PRIVILEGED TO PRAY

By Lisa Huddleston

And Mary said,
“My soul exalts the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.”
(Luke 1:46-48)

I was recently honored to gather with a small group of believers from The Village Chapel simply for the purpose of prayer. Okay, we ate, too; but, after a delicious dinner, we prayed. And, boy, did these folks pray! Having been asked to be the one to close our time together, I was humbled beyond measure as I considered what I could add to these faithful souls’ words. I confess, about half-way around the circle, I began to worry a little. They really covered the needs with prayer.

Forgive my wandering mind, but aside from worrying about what I could add to the prayer, I also began to notice the variety of those who were praying. Their styles were so different. Some prayed in strong exclamations. Some used unpolished phrases and raw ideas. Others’ tone of voice expressed the sweetness of their words and the tenderness of their hearts. We were a varied and delightfully diverse group with different religious backgrounds as well as individual manners and habits. Some carefully closed “In Jesus’ Name.” Others simply stopped speaking leaving me to wonder more than once if it were my turn to speak.

And after some time, it really was my turn. I was surprised by the thoughts that came to my mind. I voiced that I was so honored that God would choose to use us as the means to accomplish His work in the world. And I realized that was the glue for our gathering, the common ground upon which we knelt. We believed, and because we did, we trusted God with our most difficult needs, with our greatest joys, with our passions, and with our hopes. We believed, and we knew that He heard and was already at work on the issues He had placed on our hearts to lift before Him.

Praise be to the God who has a regard for the humble state of His children. Our souls magnify Him every time we reveal our faith in Him through prayer. For behold, the work He begins in every gathering of prayer affects the whole world, including the generations to come who will count us blessed for keeping and sharing the faith. Amen and amen!

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PLEASING PEOPLE

By Lisa Huddleston

“Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.” (Mark 15:51, NIV)

“The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that.” (Prov. 29:25, MSG)

In just a few short months, my family will be deeply involved in the weddings of my daughter (June) and my son (July). Who am I kidding? We are already up to our necks in the planning of these events. Details concerning caterers, style, invitations, and clothing have kept us pretty busy. Questions like, “Will these shoes go with this dress?”, “Will this color stand out too much?”, and “Will the other girls like the dresses they are wearing?” have dominated our conversations. These and other more stressful issues regarding what others will think have reminded me once again how dependent many of us are on the good opinion of others.

There have been times in my life when I’ve radically declared, “I don’t care what anyone thinks!” But truth be told, I was lying. I do care. And I think most of us do to varying degrees. It’s human nature. We all crave approval at times, and most of us enjoy applause from the crowd. But when our choices reveal that we are selling out our own beliefs, we have gone too far. When we are paralyzed to move forward for fear of being criticized, we have gone too far. When we allow others to dictate our actions, we have gone too far. And when we place satisfying the crowd above satisfying God, we have definitely gone too far.

I recognize the leap I am making—from wedding details to denying God—but it may not be such a great leap after all. Every time I make a choice that dishonors who I am, who I have been created by God to be, I am putting pleasing people ahead of pleasing God. We all have some Pilate in us, and it is sometimes a short jump from insignificant choices to radically important ones.

Who are we looking to for approval? What are we doing simply to satisfy the crowd? Whose opinion do we fear most? Let’s begin to practice pleasing God—in small ways as well as in big. Trusting in God will protect us from becoming powerless “people pleasers.”

MAKING PROGRESS

By Lisa Huddleston

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry … He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God” (Psalm 40: 1, 3).

I completed my course work for my Master of Christian Studies degree from Union University this week.   I have received sweet words of congratulations and felt the relief of not having a paper due or a reading assignment to tackle.  And I have already sensed the lurking presence of the “What Next” monster.  Especially when people ask me what I plan to do now.

What do I plan to do?  Well, I plan to keep living and learning and reading and writing and loving my family and following where the Lord leads me.  I’m sorry if that seems a little vague.  I really am—and not just because it may be an unsatisfactory answer for you who ask.  I’m sorry, because I love a plan.    There is nothing better than planning and working toward a goal.  That’s why the MCS was such an answer to prayer.  I went to class on Tuesday evenings week after week and steadily worked my way from the first night to the last.  I found answers to questions I had pondered and discovered new and bigger questions to ask.  I listened to other students ask their questions and rejoiced to hear professors answer what they could and humbly share in the ambiguity of our lives when they couldn’t.  I kept a handy list of classes pinned on my bulletin board, and I added a big check mark next to each class as I completed it.  Satisfaction guaranteed.  I will miss it.

But now I am returning to a less defined way of living loosely structured around daily routines of reading, writing, exercising, cooking, cleaning, and so on.  I have no label under which to hide my identity.  No longer a “student” yet ever a student.  No longer a “teacher” yet hopefully always teaching.  Not really a “stay-at-home-mom” as my children are all grown.  And definitely not a “housewife”  as this label pinches me way too tightly.  I am a woman who wants to serve as God leads.  No more.  No less.

I doubt that I knew this truth in quite the same way two and a half years ago when I began my studies.  I am glad that I know it some better now—not as well as I should, but better than I did.  That’s progress.  And I am learning a new song to sing.

WINDS OF CHANGE

By Lisa Huddleston

“He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding” (Daniel 2:21).

Tornadoes, two weddings in one year, and Super Tuesday–what do these three circumstances have in common?  They all are current events in the journal of my life, and they all three represent CHANGE.

I freely acknowledge that change is sometimes very good.  For instance, my husband and I recently redecorated our bedroom which had been unchanged for the last 14 years.  We painted new colors on the walls, bought new furniture, and placed the bed against a different wall of the room.  Both of us feel as though we are sleeping in a brand new house, and although it has been difficult to navigate the unfamiliar landscape in the dark–we love it!  We decided to make this change, we picked the details we wanted to alter, and we chose the timing and the variations.

But not all change is under our control.  Which brings me back to my list:  tornadoes, weddings, and Super Tuesday.  Some change comes whether we seek it or not.  Despite the serious consequences of the other two items, tornadoes top this category for me. I dread this time of year, because I worry about things over which I have no control.  Especially when they can suck my house, new bedroom and all, right off the ground and spit it out in pieces throughout the whole county.   It’s a nerve-racking season.

Just a couple of nights ago, a roaring wind shook us awake at two a.m.  Our house sits in the mouth of a treeless pasture-cove that juts into a very old woods, and when the wind blows, the trees moan and groan a cacophony of sound rubbing branches and trunks together like an old woman wringing her hands (ME!).  The noise is incredible, and it naturally sent my thoughts down a worrying path as I considered the possibilities of another storm.  Happily, Chuck was awake, too, so we chatted away in the dark as the wind howled and finally whispered away in the distraction of our nocturnal conversation.

As I turned onto my side and tried to return to sleep, I pondered how well the wind represented so many of the other changes in my life.  It could cause devastating damage and altered appearances.  It could reshape the landscape in ways that are unfamiliar causing it to take some time to feel at home again.  But I know that time will come, and a new normal will emerge.  Whether that means visiting my children in their own homes, experiencing old relationships in brand new ways, or realizing that some old things need to be gotten rid of for good, change will blow through our lives.  While it may feel at times that the storms will never end, there is dead wood that must fall, and spring cleaning that must be done.

Along with the comfort of my sweet and patient husband, it is good to know that God controls it all: the wind, the seasons, the electing of government officials, and the lives of my children.  And when the wind has passed, He gives me a new and spacious place with room to dance.