The Power of a Prayer

The power of a prayer is that once uttered or written, it never goes away. I know that in my heart, but God gave me a sweet reminder of it last week. I was walking on the treadmill when a friend came over and told me she had something for me. Robyn is an owner of the gym and a physical therapist at the facility. She came back in a few minutes with a sealed letter from July, 2012.

I took part in a class Robyn led, and she had asked us to write a letter to ourselves before beginning the class which was to be mailed to us when we completed the class. I decided to write a prayer to God instead of a letter to myself. We both forgot all about the letter until it resurfaced last week.

When I finished walking, I decided to read the letter before moving on to the weights. I was dumbfounded because the prayer mirrored my emotions at the moment. I love it when God does that, and He does it all the time. I found myself in the midst of the same struggle I was having when I penned the prayer, and God knew I needed both the prayer and a reminder that He wasn’t going anywhere.

I wish I could say that I am always open to hearing God’s messages, but I am not. Luckily, my heart was open when I read the six-year-old prayer. I found sweet humor in words my heart and body so needed to hear. I find great reassurance in those ‘how in the world did you know I needed that’ moments because God always laughs or cries with me and reminds me that He is God ❤️

Prayers are permanent and once released remain in the hearts of those who pray them and those for whom they are prayed. I know that, but the letter was a sweet reassurance that I am completely surrounded and filled by prayers that beautifully connect me to others. I especially feel the prayers and presence of my paternal grandfather, Flavius Hart Holden. The letter and its message reminded of him.

Flave loved fun, and I loved exploring with him on his farm in Pisgah Forest, North Carolina. He played the piano with abandon and preached in a small Baptist church. He loved God and he loved growing things. He had a reverence for both that I admired and was a kindred spirit.

God and I have a special connection that reminds me of my connection to granddaddy. He knows me and loves me just as I am. He also knows that I am a mystic little monkey who delights in moments when He shows up unexpectedly. Like granddaddy, he also delights in delighting me.

Thanks be to God for that 😉

What’s in a Name?

During my Lectio Divina practice this morning, I reflected on the second line of the Lord’s Prayer. Again, I got ahead of myself and assumed “hallowed” would be the focus. Again, I was wrong 😊

“Hallowed be Your name.” Matthew 6:9 NASB

I couldn’t get away from name, so I relaxed and listened to God. He led me to the scripture where Jesus asked the disciples who people said He was. He asked Peter directly, and got the answer He is hoping to hear. Jesus always pointed to His Father and resisted those who wanted to worship Him instead of His Father.

 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Matthew 16:14-16 NASB

What we are called says a lot about who we are, and what we call others says a lot of who they are as well as who we are. I thought about what I call God. I usually call Him Father when I pray, but I also like Creator. When my prayer is very personal, I call Him Adonai.

I use Yahweh, Elohim, and El Shaddai when supplicating because I feel the need to call all His names when I’m desperate. The Jewish people use HaShem, the Hebrew word for “the Name.” I like that name because it reminds me that God used I Am when referring to Himself. There are over thirty verses in the Bible where God uses those words to describe Who He says He Is. Father fits best for me because it reminds me of who He believes me to be. I am His beloved daughter, and that name is the one I go to when I need balance or reassurance. It is the most precious name I have.

A name means something, so I do my best to call those I know by name when addressing them. I taught over 2,000 students, so it is very difficult to recall every name. Facebook helps me with that 😊

Kathy, Kathy Jean, Mom, Mrs. Proctor, Ms. Kathy and Gigi represent different aspects of who I am. Child, friend, wife, mother, teacher, volunteer, and grandmother. The first time I heard “Mom” my heart was altered forever. The first “Gigi” stretched my heart beyond my wildest imagination. When my first students called me Mrs. Proctor, I felt a new sense of identity and purpose. I love, and answer to, all of the above; but there was one name that left a deep scar on my heart. I do not answer to it any more.

My father called me “stupid” for the first five years of my life. It got my attention and captured my essence for too much of my life, but I knew that name lost its power when an angry middle school boy lashed out at me in the office one day. I wasn’t his teacher and had nothing to do with his anger, but I was the person standing closest to him.

I asked what was going on, simply wanting to help. He screamed at the top of his lungs, “Shut up you stupid b****!!” I realized at that point that it would be best to leave him in the hands of those involved in his situation.

I smiled as I left the office because that name didn’t anger me at all. In fact, I quietly told the young man that I was a lot of things, but stupid wasn’t one of them.

The Power of “Our”

I’ve been practicing Lectio Devina lately and was taken aback this morning by the power of the word “our.” I decided to go through the Lord’s Prayer over the next few days and began with:

Our Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 6:9 NASB

I tend to get ahead of myself, so I imagined before I went into prayer, that “Father” would most likely be the word God would bring to me as I prayed. For those unfamiliar with Lectio Divina, it’s a Benedictine practice that involves reading and rereading a short passage until one word becomes clear. It literally means divine, or sacred, reading.

Lectio Divina allows the living Word of God to speak to the heart as the person praying digests each word in the selected scripture. One word will come to the surface, and God will lead the person to a greater understanding of that one word.

It seemed obvious to me that “Father” would be the word because it was the most important word as far as I could tell. As always, God turned the obvious around and left my head and heart spinning in the process. I was delighted to find that “Our” was to be the focus of my prayer this morning.

I repeated the scripture over and over again, emphasizing the word “Our.” My body and spirit become still as I chewed upon the tiny word. The more I chewed, the more it became clear that “Our” opened an important door in Christ’s powerful prayer.

In uttering “Our” to the disciples, he included them in God’s kingdom. They became, and we become God’s children. I quickly smiled and repented not giving that simple plural possessive pronoun its due. The whole of the Good News Christ brought into the world is contained in that tiny, seemingly insignificant, word.

