Joanna’s Sacrifice

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel, will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age … and in the age to come, eternal life.”

                                                                                                  Mark 10: 29-30

People in general don’t like making sacrifices, and young people, it seems, are especially reluctant to let go of the things they enjoy for the sake of an unseen or future reward. But when God lays it on the the heart of a teenager that something’s got to go, that teenager just might surprise you. And he or she just might get surprised at what transpires, as well.

Our daughter Joanna always loved the Lord dearly. She seemed to enjoy the praise and worship music at church and the contemporary Christian music we played on the local radio station. But somewhere along the way secular music started seeping into our home, and although I didn’t object to the idea of secular music per se, as a parent (and former teen), I knew some lyrics could be inappropriate for a Christian to be listening to.

Joanna’s favorite secular songs were fairly innocuous, but when she bought a CD of her favorite band, a few of their songs made me cringe. When I questioned her about them, I was met with an eye roll and assurance that they weren’t the songs she liked on that album. I dropped the subject and decided I would just pray about it for then.

The weekend of the high school retreat was a quiet one at our house until I answered the phone late Friday night.

I could hear loud music and singing in the background. Apparently the kids were really getting “into” the worship. But something else grabbed my attention: Joanna was crying.

“Mom?” she sobbed.

“What it it, honey?”

“Would you do something for me?”

“Sure, sweetie.”

“You know that _____________ CD?”

“Your favorite?”

“Yeah. Would you go get it?”

“OK … Got it.”

“Are you holding it?”

“Yes …”

“I want you to break it.” (I’ll skip the dialogue where I made sure she was serious and wasn’t going to be livid with me when she got home.) I agreed and did as she said, although I must say, they made those things tough! I struggled for some time while Joanna impatiently kept crying, “Just break it!” (“I’m trying!“) She said she’d explain when she got home, but I already knew God was doing something that weekend.

As I suspected, the youth leader, Chad, had been speaking to the youth about dedicating themselves to the Lord in every area of their lives, including entertainment. Chad had always been passionate about bringing kids into a strong relationship with Christ, and his messages were as emotional as he was. Joanna had commented once, “Even when he yells at us, we can tell he loves us.” During the closing, as the students sang and some went forward for special prayer, God had been dealing with Joanna about the songs she had been listening to. And Joanna had responded in a characteristically emotional outpouring of devotion.

Back home, she spent the rest of the day sitting on the floor in her room in tears, breaking CD’s and pulling tape out of cassettes, until a pile of shards and streamers surrounded her.

I sat next to her and told her how proud I was, but that didn’t seem to cheer her up much. I suggested she take the shards and tape and make a piece of art out of them as a gift for Chad. We got two pieces of driftwood from the beach and nailed them together to make a cross. Joanna then used the tape to hang pieces of broken CDs. Joanna thought it looked like “junk.” I liked it and assured her that Chad would love it.

We named the masterpiece “Sacrifice.”

I was right. When presented with his gift, Chad got tears in his eyes (He and Joanna related.), and said it was about the greatest gift he’d ever received. He told us that he would hang it in his office, to encourage him next time he started feeling that none of the kids were listening to him.

“So, how do you feel now that you’ve purged that music out of your collection?” he asked her, smiling.

“I feel terrible,” she answered frankly, tearing up again. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to listen to now!”

Chad knew just what to do. He brought us to his study, where he had shelves full of dozens, if not hundreds of CD’s – all Christian music.

“I have pretty much every style of music you would like. And you can borrow any of it any time you want. There’s a lot here I think you’d love.”

That day opened up a whole new world for Joanna. She discovered great Christian artists that she could listen to all she wanted, guilt-free. Never without an opinion, she began writing reviews of new albums every month for the youth group newsletter. When a well-known Christian band was in the area for a concert, as a published “music critic,” Joanna was given a backstage pass to interview the band members in their dressing room. (An official badge told the world she was not a “groupie” but a bona fide member of the press!) Her peers had to admit this was “totally awesome.” I was elated for her.

But what made me happiest was knowing that she had obeyed the voice of God, not knowing whether or not she would ever gain anything from the sacrifice she was making.

After all, that is the definition of “sacrifice.”

