does depression or anxiety exempt us from our call to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor 10:5), even though it does mean that there are perhaps more and more persistent thoughts to take captive.

You may need more than just taking thoughts captive to help you manage clinical depression and anxiety, but you certainly don’t need less.

When I am in the throes of depression, my thoughts often take a terrible turn. I contemplate my lack of energy and think “I’m worthless, I never get anything done.” I contemplate my seclusion and think “No one loves me.” I contemplate my thoughts and think “I’ll never be free of this depression.”

But I must not allow these thoughts to take over my mind. As fast as the arrows may volley forth, I must not surrender to them. Instead, I must take them captive to obey Christ.

When my thoughts say “You’re worthless. You never get anything done.”, I reply “My worth is not dependent on my accomplishments but on Christ’s, for ‘God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved [me] even when [I was] dead in [my] trespasses, made [me] alive together with Christ (Eph 2:4-5).'”

When my thoughts say “No one love you”, I reply “but God shows his love for [me] in that while [I was] still [a sinner], Christ died for me. (Rom 5:8)”

When my thoughts say “I’ll never be free of this depression”, I reply “Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom 7:24-25)”

Most of all, when depression turns all my thoughts inward – to myself, to my own shortcomings – I must turn my face resolutely toward God. I must say with the psalmist:

“Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.”
~Psalm 42:11 (ESV)

For those of you who suffer from clinical anxiety, this does not negate your call to “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Phil 4:6)” It probably means you have a lot more anxieties and requests to make known to God than I have, but just because it’s harder for you to be obedient doesn’t mean that you’re excused from that call.

Now, are you starting to feel like I’m bullying you? Placing a burden on you too hard to bear? Are you feeling the need to escape to one of those articles about the biological basis of anxiety and depression?

At various times in the midst of depression, I would be tempted to feel that. But this is not bullying or a burden.

Have you ever heard of cognitive-behavioral therapy? It’s the best proven form of therapy for anxiety and depression. And you know what it is, basically? It’s identifying untrue thoughts and unhelpful actions that contribute to anxiety and depression and replacing them with true thoughts and helpful actions.

You know what that sounds like to me?

“Take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience.” (2 Cor 10:5-6)

So to you, dear sister or brother who suffers from clinical depression, take every physical means necessary to deal with your condition. Take the medicine, go to therapy, get your rest, exercise, do any one of the myriad of things that can help you manage. But do not neglect to take your thoughts captive. Do not neglect to turn your eyes to Christ.

2016 Goals in Review: Prayer

January 13th, 2017

The primary goal in my “relationship with God” category was to “cultivate confident dependence on God by establishing a vibrant prayer life”. I resolved to do this by 1) establishing daily times of prayer, 2) establishing a method for recording prayer requests and answers to prayer, 3) experimenting with prayer “styles”, and 4) reading books on prayer.

I was helped along greatly in this goal by our Tuesday morning women’s Bible study, which happened to be going through D.A. Carson’s Praying with Paul during the spring semester. Having my “public” Bible study and teaching correspond with my current spiritual goals kept me focused and provided both tips and accountability. For example, my Bible study discussion leader mentioned the “PrayerMate” app, which I looked up and found to be helpful for objective 2, which was “to establish a method for recording prayer requests and answers to prayer.” Also, although I wasn’t required to, I read Carson’s book (rather than just the discussion guide) along with our study – allowing me to complete just one book on prayer this year (objective 4).*

So Tuesday Connection helped me with objectives 2 and 4 – but what about objectives 1 and 3?

I never did end up doing anything with objective 3, unless you count using Paul’s prayers as a model for prayer. I didn’t do any prayer walking or praying published prayers or following specific formats (Adoration – Confession – Thanksgiving – Supplication, for example). It just didn’t seem to fit this year. And that’s just fine.

Objective 1, to “establish daily times of prayer”, got off to a good start. I resolved to pray consistently with Tirzah Mae before our meals and snacks and before her bedtime, to pray during my personal time in the word, and to pray while doing dishes. At the beginning of the year, Tirzah Mae and I were eating 3 meals and 2 snacks daily (pregnancy while breastfeeding is a doozy!), affording me plenty of opportunity to pray. Dishes were a convenient “peg” to hang prayer on – they’re something I have to do daily and they’re a rather mindless activity, which allows me plenty of opportunity to pray.

But then Tirzah Mae got older and started “helping” with dishes. What was once a relatively solitary and mindless activity (for me) became a busy activity, requiring all sorts of brain work as I attempt to keep Tirzah Mae from dumping all the dishwater on the floor or from putting dirty dishes in my rinse water or from transferring muck from the dirty dishes onto the clean dishes drip drying in the drying rack. That prayer time, where I had been making most of my petitions and praying over the requests (recorded in PrayerMate), disappeared. It took me most of the second half of the year to find a new rhythm – and this year I’m picking up my intercessory prayer during my after-breakfast and after-lunch cleaning times (Tirzah Mae only helps with segments, allowing a little more time for prayer!)

So what is the state of my goal to “cultivate confident dependence on God by establishing a vibrant prayer life?” I certainly wouldn’t say that my prayer life is vibrant at this point. But I also wouldn’t say that all has been lost. Establishing the habit of prayer (even though part of it, daily petitions and intercession, fell by the wayside for a significant portion of the year) has indeed served to help me cultivate confident dependence of God.

One of the reasons I chose prayer as my spiritual goal for the year was because I was noticing in myself a significant tendency towards self-reliance. I felt that I could do things on my own – and, when I couldn’t, I despaired. That wasn’t what I wanted though. I wanted, and still want, to live a life of dependence on God – a life that recognizes my need for Him and hopes in Him. Last year’s focus on prayer has helped in that. Where once I went to my phone to text my husband in despair or to Facebook to write a frustrated post or where I once gritted my teeth and cleaned the house/parented/pounded out the letter/whatever with a bad attitude, I find myself more and more turning to God, breathing those little Nehemiah prayers “So I prayed to the God of heaven.” (Nehemiah 2:4b ESV).

By the grace of God, this was a good goal – with a good outcome. I pray God would help me continue to grow – both in dependence and in prayer.

*While D.A. Carson’s Praying with Paul was the only book on prayer I completed last year, I did read about half of Spurgeon on Prayer and Spiritual Warfare and was greatly encouraged by Spurgeon’s reflections.

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