Rain, Prayer, and Provision

So about a half hour ago, I had a pretty weird experience with prayer.  I had just gotten out of a meeting on campus, and started to head back to my apartment.  As I walked out the door, I realized the solid amount of rain falling from the sky.  I had no jacket, no umbrella, and the next few minutes looked bleak at best.  I stood under the overhang for a minute, trying to accept the obvious truth that I would soon be cold and wet.  So I looked up and prayed (it couldn’t hurt, right?).  I prayed, “God, it would be pretty cool if you stopped the rain for the next two to three minutes so I could make the quick walk back to my apartment.  I know that’s kind of high maintenance, and it is my fault that I didn’t plan accordingly for this rain, but that would be awesome if you took care of that.”  Then I stood there for another minute or so waiting for either the will to walk through the rain or for the rain to lighten up.  Neither one of those things happened, but something did.

All of a sudden, Ben, a friend of mine, comes up through the rain with an umbrella.  I gave him the old, “What’s up, man?”

He looks at me and says, “Nothing much, what are you doing?” I’m sure I looked pretty strange just standing there alone…

“Just trying to get up the courage to walk through the rain,” I reply.

Then he extends his umbrella to me.  I look at him like he’s crazy, and he simply says, “Take this.” I’m sure I gave him a really weird look, so he added, “It’s not mine…I found it. (Ben’s that friend that everyone has who is always finding weird stuff)”

So I took the umbrella, told him I would get it back to him, and walked off towards my apartment.  And I was dry!

I tell this story for a few reasons, and the more I think about it, the more reasons I have for telling this story.  I’ll try and give these reasons in an organized manner so that you can understand my seemingly disconnected, but possibly connected thoughts:

  1. Nothing is too small to pray about.  Maybe you’re reading this and you’re thinking, “Seriously bro, that was just a coincidence.”  I disagree.  Sometimes I think God answers those little prayers in unique ways because He delights in our delight.  It’s almost as if God is winking at us, as if to say, “I’m still here, and I love to see you enjoying My presence.”  And even if you are convinced that what transpired was 100% coincidental, I have to ask, what’s the harm in praying about the small things?  God is all-powerful, and He hears our prayers, even the wee little ones.  As a Christian, I believe that God wants us to constantly be praying about literally everything! 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Philippians 4:6.
  2. The Lord uses the people around us.  I doubt that Ben felt that the Spirit walked him toward my location and told him to lend me the umbrella.  I’ll have to talk to him about that, but I doubt that is how it went down.  Sometimes people are unaware of the impact they have on us or the way in which they might be used in our lives.  I have had many conversations from which I walked away feeling completely filled, and I wonder if those people realized what their words meant to me in the moment.  God sends us into each others lives at just the right time, sometimes as an answer to prayer.  Proverbs 25:11.
  3. God doesn’t always answer prayer directly.  See, God didn’t answer my prayer tonight by doing precisely what I asked for.  God didn’t close up the clouds for a couple minutes, but He provided an avenue for me that I hadn’t considered.  Sometimes we become so frustrated with things in our lives that God seems to be ignoring us on.  We ask over and over again for the same thing, and we work towards it, but the necessary doors never open for us.  We cannot become so focused in on what it is that we want that we limit the ways in which we are open to the work of the Lord in our lives.  A life following the Spirit’s lead is surprising, and we rarely can look back and say, “Yeah, I saw that coming.” James 4:13-15.

And I don’t tell this story to say that every time you pray for rain to stop, somebody will show up with an umbrella for you.  We are never going to fully understand the working of God in the world, and sometimes waiting on Him to reveal Himself to us is so hard.  But tonight was a cool reminder of the mysterious working of the Lord in my life.  I hope that if you’ve read this, you feel encouraged about prayer.  God is always listening, no matter how small the request, and He is always paving new paths for us.  The Lord is faithful.

Father, thank You for working in ways that I would never choose; for Your ways are far greater than mine.

-MC

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Firm in Freedom

This is a piece that I wrote last week for the Otter Creek Stir blog (http://ocstir.wordpress.com):

If you’re like me, you’re nostalgic. When I’m with my friends, I could go on and on about the times we’ve had. I know everyone thinks this, but I have the best memory when it comes to details of a funny moment. I love to tell stories.

Occasionally, I find myself with those who I went to high school with. We can tell all kinds of stories about playing jokes on each other, messing with our teachers, and ridiculous memories from the football locker room. And in those moments (which are becoming fewer), there is a slight wish to go back. To get to experience pep rallies, football games, and the many fun times once again. See, because when I’m with my friends laughing and catching up, I’m not thinking about the arguments with my parents over my grades or the difficult teachers. I’m not thinking about those times when I wanted to pull my hair out over the dumbest things, but rather I’m thinking about when I had hair to pull. The way we remember things is often seen through a rose-tinted lens. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” has a lot of merit to it. Anyone and anything can seem appealing from afar, and we as people are so often tricked into believing that the grass is greener on the other side. I believe this is a trap we often fall into in our faith.

In Exodus 14, we find the story of Israel immediately after being freed from the Egyptians. They are encamped next to the sea, and Pharaoh, realizing what he had done, takes his army to go get them back. Of course as this huge number of angry Egyptians is rapidly approaching, the Israelites look up and are terrified. They say to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” At the first sign of trouble, these people who had just been delivered by the HAND OF THE LORD ALMIGHTY doubted Moses. After seeing the Lord’s faithfulness play out firsthand in a way that no one else in the world had seen, they still doubted, believing that at this point, Egypt doesn’t sound that bad. Moses answered, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still,” and the Lord did just that by parting the waters for Israel and crushing Egypt under the crashing waves.

Maybe we’re not backed up against a sea with an army racing towards us, but maybe we feel like that sometimes. In those moments of fear when maybe following God isn’t as easy as we anticipated, the road is exhausting, and temptation looms, don’t our old selves look enticing? The Lord’s deliverance isn’t always swift, and it certainly isn’t without some worrisome times along the way. In those moments of fear, temptation, or sorrow, STAND FIRM. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance of the Lord.

As Christ-followers, we are always being drawn back to what the Lord has called us out of. Rejoice because the Lord has given us new life! The Almighty God, the Creator of the Universe, saw us as we were and said, “You are not that person anymore, YOU ARE MINE.” While we were still slaves, sinners with no hope, Christ died for us! Our chains have been crushed by grace, and we have been set free! We cannot choose to return to slavery.

We are constantly tempted to return to what God has called us out of.

So today and everyday, choose freedom. He has led us to greener pastures and beside far quieter waters.

Even when everything is going wrong and I feel discouraged…

Even when a life of surrender is tough and I want to quit…

I will trust in Your unfailing love;

My heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing the Lord’s praise,

For He has been good to me. Psalm 13:5-6

-MC