Prayer: Jesus, You gave everything for us. Forgive us for clinging to things we consider ours, when You long to give us better things. Help us to trust You and make whatever sacrifices necessary to bring You glory. In Your name we pray, Amen.

Question 4: Do you stand out for God?

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!”      Revelation 3:15

I was in the market for a new car. Most of the cars at the dealership were not exactly extraordinary. The majority were drab, dented, old-looking, and various shades of dust gray. The only one with any kind of noticeable feature had three bucket seats in the front with a seat belt for each one… weird. But still too gray to suit me.

There were only two cars that stood out in a nice way, and they were beauties. The first was a bright yellow Mustang convertible with chrome that sparkled, and a brand new paint job. I was dazzled.

But then I saw another car, about the same size, a beautiful royal blue. It, too, looked shiny and new, although it didn’t shout “Look at me! Look at me!” quite as loudly as the convertible. 

When I came home, I told my husband which ones I liked, and he agreed to take a look at them. But when we returned to the showroom, neither the blue car nor the yellow car were on display. I asked the dealer if they had been sold, and he said, “No, they’ve just been put away.”

Then I woke up.

The dream had been very vivid, and as it was unusual for me to remember my dreams, I tried to piece it together, recalling things I had learned in a dream interpretation course years ago.

Life is a journey, and our lifestyle could be seen as our “vehicle.”

Colors in dreams have great significance. For example, white denotes purity; black suggests darkness or death, and purple, royalty. Red, like blood, represents sacrifice, and green is the color of life. In the years that I kept a dream diary the interpretation of colors helped me understand many of my dreams.

According to the teacher/counselor, gray is neutral. Blue (like the sky) represents “the heavenlies” or the Kingdom of God. (“Royal blue” makes particular sense here.) The most surprising color in this lesson was yellow. I liked yellow, and had always thought of it as sunshine and happiness, but the counselor said that it can also represent sin, evil, even hell. (Yellow is the color of sulfur/brimstone.) With that suggestion I found that I could suddenly make sense of one of my most baffling dreams.

And now an interpretation of the car-shopping dream began to take shape. (If any of you have any other thoughts, please share them.)

We each have choices to make as to how we’re going to navigate through life. Most people choose a lifestyle that’s pretty neutral. (“I’ll be nice to you if you’re nice to me,” “taking care of me and my family,” “looking out for Number One,” “don’t rock the boat,” “close enough,” etc.)

However, there are a few passionate people who stand out and get noticed.

One group is made up of those who don’t merely opt for pleasure, they go out of their way pursuing it, with little or no thought to the people around them. They plunge head-long into self-indulgence, excess, and “pushing the envelope.” And they do get noticed. Some admire them, others hate them, but according to them, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” They perform their sin publicly, make millions selling recordings of it, and give one another awards for doing it. It is a lucrative and attention-getting lifestyle.

The others who stand out are sold out to God. Although almost always law-abiding, their citizenship is not of this world. The ways in which they seem to shortchange themselves to benefit others doesn’t make sense in this culture. But although seen as “foolish” by much of the world, they appear to be the most at peace with themselves and life in general. These people don’t feel a need to call attention to themselves, and their sacrifices may not be noticed right away. Still, the good that they do cannot be hidden forever. Most people don’t understand why they do what they do, and some even hate them for it. But people can’t help respecting them, however reluctantly.

I had three choices reflected in my dream – buy into the ordinary and blend in with everyone else, or choose something exceptional. One choice was a flashy one – a life of blatant, selfish pursuit of ego-satisfying and pleasurable experiences. Or I could choose something equally beautiful but not quite as ostentatious, a life of radical living for the Kingdom of God. These choices were obvious at first, but if I delayed, they were “put away,” and I would have to search a little harder to find them. It’s easier to choose early.

The habits we form early in life are easier to maintain. Coming to Christ as a child has been a huge blessing to me. Although I have had my times of straying, my Shepherd has always brought me back, and the experience has merely reinforced what I already knew to be true – His way is the way, and He always knows best. Since I don’t know what it’s like to grow up without knowing Him, I can only speculate how difficult it is trying to change a lifestyle as an adult; I don’t dare judge. But I do know that choosing His way is worth more than anything the world has to offer.

