MORNING MEDITATIONS

By Lisa Huddleston

praying-with-open-hands

Thy will be done … Thy will be done, Lord … Oh Lord, Thy will be done.

Love me with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.

And how do I love thee, Lord?!

Love your neighbor as yourself.

Oh! But who is my neighbor, Lord?

The people who live on my street?

Yes

The people who live in my town?

Yes

The people who live in the city?

Yes

In other states? Other countries?

Yes

Those who hate me, Lord?

Yes

Those who hate You?!

Yes

Oh, Lord …

Yes? 

 

And now these three remain: Faith, Hope, and Love. But the greatest of these is Love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

FRIENDS WITH EARS TO HEAR

By Lisa Huddleston

ears-to-hear-11As I approached the door to the sanctuary this Sunday morning, I saw two of my friends smiling and chatting away. One was a long-time pal and the other a fairly new acquaintance, but as soon as their eyes hit mine I could tell that my new friend wanted to talk to me–and I knew what about.

You see, the last time Chuck and I attended our home group, I spontaneously announced to everyone there that I had serious depression and had even struggled with the idea of hurting myself at times. What the heck??!

Well, the group was very sweet, and I could see their concern, but their reactions were awkward for me because I felt a little misunderstood–my fault of course. The leader suggested by asking a question that my depression could be a spiritual difficulty. Since I know that prayer helps in any situation and that was kind of what I was requesting (although I meant prayer in their own homes as they thought of it), I agreed to have the group pray for me right then. Before I knew it, I was surrounded by genuinely, loving believers placing their hands on my back and shoulders and voicing requests for my peace. It truly was well-intentioned and kind (and possibly/probably even very effective), but I am at best a socially-awkward introvert and felt a little freaked out by this reaction and the amount of attention I endured. (To anyone from this group–I LOVE YOU DEARLY! Please, no offense.)

Therefore I knew what was on my friend’s mind; however, I was pleasantly surprised when she began an inquiry of depth and openness that I truly appreciated. I want to write this post to say thank you to her for taking the time to ask some uncomfortable questions in order to understand what I and other depressives are going through.

First, she asked me if depression is a spiritual problem. I answered as honestly as I could that depression is a term used to describe many emotional and physical situations–and that while I believed it could sometimes have spiritual causes–I did not however believe that to be my current situation. My healthcare providers, my personal and family histories, and my symptoms all point toward my experiencing major clinical depression. I did share with her that depression definitely dampens my ability to worship, to pray, and to hold on to faith (thus affecting me spiritually), but that I have been reminded in many ways that it is not my faith that saves me but God’s. My prayer is that when I cannot hold on to Him that He will faithfully hang on to me. And so far, He has. My experience is that my depression is not caused by a “spiritual issue or battle” any more than any other disease is (or is not.)

My friend also asked if depression was the same as feeling sad. Again what a thoughtful question! And my answer is no. When I am sad there is a reason for me to feel that way. I’m too fat for my favorite jeans. One of my cats is missing. Or maybe I have learned of a dear friend’s passing. But depression is much more generalized than sadness. When battling depression, I feel exhausted and disinterested in most things. Sleep is my best friend, and very little can be done to make me less irritable or discouraged about my perception of the hopeless condition of myself or any other life on this planet. My brain feels like either mush or a bouncing pin ball, and I frequently wish I could either simply shut down or completely disappear. Depression is very different from the emotion we call sad.

This thoughtful friend asked me a few more questions–all equally good–offered her help, promised her prayers, and then it was time for us to take our seats. I just want to say thank you to her for taking the time to ask me how I really felt and to listen to my responses. I intend to follow her great example in the future when I have a friend facing a difficulty I know very little about.

Oh, Father, give me ears to hear.

 

SILENT PRAYER AND PERSEVERANCE

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By Lisa Huddleston

It was February when we decided it was time for me to seek help again. My energy was waning; my interests were fading away. For a while obsessive reading hid how bad things really were, but eventually that passion also dulled and became a chore.