The power of “Our” became crystal clear after praying, and I had to laugh as God made it clear that this “Our” was more inclusive than possessive 😊   God gave the image of my smallest granddaughter, who will be two in a few weeks, taking ownership of all in her reach. Like her sisters before her and two-year-olds around the world, she is fascinated by another little possessive pronoun. Mine!! She has a little munchkin voice until she uses that word!

Her voice deepens, and her face becomes ready for battle when she sees something new and says, “Mine!” I smile when she says it, but I also tell her that something isn’t hers if it doesn’t belong to her. I have a little seal I bought in San Francisco that makes a loud noise when you squeeze it, and she likes it a lot. She held it tightly, pulled it to her side, and said, “Mine!” in her deepest I mean it voice.  I told her nicely that it belonged to me, but I would share it with her. She seemed okay with that as long as she could still hold on to it.

Too often, Christians take a two-year-old attitude when it comes to Christ. He shared as no one ever has, and His love was never clearer than in the first little word of the prayer He taught us all to pray.

Why the Truth Sets Us Free

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) is a verse I quote when I want the truth of others to set me free. I believe this verse is more about coming to terms with the truth in my own life.

Truth is easily distorted, and some argue that we have our own version of the truth. Twisting the truth gets me off the hook temporarily, but getting off the hook never sets me free. More often than not, I am dropped into a dark hole that’s worse than the hook.

The first step on the journey of finding the truth is admitting I’m wrong. Only I can take that step, so the first step is a lonely one.  It is a narrow gate to pass through, but it opens up quickly.

Christ waits patiently on the other side of that gate. The journey becomes more bearable, but far from easy. After admitting I’ve said, thought or done something wrong, I have to turn and go in a new direction.

Reparation comes next. God knows that a simple sorry is never enough when it comes to sin. We all know the effect fast, forced apologies have upon us. They’re worse than the original offense.

Truth is about sincerity, and that must come from a deep place in my heart. I was particularly sickened by the news last week as I watched the truth being battered around like a pathetic ping pong ball in a grotesque game of politics.

I can’t know someone else’s truth, but I know that when I am honest with myself, others, and God, I experience a freedom unlike any other. The truth sets me free because it helps me see that I am not perfect. That puts me in the perfect position to call upon One who is. Admitting I am wrong is the most difficult thing in the world, but nothing is sweeter than the peace and freedom that truth brings.

 

 

 

September Sunsets

There is nothing more spectacular than a sunset in September. Colors become more brilliant as the air begins to cool. Every season has its own beauty, but fall is a time when I see God most clearly. I know many hate to see the summer fade, but my heart dances with joy when sweet September makes her glorious entrance 💕

Negativity is Like Kudzu!

A little negativity is like a little kudzu; there’s no such thing!

A little negativity is like a little kudzu; there’s no such thing! If you don’t know about kudzu, let me introduce you. The plant is also known as Japanese arrowroot and was brought to the mountains of  western North Carolina decades ago in hopes of controlling erosion. Its rapid growth controls erosion very effectively, but it destroys everything in its path in the process. Negativity does the same if allowed to propagate.

Here are a few pictures of the kudzu in my neighborhood:

 

Once it takes root, kudzu is virtually impossible to stop. Stolons (runners) form new plants faster than its seeds. It kills all existing vegetation by blocking light. Covered vegetation and buildings lose their identities and become grotesque caricatures of other-worldly creatures.

Negativity spreads in the same manner. A little seed or runner seems harmless enough at first; but if left unchecked, it will block the light and alter the landscape of my heart.

Both negativity and kudzu require fertile ground to grow; so the next time negativity shows up at your door, remember these images of kudzu and ignore the knock!

Embracing Joy 🦋

Joy has been the subject of God’s lessons all week, so I wasn’t surprised that the service at The River of Life this morning was about just that.

I’ve been reading “Daring Greatly” this week and was taken aback by the notion of foreboding joy being a common shield against vulnerability.

Brene Brown describes her findings in Chapter 4.

“…having spent several years studying what it means to feel joyful, I’d argue that joy is probably the most difficult emotion to really feel. Why? Because when we lose the ability or willingness to be vulnerable, joy becomes something we approach with deep foreboding. This shift from our younger self’s greeting of joy with unalloyed delight happens slowly and outside of our awareness.”

I completely connected to the notion of foreboding joy as she described her own experiences and the experiences of the people she interviewed. When something wonderful happens or all is going very well, I begin to think something bad is getting ready to happen. It’s a ridiculous notion, but I was clearly guilty of putting up the foreboding joy shield to protect myself from vulnerability.

The good news is that hearing her describe her struggles helped me see my struggles in a new light. She goes on to give hope to those of us who are guilty of worrying that the other shoe is about to drop.

“Once we make the connection between vulnerability and joy, the answer is pretty straightforward: We’re trying to beat vulnerability to the punch. We don’t want to be blindsided by hurt. We don’t want to be caught off-guard, so we literally practice being devastated or never move from self-elected disappointment.”

She goes on to say that our culture assists in the doom and gloom scenarios we rehearse. Awareness is the first step to change, so I was overjoyed this morning as I sat by the river and had a sweet talk with God about my foreboding joy shield.

He has always known about it, and He and I both know it’s forged in fear. We both know that fear doesn’t feed on the vulnerable; it feeds on those who think they need a shield. It was freeing to let the river sweep away my shield this morning as I thanked God for lessons learned.

Brene Brown says, “While I was initially taken aback by the relationship between joy and vulnerability, it now makes perfect sense to me, and I can see why gratitude would be the antidote to foreboding joy.” 

So do I! I plan to practice gratitude and embrace all the joy that comes into my life 🦋

Joy on the River 8-26-18