I’d like to think that, had that dream continued, I picked the beautiful royal blue car and used it to “do all things to the glory of God.” But I’m awake now.

Still, I can see to it that every choice I make is one that glorifies Him.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for promising to give me wisdom when I ask. Don’t let me just blend in with the world. Make me the kind of radical Christ-follower who impacts history, whether or not I ever get noticed for it. In Jesus’ name and for His glory, Amen.

Who Knew?

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”   Matthew 28: 19

 

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

So … How much do you really know about St. Patrick?

Try taking this four-question quiz. Whatever your score, you will probably learn something new. Answers follow each question, so don’t scroll down until you’ve tried to answer each! Then have fun seeing if you can stump your friends.

 

1.) What was Patrick’s nationality?

A.) Irish                                                                                                                                                   B.) American                                                                                                                                          C.) British                                                                                                                                              D) French

 

 

 

Answer: C. Patrick was born in Britain and grew up on the coast of Wales.

 

2.) How did Patrick end up in Ireland? 

A.) He ran away from home.                                                                                                          B.)He was kidnapped by pirates.                                                                                                     C.) His drunken father lost him to Irish gypsies in a card game.                                               D.) He went to the University of Dublin.

 

 

 

Answer: B At the age of sixteen Patrick was captured by Irish pirates and sold into slavery.

 

3.) After escaping, why would Patrick want to go back to where he had been a slave?

A.) He wanted to take revenge on his master and free the other slaves.                                  B.) To kill the snakes infesting Ireland.                                                                                            C.) He wanted to conquer Ireland for Wales.                                                                                   D.) He wanted to evangelize the Irish.

 

 

Answer: D. After escaping, Patrick had become a committed Christian. He had had visions and dreams about sharing his faith with the Irish pagans. As a Christian, not only was he given the supernatural ability to forgive years of slavery, but he wanted the Irish to have the same blessings he had. Hence, Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland.

 

4) Why is the shamrock the symbol of St. Patrick?   

A.) It was an object lesson                                                                                                                 B) Irish children welcomed Patrick with shamrocks                                                                    C) Shamrocks in Ireland were infested with snakes.                                                                  D) According to legend, shamrocks sprang up overnight to cover Patrick’s first church in green, symbolizing life.

 

 

 

Answer: A. In explaining the Trinity, Patrick used the shamrock to illustrate one God in three Persons:

  1. God the Father, creator of all things,
  2. Jesus, His Son, who died to save Mankind from sin and death, and
  3. the Holy Spirit, sent from God to live inside believers

(P.S. Snakes are not and have never been indigenous to Ireland.)

 

If Saint Patrick were standing  here today holding a shamrock, he would tell you that

  1. God the Father loves you and wants to be your Father. You can be adopted into His family by believing in
  2. Jesus, His Son, who died on the Cross to save us all from our sin. (Sin can’t just be swept under the carpet – somebody must pay the price, and Jesus paid your debt in full!) Just think – He loves you so much, He preferred to go to the cross rather than spend eternity without you! By repenting of your sins and believing in Him, you can not only “born again” into the family of God, you escape eternal death and be can be filled with …
  3. the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity. He will help you discern right and wrong and give you the strength to do the right things – even things you couldn’t do before. You can live the life you were created to live.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Those who believe in Christ are promised ETERNAL LIFE. So, we don’t even need to fear death! Jesus rose from the dead, and because He did, those who believe inHim will, too.

    (That’s way better than green beer, which has absolutely nothing to do with Saint Patrick.)

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

    Happy Forever!

 

Prayer: Father, thank You for showing us the signs of Your hand at work throughout history, as You did a miraculous, forgiving work in St. Patrick. May the story of my life give You glory, too. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question 3: Do You Grieve God?

“Be still and know that I am God;                                                                                                    I will be exalted among the nations,                                                                                              I will be exalted in the earth.”                 –  Psalm 46:10

 

The First Gulf War was brief but memorable. Some believe that the reason it lasted only three months was because our military was made up largely of young adults who were raised on video games. Their exceptional abilities regarding the technology involved in the air strikes would certainly suggest that as a possible explanation.