It is now July–five months later–and the struggle continues. Despite a wonderful counselor and a well-respected physician, even my faith has begun to pale. I can barely pray, and I hardly ever attempt to write–my truest form of prayer. For a while my cry was, “Lord, hang on to me!” And so, I suppose, that is what He is doing now in the absence of my supplications.

As words have failed, only signs and symbols remain burned into my flesh like words once burned in my heart. To communicate that I am not well. To imitate the stripes by which we all are healed. To echo the Spirit’s moans and groans. To punish and to pray.

I fear a wasted life, but I ardently love my family and so hatred and love twist and twine to braid the rope that ties me to this place. Like God holds me here, their love is a tether for my soul. To wait for restoration. For five months or six or however long it will take.

Amen.

THE WARY WITNESS

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By Lisa Huddleston

He was hurting. I could see it in his tired face all morning long. At break we found ourselves alone in the kitchen of the Adult Learning Center, and he said he was tired of people on Facebook talking about religion. He said everyone could believe whatever they wanted to, and, yeah, he believed there was a God and everything, but he knew God didn’t answer prayers cause he prayed for his sick dad to get better and that sure didn’t happen and he wasn’t getting any sleep because his new baby was keeping him and his girlfriend up all night and his brother was mad at him for leaving his dad and he was tired.

Ugh. I tried to respond. I told him how sorry I was and said “God’s timing is not ours” and … yeah. It felt and still feels like a major fail.

I mean I knew all the appropriate responses, but as I ran through them in my head, none seemed as though it would make any difference in this young man’s life. Most sounded preachy and judgmental and so I just decided to show compassion for him and his difficult life and keep my over-educated mouth unapologetically shut. (Pun intended.)

I wanted to cry, to shake, to hold, and to preach. I wanted to point out all the choices that were being made that contributed to the pain rather than eased it. I wanted to scream truth into the blatant ignorance of human sin. But I held my tongue—maybe in fear of my own inadequacies, maybe because of my own sin, maybe because my faith just wasn’t strong enough or even maybe because that was the best choice. I honestly don’t know.

But I also have a sick father and hurting friends and relationships that are difficult. In many ways, I completely understand and often even share his doubts. But I do believe—not just in the existence of a god but in the God who hears my cries for help, gathers my tears, and yes, answers my prayers even when I cannot point to proofs that will convince anyone else, especially someone whose life is in chaos and with whom I have only a peripheral relationship.

And because I believe, I pray.

Heavenly Father, reveal your heart of love to this struggling son and young father. Draw him to your side and breathe your faith into his hard, breathless life. And, if you choose to, use me as an instrument of your peace. Amen.

WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO FOR YOU?

By Lisa Huddleston

Sunday was a special day. For the first time in quite a long while, we had all three of our grown children and each of their significant others together at one time in our home! It was simply grand, and I’ve been savoring moments from that day as this week progresses, smiling over quirks and differences, and delighting in each one of their unique personalities. What a blessing it is to have these kids in my life!

Nick, Becky, John and Sarah--Crazy group hug!

Crazy group hug!

This morning as I tried to catch up on my “daily” Bible reading schedule, I was reminded of my kids and the fact that I am God’s kid and how much we all love to give good things to our children—but sometimes we would like to have them ask for what they need.

My kids run the gamut when it comes to the “willing to ask” spectrum. One wouldn’t ask for help unless a life depends upon it. One will ask but with great regret and hand wringing. And one is happy to ask and persist in asking—it never hurts, right?

I think perhaps I fall somewhere within the first and second of these traits. Sometimes I am too proud to ask others for help. I can do whatever I need to on my own. At other times, when I really feel broken, I will ask, but with much apologizing and great shame. Rarely do I ask with comfort and joy (or confidence and faith). More’s the pity, I think.

As I read in the Gospel of Mark this morning, the Spirit asked me to consider the importance of asking.

Chad and Heather

Chad and Heather

First I noticed that the father of a son who had seizures asked the disciples to heal his boy, but they could not so they brought the child to Jesus. And the father asked again. Not with great faith but with very little. “If you can do anything ….” Jesus replied, “Everything is possible for him who believes.” To which the hopeful father answered, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (9:22-24).

