Going Into the Closet

closet“But when you pray, go into your closet, close the door and pray to your Father….”  Matthew 6:6

What do you think Jesus really meant when He said this?

Was He implying that I should try to find a happy place in my mind so I can feel a sense of calm and peacefulness?

Was the Lord hinting that I should shut my eyes when I pray to cut down on distractions?

Did Jesus mean that I should pray about what clothes to wear every morning?

Could He have been suggesting that if I can’t close my closet doors, that perhaps I have too many clothes?

Or was He instructing that I should

go into a closet

close the door

and pray?

Could you do it?  Would you do it?  Should you do it?

I mean, actually clear a place in an actual closet in your house, put a folding chair inside, and go sit on it for a few minutes every day. What would it be like to close your closet door and talk to God in there?

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Nah, that can’t be what He meant.  I’d feel foolish sitting in my closet, praying.  What if someone heard me?  That would be embarrassing.  How would I explain my unusual actions?  Surely He wouldn’t ask me to do something odd like that.  What could possibly be the benefit of such a strange practice?  I must be taking Jesus’ words too literally.

“Prayer is not learned in a classroom, but in a closet.” E.M. Bounds

Prayers

praying childI used to pray the same bed-time prayer every night.  My mom would tuck me in and listen to me recite this verse:

“Day is done, gone the sun, God be with us everyone.”

Then I would go on to “God Bless” everybody — Mommy and Daddy, Grandpas and Grandmas, brothers and sister, cousins and friends.

When our family gathered around the supper table and it was my turn to say the blessing, I always rattled off this little ditty:meal prayer

“Thank you for the world so sweet,                         Thank you for the food we eat,                                 Thank you for the birds that sing,                         Thank you God, for everything.”

My siblings and I each had our own special prayers to recite.  I don’t know who chose those little sing-songy verses or they how they got assigned to us.  Meals didn’t start until dad called on someone to say grace and we all bowed our heads.  For Sunday dinner, my brother would usually get the nod because his prayer was short enough to get in between plays of the Packer game:

“God is great, God is good. Let us thank him for our food. Amen.”

My prayers have changed since those days, but sometimes I still feel like I’m saying the same things over and over again.  If I’m getting bored with the way I pray, I wonder how God feels.  I have a lot to learn here.

Prayer is one of those topics that tend to induce guilt (“I know I should pray more.”) or anxiety (“I don’t have to pray out loud, do I?”) or doubt (Does it really make a difference?”).  Prayer can seem mysterious, but as Billy Graham once said, “Prayer is simply a conversation between you and God.”  And most of us are pretty good at talking.  Listening, on the other hand, can be a problem.

This fall I’m going to be leading a Bible study on prayer, so expect the topic to come up here in the coming weeks. I don’t expect to have an answer for every question about prayer or attempt to solve this thing once and for all.  Instead, my hope is that we will take a step forward in enjoying our relationship with our loving Father, who wants to chat with us awhile every day.

Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth.  Psalm 54:2

It’s Time

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Sometime this summer, this old clock stopped ticking.

Actually, it’s not an old clock.  It’s a $5.99 clock from Ikea.

I remember the day it happened.

One of my grands dipped it in the bathtub until the 5, 6, and 7 were drowning.

I dried it off and set it back on my desk, but the ticker was silent.

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I guess you could say that sometime this summer, I kinda stopped ticking, too.

I don’t know when it happened.

Maybe I was drowning in funerals (5) and weddings (6) and fun activities (at least 7).

I allowed myself to be silent for awhile.

Today I picked up that clock, wiped off the soap scum, twirled those hands around, and gave it a shake.

 The ticking returned! The rhythm is back!

My clock came back to life!

So I figure it’s telling me to do the same —

dust off the dander, limber up my hands, and breath some life back into small drop.

May the click of ideas and the rhythm of words return.

It’s time.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”  Ecclesiastes 3:1

I Need Nature

  

I need nature more than I think I do.

I need to feel small beside a waterfall,

weak behind a boulder,

dumb before a sunset.

I need to hear the language of the loons,

the rhythm of the waves on the shore,

the chatter of leaves in the breeze.

King David was right –

green pastures and still waters

restore souls.

Novocaine

dentist

God bless Alfred Einhorn, who developed the pain-killer Novocaine in 1905.

I was the lucky recipient of a syringe full of the merciful magical anesthetic today.

For the past two weeks, I haven’t been chewing on my left side. Because it hurts. Okay, maybe it’s more like four weeks. So, being the adult that I am, I made a dentist appointment. Making that call required an enormous amount of self-control due to a traumatic dental history.

My mother took me to a small-town dentist near our home when I was very young. His office was above a store and we walked up creaky wooden stairs and through a creaky wooden door. The dentist had very thick glasses which made his eyes look huge. There was no dental assistant, no laughing gas, and no novocaine.