Another factor undoubtedly was the Commander of the United States Central Command, Norman Schwarzkopf, a.k.a. “Stormin’ Norman.” A capable leader, he had the deepest respect of his troops, and of the American people in general. His picture was even featured on bubble gum cards – “Gulf War cards.”

As unsettling as war is, it was good to see the country united for once, all wanting the same thing – for the tyrant Saddam Hussein to be defeated quickly and our soldiers to return home. Our military had the support of most of the country. American flags and yellow or red-white-and-blue ribbons were everywhere.

Most importantly, there seemed to be an unusual amount of prayer going out. Signs outside churches said “Pray for Our Troops,” or “God Bless America.” Similar signs in store windows, bumper stickers, and lapel buttons all suggested that many people were praying – or at the very least, were thinking about it. Some people were even taking time to attend prayer vigils.

And we saw evidence that those prayers were being answered in ways were beyond man’s control.

One soldier told a story of how frightened his troop had been the night before they were to cross a mine field. But heavy rains in the night turned the field to mud, making every mine clearly visible by morning.

Especially troubling was when the the air strike was over, and the ground war was about to begin. Since the enemy was believed to have chemical or biological weapons, it was expected that we would lose many of our troops on the ground.

Prayers intensified.

The night before the ground war started, there was a distinct shift in the direction of the wind, and whatever weapons of mass destruction Saddam Hussein planned to utilize were useless to him.

News videos on TV clearly showed that prisoners in American POW camps fared far better than soldiers in the Iraqui army. While Saddam’s men were barely subsisting on meager rations, newscasts showed POWs held by the Americans, well fed and playing volleyball. It wasn’t surprising that the Iraqi soldiers decided to surrender.

The ground war lasted about 100 hours.

I will never forget the scene on the news. Half-starved, exhausted Iraqi soldiers with their hand on their heads marched single file in a seemingly endless line that wound its way through the desert. Especially poignant was the scene where one soldier fell at the feet of Norman Schwarzkopf weeping and begging for mercy. Schwarzkopf raised him to his feet and kindly reassured him that he would be OK.

Of course, the morale in America was high, and in the stores and at the bank and in the schools, everyone was talking about how wonderful it was that the conflict had been wrapped up so quickly.

About that time I was asked to “share” in the weekly chapel service for the elementary students at the Christian school. I chose the passage in John 2, about the wedding at Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine. At this school that frowned on alcoholic refreshments, I could tell by the teachers’ faces that they were wondering what on earth I was going to “share.”

I pointed out that the servants had done what Jesus told them to do, filling the large jars full of water, then drawing some out, and taking some to the master of the banquet. The master of the banquet – the head honcho – declared it the very best wine and wondered why it had not been served sooner. “He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.” (John 2: 9b)

“Did you notice what happened?” I asked the students. “The ‘master of the banquet’ had no idea what was going on. But who knew? The servants – the ones who had obeyed Jesus.

“A lot of people are talking about the success of our military, and some of the ‘lucky breaks’ they had – the overnight rain on the mine field, shift in the wind direction the night before the ground war, and tens of thousands of soldiers surrendering.  People in ‘high places’ in government, military, and the news media may not know why America and our allies won the war, but God’s servants – the ones who were praying – know, because God answered our prayers.” I encouraged the kids that if they stayed close to God and obeyed Him, He would share His secrets with them.

Of course, I knew that many of God’s “secrets” were not meant to be kept secret. I loved nothing more than to tell people about what He had done.

I’m not sure why I lost sight of that fact so quickly.

A few days later I was at our neighborhood party store, where the Gulf War bubble gum cards on the counter triggered a conversation about the war among the people there. I remember joining in with a vague comment about how great our military was, and what good leadership we had. As I was walking home, the words I had said echoed in my mind, and it was as though I heard the voice of God chiding me…

“Our military”? REALLY?

I gasped, realizing that I had just given man the credit for what I knew perfectly well GOD had done.

I could sense His grief.

I broke down and cried.

