Prayer….a weird and wonderful thing

A weird and wonderful sort of thing happened to me this week.

I’m on holiday and I’m staying with some friends in a top secret, undisclosed location (sorry, hardly a State secret, I just always wanted to say that!!) But, I’m loving the sun, the crickets chirping away, the relaxation and the mound of brilliant books I’m getting through, while basking in the 31 degree heat. I am basically unwinding in glorious, spectacular fashion.

But, the other night, my friends introduced me to one of their relatives. She seemed quiet, shy and I spoke to her for less than 30 seconds… but she seemed so sad. I knew very little about her, other than her mum had died a few years ago and she had some serious health problems…but it kept coming back to me; sad…sad…sad.

I went to bed and twice in the middle of the night, I woke up and she was on my mind. I was half awake but I prayed for her. The first was a groggy-eyed prayer, along the lines of asking God to give her peace and hope and then I dozed back into a fitful sleep.

A few hours later, I nodded awake again, and there it was…she was on my mind still. Again, I prayed like the time before, for hope, for peace and then the blackness of jet lag descended once more and I was out cold.

I got up late the next day, the house was quiet, but over breakfast, my friends delivered the news…the girl had tried to commit suicide in the middle of the night. Thankfully, she’d been found and had been admitted to a unit. But I couldn’t believe it and just kept saying, ‘I woke up twice and prayed for her…but I didn’t know why’.

I don’t know the specifics but I love the fact that God knew something was way wrong, even though I consciously didn’t. I don’t know if my prayers contributed to her being found…but I do know that God puts people on our heart for a reason.

And I think that even if it feels completely stupid, it’s not going to hurt anyone if I pray…and who knows what might be happening to them at that very moment? Maybe that random prayer could stop someone from tying a noose around their neck or help them to recover from an awful illness. I’ll never know, if I don’t try.

I hope God wakes me up like that, more often.

P.s… This is my view, as I write…

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Go on…surprise me…

I like surprises. I always have done.

They don’t have to be extravagant, budget-stretching surprises, but sometimes just an email to say, ‘thinking of you’ or a card in the post, can make the difference between a good day and a not-so-good day.

Last week, I was feeling a bit rough and woke up one morning with a bad case of the dawdling doldrums…or the DDs.  I laid in bed and thought grumpy thoughts for a while, but not surprisingly, that didn’t help, so I got up, made a cuppa and picked up a devotional I’ve been meaning to read for a while.

That day’s reading was all about surprises and how God is a) not surprised when we are upset or stressed and b) He actually likes to surprise us with good stuff.

I couldn’t find any exact theological evidence to back it up, but it made sense. God loves me, so it’s sort of logical that He’d do nice things. The challenge at the end of the reading was, ‘Ask God to surprise you today’.

So I did. It was a fairly simple prayer (in the mornings, I am always VERY simple!!) along the lines of; ‘ I don’t mind what it is, but I’d love it if I could feel that sense of ‘awe’ again. Please could you surprise me somehow, today.’  Maybe it was a bit selfish, after all, I’ve friends who are suffering awfully at the moment, and that’s before I even begin to think more widely about the world, but in the depths of the ‘DDs’, I thought I’d ask for a bit of divine intervention anyway.

The day ticked on and I actually forgot the prayer, till about 9pm when I logged into Facebook and nearly fell off my perch.

There was a PM from an old friend that I had long lost touch with. It’s one of those friendships where you instantly click and though we’d only spent a couple of weeks together, sharing a house, we kept in touch. But time and distance had done their work and I think we’d last spoken about 8 years ago. But now here she was, in my Facebook inbox.

Her message was even more special….she’d taken the day off sick and for reasons she didn’t understand, had been thinking about me. She said I’d been on her mind all day and she’d been praying for me…till in the end, she got online to try and find me.

I worked it out; because of the time difference, at the point I was asking God for a ‘surprise’, she was sleeping, but when she woke up, I was on her mind.

Bit overwhelming really, because to me it says that God cares about all of my small needs, as much as my big ones.

He doesn’t always answer prayer the way we want him to and He definitely does it in His timeframe, but I think he always, always makes his presence known, often through little things like this. This sweet, unexpected message just reminded me that He’s got the details sorted.

