Usually on these days I write a list of gifts small and large over the past week. Sometimes paragraphs tell the story best. This is one of those weeks.
I take the smallest of steps toward God. Make time to pray. His response, so all out of proportion to my furtive stumbling blows me away. Yet again I remember how good, how generous he is.
I wake up at 6:30 am to the quiet beep of the alarm, on the days when Aaron doesn't have to work early and kisses me awake on his way out the door. I prefer the second way. Sometime in the night Little crept into my bed and now lays snuggled beside me.
As quietly as possible I sneak out of bed and don workout clothes before making my way into the living room. I cherish this quiet dark silence. I don't want little needy voices disturbing me yet.
I light candles on the piano and kneel at the bench, not because I am very pious, but to remind my sleepy body to stay awake. This is my early morning meeting with God, and it is very good. My hand in his, we talk about the people he has given me to love, and the places where I have influence, and I ask again for his will to be done, for him to walk with me through this day.
Sleepy heads tumble out of bed as I finish praying and snuggle in for kisses and hugs in the candlelight, one for each of them, for a few moments before the rest of the day begins.
After morning chores and breakfast we gather together at the bench once more. The Lord's Prayer for us a rabbinical mnemonic, teaching us how to pray. (Matthew 6:9-15) Squirmy bodies kneel and try to be still as we walk through it together. This is our meeting place.
To whom do we pray?
in heaven.What is He like?
Holy is your name.What does that mean, holy? Complete, perfect, whole.
Hand in hand once more we ask the maker of the universe, who tells us to call him Father
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.For once the hearts and minds of men come into His kingdom His will shall be done.
We are specific. We pray for our neighborhood, our home, for Burma, for the villages in Thailand. I tell them to listen, perhaps He has something special he wants to do today through their prayers.
Give us today our daily bread.We ask for work to do. We ask for people who will give to the children's home. We ask for blessing on the people who have been generous to us and those we love.
Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.It is a moment of confession, for all of us. A daily soul searching. It isn't optional, this choice to forgive. It is one of the inescapable elements of Jesus teaching in this passage. You may not expect to receive forgiveness from God if you will not extend it to others.
So we ask forgiveness , and we choose to forgive. God meets us here, in these moments. He greets our halting, imperfect baby steps with a flood of grace that never ceases to amaze me. I watch my children transformed by a process so simple, yet pointing to truths so rich they will spend their lives trying to understand them. They run up to me in the middle of the day now after a fight with a friend. "Mommy, I want to forgive her, may I go and tell her I forgive her?"
In the process their anger and passions rule them less and less. They are being changed.
We memorized Galations 5:22-26 this month.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,The first verse is easy enough for children to understand. If your heart were a garden what kind of plants would grow in it? If the spirit of God is in your heart you can tell because you will find these things there. But how do I explain verse 24 to a 5 year old and a 7 year old?
23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.
So we talk about how we were once God's, but believed the evil one and gave ourselves to him. How he owned us. How all of the Bible is the story of our Father in Heaven trying to get his kids back. How he came himself, as one of us, to walk with us and to give himself in exchange for us. How he then defeated the evil one in a way no one expected, could ever have imagined, by that sacrifice. How he won back the earth that we gave away along with ourselves, and all of us.
We talk about their naughty part, what it wants. Does it ever want good? We talk about how we can put our naughty parts every day up on that cross, where Jesus won us back, and not let it own us or be in charge of us anymore, with the help of his spirit in us.
I am tempted every day to skip through these parts. There is reading and writing and history to teach. There is a schedule to keep. This takes so much time. Yet I am reminded every day that I am not just teaching children to read and write. I am shepherding souls with eternal potential into the relationship they will have with the the maker of all. I am giving them the space to learn how to walk with him on their own. This is the real work I am doing, the rest is simply details.
Lead us not into temptation,Help us to stop ourselves at the beginning, at the moment we first step toward doing wrong. The first moment our naughty part speaks out. Guard us from taking that step, or the next one. Help us not tempt each other to sin by the way we treat each other.
but deliver us from evil.Protect us, protect our families, protect our brothers and sisters the world over. For them the real meaning of deliver, to save us out of evil, is literally what they need. There are 2000 Karen and Kachin children in Burma with a mysterious and severe illness. Trapped in a place where the government refuses to provide health services, and will not allow international organizations to go in and help, who knows what will happen to them? We pray that they will be saved out of evil.
For yours is the kingdom,We pray to him because this kingdom of life and light is his.
and the power,We pray to him because He has the power to answer.
and the glory forever and ever. AmenWe pray to him because he is eternal and worthy of praise and it is from him that all the earth wishes to hear, "Well done."
This is the story I have been living for the past several weeks since we started school again, and thus to pray. Why we don't do this all year is something I cannot answer. I have no good answer for that.
I hesitate to write this, fearful it will sound boastful. That is the opposite of what I intend. Here is the story of God's grace, to meet with me, and with my children, to pour out his love and presence on our lives, far greater than we will ever deserve. It is the story of making space to meet with Him, and being overwhelmed by the fact the He is present when we do. It is an encouragement to take the very first step, stop to meet, and see where he will take you; to remember that he is the good God, and he calls us his children. His goodness is the source of all other gifts we pause to give thanks for.
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