Prayer: Lord, forgive us for not giving credit where it’s due. You are the source of all good things. May we always give You the glory, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Question 2: Do You Embarrass God?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the  earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”   Isaiah 55:8-9

A fellow blogger posted a piece last week about a gesture from someone who may have been a well meaning Christian, but who so missed the mark one day at a restaurant. This customer spotted the server’s tattoo and interpreted it as a sign of the server’s endorsement of sin. After the meal the “Christian” wrote a note on the receipt, saying, “I will not support anyone who doesn’t love Jesus!”  Needless to say, there was no tip.

I cringed when I read this, not only because of the shameful action of (presumably) a fellow believer, but the realization that this was not an isolated incident. It brought back memories of a startling revelation years before.

In the late 1980’s I was at a conference of Christian artists that took place in the beautiful setting of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. As an aspiring songwriter I had brought my demo tapes, entered the songwriting competition, and signed up to attend workshops related to songwriting. I had hopes of connecting with at least one of the many representatives of various record labels and music producers and publishers. My mind was on getting my songs “out there,” for God to use them to tell the world about His love. (The fact that every night we would enjoy concerts by well-known Christian artists didn’t exactly discourage me from coming, either.)

Opening night featured a performance by one of the most famous singers in the Christian music industry at the time. He walked onto the stage through a curtain of fog and impressive light show. After wowing the audience with his talent for a few minutes, he got serious. First, he poked fun at the special effects; he almost sounded embarrassed by the glitz. Then he spoke directly to us as family – his brothers and sisters in Christ. He was not the superior, “don’t-you-wish-you-were-me?” celebrity, but someone who was here to follow the Lord and do His will – just as every one of us was. He spoke as if he considered our mission every bit as important as his. Then he dropped the proverbial bomb.

“I was talking with one of the staff here, and he said, ‘Do you know what we call this week?’ ” (This conference was an annual event here.)

” ‘No, what do you call it?’

” ‘We call it “Hell Week.”‘

” ‘Why is that???’

“‘Because Christians are the rudest, most demanding, thoughtless, and ungrateful people we serve. – They’re also the worst tippers.’

>OUCH!!!<

The audience grew very quiet. The artist went on to give us a pep-talk about changing our image in the eyes of the people who worked there. I was ashamed to admit I hadn’t even been thinking of them. I had come with high hopes of making connections in the music world and seeing what the next step was for me as a Christ-follower. As it turned out, the next step for me was just to walk my faith out among these people who had come to feel that they were invisible to people like me. 

Within the first few hours I learned that my songs had been “cut” from the songwriters’ competition. As I was recovering from that emotional punch in the stomach, I could tell by the oppressive, almost palpable atmosphere, that others were just as dejected as I was. And I could tell by the faces exactly who those people were.

Realizing I was now freed from the stress of wondering how my songs were doing, I had only to get over the feelings of rejection and focus on other possible reasons for my being there. Remembering the words of the singer that first night, I determined to pay more attention to the staff. They were doing a wonderful job keeping the place clean and waiting on us, and I told them so at every opportunity. As I went through the food line after a day in the fresh mountain air, I expressed my delight in what they had prepared for us. When a sudden thunderstorm rolled in and I was stranded in the dining hall without rain gear, two of the kitchen staff “created” a designer raincoat for me out of a trash bag. We giggled uncontrollably as I modeled it.

At the end of the week I came to tell the two ladies good-bye and to thank them for everything. (I also made a point of leaving an extra big tip.) The each gave me a good-bye hug, and one of them said “We really enjoyed having you all here this week!”

YESSSSSSssss!!!  MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

… well, not really. That mission will be ongoing for the rest of my life.

When we are stressing out about the “important” things that are on our minds, do we still think of others we encounter as we race through our days? Are we aware that each of these people is just as important to God as we are? Do we keep in mind that every word we say, every gesture of kindness or rudeness, every facial expression and attitude reflects our Savior to the people around us? (And no, keeping your faith a secret is not a solution.)

Could it be that the way we treat the person waiting on our table is more important to God than whether or not we write the next gospel hit – or the next Christian best-seller?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we confess that our priorities aren’t always Yours. We have accepted the world’s definition of “success” and forget that when You walked the earth You took the time to minister to individuals that the rest of the world overlooked. Give us Your divine perspective. Whether we serve You in secret or before thousands, help us to be like You. In Your name, Amen. 