I love surprises….especially the God-kind. :).

I’m running away….

I first discovered running about 8 years ago. A friend told me that at first, I’d feel like a tractor was reversing over me; chest, legs, bum…everything would beg for mercy….but if I kept going just a teeny bit more, apparently, if I didn’t drop dead at that point, it then got pretty flipping good.

So I tested the theory, I didn’t die…and whahey, turns out she was right, the endorphins are very, VERY flipping good!

But being honest, much of the past 8 years has been, ‘run like a freak for 2 weeks’ followed by ‘not do much at all for 3 months’. But a couple of months ago, I decided that I was going to seriously push through the 2 week barrier and KEEP going.

And so for the past month, I’ve been running around 30k every week and I’ve discovered this thing my friend Sara calls, ‘Runpeace’.

It’s this moment, usually after the ‘I must be mad, I’m gonna DIE’ phase has passed, where I’m suddenly floating….and in my case, I feel like I can really, really talk to God. It’s even better if you happen to be running up a mountain (yes… I attempted Moel Famau in North Wales today!!), surrounded by the very best creation has to offer.

And today, I stopped to take a glug of water (and breathe…which helps in the whole staying alive business) and there it was; glorious sun glinting out from behind a line of spectacularly arranged clouds, lush, green valleys, not a soul or sound to be heard, other than the odd pitiful sheep bleat….and wow, it was like a tiny glimpse of Heaven.

I was just overwhelmed by the beauty around me…no other word to describe it…and the peace and the feeling that me and God were up there alone and that He was listening to me…no one else…just me. So, I grabbed the opportunity and said everything out loud, that had been in my head…a sort of prayer mixed with thankfulness (and if I’m honest!) a bit of a whinge too!

But as I stood there, and took in the view, I got my breath back and kept on jogging up the next bit. And the next bit of view was even more amazing. I felt a bit weepy that God had made all this, just for me to look at and enjoy…and maybe also to make me feel a bit more connected to him.

‘Runpeace’. Love it! 🙂

How to have an adventure….

At church recently, we sang the song which begins with the line, ‘There must be more than this….’.

I looked around at the group of worshippers, not entirely sure that any of us were really absorbing the words….but later it made me think.  What do we really mean, when we sing, ‘There must  be more than this?’

The Bible’s a pretty good guide for this kind of thing (ha!) and  my brain flicked back to Paul and all that he endured for the Gospel.

A few years back, I was in Malta in a place called St Paul’s Bay, which is the place where Paul was said to have been shipwrecked.  There is a little stretch of land offshore, where a huge statue of Paul stands.   I remember one day, walking along the shore and looking out at that statue and thinking about Paul’s ‘thorn in the flesh’ and how, in addition to that,  he endured snake bites, threats of  death, beatings, jail and so much more.  He must have,  at times, utterly despaired  at all he was enduring for the sake of Jesus.    But he could do it, because he’d simply had a glimpse of ‘more’.   He knew, deep down, into the depths of his socks, that there was MORE, that it WAS worth dying for, being beaten for….he’d caught a glimpse of the glory of God and he was happy to give up everything in its pursuit.

But, in my life, which is fairly comfortable, how do I get to the point of needing/wanting ‘more’?  Why is it so easy to settle and be satisfied with my relationship with God, when the Bible says there is something literally ‘incomparable’ to be had.   Why would I settle for anything less?

At work, the radio is always on (tuned to UCB, of course!) and some days, I am so busy, I don’t really ‘hear’ it, but yesterday, I heard one of our regular contributors talk again about ‘surrender’.

To get ‘more’, you have to ‘surrender’ and that’s not just a nice word in a song, that means literally saying to God, ‘I am DONE doing it my way…take everything….the good bits, the bad bits, the attitudes, the grumps, the things I watch, the things I read and listen to….the friendships, the family….everything.’

Probably just about the scariest thing you can ever do….and yet, it’s also pretty crazily  liberating to chuck everything up in the air and say, ‘I can’t do it on my own….but I know I can, with the ‘more’ that God offers.

It’s a completely insane adventure…and one that can take you to places you’d never dreamed.    It probably involves some risk, some pain and sometimes even being misunderstood.     But I like adventure…and I want to try this one… 🙂

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