That’s right. I said no novocaine.

Once when he was drilling my tooth, he hit a nerve and I fainted dead-away in the chair. He picked me up and carried me in his arms out to the small waiting room. I’ve always wondered what my mother thought at the sight of her limp little girl. All I remember is coming to with smelling salts and his magnified eyes inches from my face.

Hence, the four (ok, maybe six) weeks of no chewing on my left side.

Today, as I sat in the dentist’s chair and felt my tongue and cheek go numb, I was grateful. Not for the Novocaine, but for a Savior that refused the pain-killer, because He was determined to be a sin-killer. As Charles Spurgeon, my favorite old dead guy wrote, “To us, sensations such as our Lord endured would have been insupportable, and kind unconsciousness would have come to our rescue; but in His case, He was wounded, and felt the sword; He drained the cup and tasted every drop.”

“They offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.”                  Mark 15:23

Praying for Me

Somewhere along the line, I got it in my head that praying for myself was selfish. Prayer time was better spent lifting up other people, not my own wants and desires. Lately, I’ve heard holy whisperings that seem to be correcting this untruth.

Then, this morning, I saw this.

prayer

This blackboard is in one of our Sunday school rooms that goes mostly unused in the summer.  During the school year, our Bible study ladies put prayer requests on the board each week so we can remember who needs extra prayers. I happened to walk in the room this morning and glanced at the board. There it was — a message from heaven.  I stared at the words for a good minute, sensing this was meant for me.

I’ve kept a prayer list for years.  Some days, I go slowly through the list, pausing at each name, each need, each request. Other days, I lift the piece of paper up high and say, “See this list, Lord? Good. Amen.”

On most days, by the time I get through the line-up of family, friends, the church, and the world, there’s little time left. I may tag on some petitions for guidance in a decision or help with a particular situation, but as a rule, I keep myself off my prayer list.

Today, I read the writing on the wall.

It’s time to put another name on the list: Me.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God.”  Psalm 51:10

10 Things I Learned in June

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1. I still love reading books out loud.  On a recent road trip with PB, I started reading “The Boys in the Boat” and now every time we get in the car, he asks, “Did you bring the book?” Back in our homeschooling days, I used to spend afternoons reading books aloud to the kids. I had forgotten how much I enjoy reading out loud.

2. It’s nice to take a break from TV. Usually, about this time, we are tuning in to Brewer games, but they’ve lost more games than any other team in baseball (except the Phillies).  Sitting on the deck with a book or taking a bike ride is way better than anything TV has to offer in the summer.

3. James Taylor still has it. He’s 67 and released a new album this month.  His music has provided the soundtrack for some of the most significant times of my life. I brought all his albums with me to Michigan State when I was 17. I’m glad he’s still giving me songs to dance to in the kitchen.

4. Abraham Lincoln was a real leader. PB and I went to Springfield, Illinois and took in the Lincoln historical sites. Since it was just the two of us, we were able to read every plaque, listen to every documentary film, and stroll down every street Lincoln himself walked, without any kids begging to go back to the hotel pool. They don’t make politicians like Honest Abe anymore.

5. Biking is more fun when you don’t have to pedal uphill.  PB did a little research and found a company that sells battery powered motors for regular bicycles. I know cycling purists would probably gasp at the thought, but I’m loving that little button on my handlebar. Biking is fun again.

6. When I think I’ve learned it all, there’s always more. I read the gospel of Mark in June. I’ve probably read that book 30 times, but I still was able to take twelve pages of notes. There is no limit to the richness of scripture — it keeps going deeper and deeper.

7. It’s sad to say goodbye to a member of the family. Bo, our dog, started having some serious health issues, so we had to put her down.  PB bought her a Happy Meal on the way to the vet, so I know she went out happy. Food was Bo’s love language. For all of my complaining about dog hair and poop in the yard, I do miss the afternoon walks and waggy welcome when I walk in the door.  Rest in peace, Bodacious Bojangles Bo-Sox.

8. I should have been an editor. I can’t stop myself from correcting typos and grammatical errors, whether it be in the local newspaper or on a billboard on the interstate. I sent an email to an author that published an article riddled with misspelled words, offering to edit his work. I haven’t heard back.

9. If God doesn’t give any new instructions, carry on as is. I’ve asked the Lord what to do with this blog, this writing thing I can’t shake, this compulsion to put down thoughts on paper.  I’ve pestered and begged and pleaded for some direction.  I got nothing. I’m taking the silence to mean: there are no further instructions, so carry on.

10. Babies are a wonder, every single time. Ruby is our sixth grandchild and sweetness just seeps out of her. I always wondered what my family thought when I was born. I was the 11th grand on one side of the family and the 7th on the other. Now I know – they were just as enthralled and enchanted and amazed at little me, as all the others that came before. It never gets old.