 

 

Are You Insulting God?

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”    Matthew 28:20

It happened again. The man opening the worship service in prayer said very sincerely, “Lord, please be with us today … ” I cringed a little.

Okay, so what’s wrong with this prayer? A lot of people pray, “Lord, be with us today as we meet …” But is that necessary?

Jesus said, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20) This was a promise. And Jesus keeps his promises.

I wonder how that man would feel if he were leaving for the day and his wife said to him, “Good-bye, honey. Please be faithful to me today.”

I imagine he’d stop in his tracks and say something like, “What?! Honey, I promised you the day we were married that I’d always be faithful to you, til death do us part. I’ve kept that promise up until now, and I have no intention of breaking it, today or any other day!” I’m also guessing he’d be a little hurt by the request.

On the other hand, if she were to look into his eyes and say, “Honey, you have always been faithful to me, and I want you to know I don’t take that for granted. I’m so thankful you’re my husband!” – followed by a hug – he would probably leave the house smiling.

Have you ever been to the funeral of a godly saint and heard the pastor or priest petition God to receive this person’s soul into heaven and grant him or her eternal life?

Hello?!

How many times in our prayers do we, out of ignorance or habit, ask God for things He has already promised or has already done? How many of our petitions would be more appropriately offered as prayers of thanks? A better Sunday morning opening prayer might be, “Lord, thank You so much for Your presence today. We welcome you with open hearts!”

The funeral prayer could be, “Lord, thank You for Your promise of eternal life for those who trust in You. As we say goodbye to ________ today, we thank You that (s)he will never again have sickness, grief, or any other kind of pain. We look forward to seeing him/her again in glory when we all go to be with You.” What a comforting thought!

The more I study God’s Word and experience the answers to my prayers, the less time I spend asking Him for things. This hasn’t shortened my prayer time any, though. I want to honor the Lord with faith as I thank Him for things I can’t yet see, even things He hasn’t yet done but has promised to do. When times are hard, I can thank Him that “All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

When hurting physically, instead of begging him to heal me, I can put it in His hands and say, “I know that You have the power to heal me, and I hope You will. But if not, I trust that You are working out an even better plan. Thank You for Your promise that someday I will have a brand new body, resurrected and glorified.” (I Corinthians 15: 35-57)

When I don’t feel His presence, I can thank Him that I know He’s there anyway, since He promised never to leave me or forsake me. (Deuteronomy 31:6) Sometimes after praying in this way – preferably out loud – I do start to feel His presence. But if not, I can still take Him at His word, whether I feel it or not. Truth is truth.

When I feel harassed by the enemy of my soul, I can thank the Lord that “Greater is he that is in me than he that is in the world” (I John 4:4) and that someday “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” [italics mine] (Philippians 2: 10-11) By the way, I’m pretty sure the devil hates that one!

When I’m listening to the news and it seems the world is plunging toward destruction, I can thank Jesus for telling us in advance that we would have trouble in the world, but that He has overcome the world. (John 16:33)

It’s not that God needs me to remind Him what He’s promised. But it does me good to remind myself of how secure I am in His love. Whenever I remember to do this, a lot more of my prayer time is joy-filled, confident, and victorious.

Of course, thanking Him for what we have been promised involves knowing what we’ve been promised, and that’s another great reason to read His Word, study it, hide it in our hearts, meditate on it in times of discouragement, and thank Him for it at every opportunity.

After all the LORD has done for me and promised me, I don’t want to insult Him, do you?

Prayer: LORD, we confess that we don’t always know or remember Your promises, and we waste so many prayers asking You for things You’ve already given us! Thank You for Your faithfulness in honoring all of Your promises. Keep reminding us, so that we can pray confidently, thanking You for all that You’ve provided, rejoicing that You love us and want the best for us, and looking forward to when You reign victorious in a new heaven and a new earth. Thank You, Lord! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

What God Did with a “Wasted Day”

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children; and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.                                                                                                                                                                                       Ephesians 5: 1-2

It wasn’t exactly my favorite kind of weather for taking a road trip. As hot dry air blew in my face from the car heater, I navigated through swirling snowflakes, disappointed at the vague result of my “fleece.” In trying to decide whether or not to devote an entire day to driving to the other side of the state, I had set forth a Gideon-type “fleece:” If the weather was great, I’d go; if it was awful, I’d plan on going another time. That morning the sky had appeared infuriatingly indistinct – not exactly clear and sunny, but certainly no blizzard. I had decided to go.

