Sunday, July 15, 2012

Unanswered Prayers

If I hadn't said I was going to name this Unanswered Prayers, I think I would have called it Ten Thousand Angels.  Tonight was my opportunity to share my calling story.  Of course, I thought of a million ways to tell it, but this is the one I chose, for now...

My life is a country song.  I know it sounds silly, but if I had to sum it up, that’s how I would describe it.  Boondocks, out in the sticks, or whatever terminology you choose, that’s where I’m from, and I’m proud of it.  Our small town has more churches than restaurants, banks, and gas stations combined with a whopping 2500 residents.  For all of my school days, I knew the majority of children grades K-12, and since my mother was an aide in the Kindergarten classroom, most of them knew me. Most people think my childhood must have been lacking so much, without McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, and the yellow lines on the road (we have them now), but what was never lacking was love.  The community, which was more of an extended family, raised me and we still remind each other that it takes a village to raise a child.

My rural upbringing made me fascinated with country music of all things, and I found comforts in the words of a song that can be so powerful, so encouraging.  In junior high youth, we talked about prayer and how God hears and answers all prayers, but I didn’t see the results from my daily requests.  Garth Brooks, a fellow Oklahoma native, tells a story in one song about a romantic relationship he had always prayed would work out, and looking back is now extremely thankful that “some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers”.  I realized that some-, actually all the time, God knows what’s best, so I began praying more for peace and acceptance of His will.  Then, last year in a Sunday school class of adults twice my age, I learned more about God’s response to prayers.  It was a revelation to me all the ways in which God answers prayers.  I thought the standard miracles and feelings of peace, comfort and hope were pretty great, but understanding how He uses people to answer prayers and offer peace, comfort, and hope opened my eyes to a calling.  My childhood love of community and family started making more sense.  They were the answers to my prayers, the comfort and reassurance that I sought.  And maybe I could be the answer to someone else’s prayers.  All this time, I had discounted the ways people had helped each other, removing God entirely from those interactions.  Now, I began to see God, even where I least expected Him.  This brings to mind one of my favorite jokes.

There was a Christian lady who lived next door to an atheist. Every day, when the lady prayed, the atheist guy could hear her. He thought to himself, "She sure is crazy, praying all the time like that. Doesn't she know there isn't a God?"

Many times while she was praying, he would go to her house and harass her, saying "Lady, why do you pray all the time? Don't you know there is no God?" But she kept on praying.
One day, she ran out of groceries. As usual, she was praying to the Lord explaining her situation and thanking Him for what He was gonna do. As usual, the atheist heard her praying and thought to himself, "Humph! I'll fix this."

He went to the grocery store, bought a whole bunch of groceries, took them to her house, dropped them off on the front porch, rang the door bell and then hid in the bushes to see what she would do. When she opened the door and saw the groceries, she began to praise the Lord with all her heart, jumping, singing and shouting everywhere! The atheist then jumped out of the bushes and told her, "You ol' crazy lady, God didn't buy you those groceries, I bought those groceries!" 
At hearing this, she broke out and started running down the street, shouting and praising the Lord.

When he finally caught her, he asked what her problem was. She said, "I knew the Lord would provide me with some groceries, but I didn't know he was gonna make the devil pay for them!"

God answers prayers, but sometimes in very unconventional ways, even with unwilling persons.  However, imagine the impact God can have on a family or a community through one willing individual.  Participating in something so much larger than myself brings about a fulfillment that cannot be found through any other source.  What I have found through my involvement in the Wesley Fellowship at Duke and social justice work is that once I allow God to fully use me, and am in full communion with Him, the blessings are abundant.  

On a mission trip in Shiprock, NM, I was reflecting with the group on where I see God most present.  During Sunday school that morning, we had been with some children who loved on us and treated us like family when we were only strangers.  This is the space in which I see God and feel closest to Him.  Children are the answers to my prayers; they brighten my day, humble me, and inspire me to be greater.  My passion has always been for children who were victims of abuse and neglect, but now I realize that it’s also my mission.  The children at Murphy-Harpst that I have been sent to be in ministry with have varying family situations, but I know from experience that it takes a village to raise a child.  I am excited to be part of that village and the family that nurtures and supports them.  Participating in God’s mission involves seeking out the space where you can be closest to Him in ministry, and I’m thankful to have found that place that I can call home.

Thank you to those ten thousand angels that have led me to this place.  God is good, all the time!

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