I get that. Many times I don’t want to ask because my doubt gets in the way. I’m afraid I’ll be disappointed, that maybe God can’t or won’t provide what I need. Often, my best and only prayer is, “Help my unbelief.” Ask!

Next I read that the disciples did not understand what Jesus told them about his impending death and resurrection, but they “were afraid to ask him about it” (9:32). Wonder what scared them? Did they think Jesus would laugh at them or chastise them or punish them? Were they afraid of what the other disciples would think? Oh, how a fuller understanding of Jesus’ words would have comforted them when the time came for them to be fulfilled.

Sarah and John

Sarah and John

I understand this reason, too. Who wants to look stupid especially when others seem to be much more assured and confident in their faith? It’s hard to admit to ignorance, but it’s so much better than remaining in it. Truth beats back our fear and provides what we need to persevere through hard times that are sure to come. Ask!

Next I noticed the rich man who asked Jesus the most important question. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (10:17). How did Jesus respond to the man? He “looked at him and loved him.” Jesus saw into the man’s soul, he knew the sin that was hidden there, but he LOVED him!

Sometimes I hesitate to ask because of my sin. I know how unworthy I am, and I know that my Heavenly Father knows how unworthy I am. I can’t wear a mask with God. But I’m grateful to be reminded that my Father loves me, and a loving Father wants his children to ask. Ask!

Finally good ol’ James and John, the sons of Zebedee, asked for power, to sit on either side of Jesus’ throne. I think Jesus realized their naivete, patted them on their heads, and knew that soon they would see their mistake. But he didn’t tell them not to ask.

Sarah, Heather, Chad, Becky & Nick around our table!

Sarah, Heather, Chad, Becky & Nick around our table!

Have a stupid question? (And, yes, there are stupid questions!) Ask Jesus anyway—he may smile and pat you on the head, but he’ll never tell you to stop asking. Ask!

“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (11:22-26).

I don’t have the space to do justice to these words, but, no, if I ask for a red Ferarri Jesus doesn’t mean I’ll get it. Jesus spoke with metaphors that his audience clearly recognized and understood. Even Jesus asked to let the cup of his suffering pass him by, and he didn’t get that. But he also taught his disciples to pray, “God’s will be done.” Ask!

If we come to our Father trusting in the right way and in the right things, we can ask our Good Father anything and know that he will hear our prayer. Ask for more faith, less fear, more understanding, less pride … more of him and less of me. He will answer and give us what we need.

There is very little I would withhold from my sweet children—anything I have is theirs! “How much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?” (Matt. 7:11).

ASK!

BEFORE THE LAST STRAW

Oh, my aching back!

Oh, my aching back!

By Lisa Huddleston

Some days I feel as though I just can’t take it anymore. Just one more word of bad news, of suffering due to disease or choice or pure evil, and I’m finally going to crack.

And despite all the well-intentioned (and true) articles people have written, posted, and shared about how to effectively impact issues like genocide, starvation, disease, depression, suicide, injustice and so on, I simply and honestly feel powerless.

And that powerlessness leads me to despair.

But God reminds me that He is the power in my life–and in all the other lives that are currently inhabiting this scarred and bleeding planet. When doubt, despair, and powerlessness threaten to rip me apart, this truth holds me together like gravity for my soul:

“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good” (Romans 8:26-28, The Message).

As He died in our place, He even prays in our place! He is the power for the powerless, the prayer for the prayerless, and the hope for the hopeless.

Oh, may thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven … before even one more straw can fall. Amen.

HAVE MERCY

By Lisa Huddleston

 

Lord Have MercySome times are all about choices

Others seem all about fate

The first are fights in the present

The second are struggles through wait

 

I still have a lot on my mind, and at the same time my mind is so unfocused that it feels empty in its lack of direction. No one issue seems to hold center stage for long.

In times like these, even my prayers can lack focus. But I have found one thing to pray when the spiral begins:

Lord Jesus Christ

Have mercy on us

 

Amen.