My friend and fellow songwriter Jared had been in a near-fatal car crash a week before, and our fellowship of young Christians had prayed through the night that he would survive; he had. According to my sources, his survival had been remarkable, if not miraculous, and we all praised God for it. Now he was recovering in a hospital in Kalamazoo. I knew that had I been in his position I’d be going stir crazy, so I had made the decision to go provide some relief from the boredom. Although it was Christmastime – not exactly a time I usually sat around looking for something to do – I had carved out a day when I could set everything aside.

I popped a cassette of the late, great Keith Green into the tape player. (Yes, this was a while ago.) As I sang along with the familiar songs, I found I was singing them as prayers, as I identified with so many of the lyrics. One in particular seemed to express the longing of my heart that day as I went to minister to a friend.

“The end of all my prayers is to care like my Lord cares,                                                                My one and only goal, His image in my soul …

I want to, I need to be more like Jesus … “*

I was glad that in a small way, I was going to be like Jesus that day. I would pray with Jared, read the Bible to him, maybe sing the songs we had written together. I was looking forward to “being Jesus” to my friend that day.

By the time I arrived at the hospital, the tape had played full circle, and I was singing “I Want To Be More like Jesus” again as I turned off the engine, grabbed my guitar, and headed in to see Jared.

Although I had been warned about his condition, it was still jarring to see my friend for the first time since the accident. The swollen, bruised face was scarcely recognizable, and the once animated singer/songwriter was now semi-conscious at best, letting out an occasional groan, but otherwise still. I sat by the bed, waiting for him to open his eyes, but the nurses said that his sleep schedule was still so irregular, they couldn’t really tell me when he would wake up next.

I prayed for him as I sat and waited and one hour turned into two, then three. Occasionally, I’d talk to him, in case he could hear me and just didn’t feel up to moving. I tried to encourage him with talk of his engagement and upcoming wedding. I softly played and sang a song or two. Occasionally I would step out for a quick walk down the hall to escape the oppressive stillness of the room. But not wanting to miss a moment if he woke up, I soon hurried back and took my place by the bed again, praying and willing him to open his eyes.

Come on, Jared, wake up. Please? I need to go in an hour. I tried not to think about the six hours of driving involved in getting there for one hour’s worth of visit…

… Half an hour left, Jared. Pleeease wake up!

When ten minutes remained before I absolutely had to leave, it was clear that we weren’t going to have that great time of fellowship I had expected, and as I packed up my guitar, I took one last look at his face. Out like a light. I sighed and headed for the elevator. I tried not to yield to the feelings of frustration and doubt. Had I misread God’s answer to my fleece? Should I be feeling guilty about leaving town and coming all this way only to waste the whole day, when there were so many other things I could have been accomplishing at home?

I loaded the guitar into the car, got in, and turned on the engine.

“… I want to, I need to be more like Jesus …”

The song was still playing, and inexplicably I felt like crying. I had tried to be like Jesus, but it hadn’t happened.

… Or had it?

I sensed the Lord’s presence and tried to “get” what He was telling me. I had prayed to be more like Him, so what exactly did that mean?

It then occurred to me how long I had been oblivious to God’s presence in my life. He had been right there, loving me, carrying me through all the tough times, longing to spend time with me, and I had been clueless. For years He had patiently waited for me to wake up and realize He was there. And now I knew – on a very small scale – what He must have felt like.

I’m still not much like Jesus, not nearly as much as I’d like to be, but I’m glad He didn’t give up on me. And He still hasn’t.

Prayer: Father, I do want to be more like Jesus. Mold me into His likeness, whatever that may involve. In His name, Amen.

*”I Want To Be More Like Jesus”   copyright 1980 Keith Green