Thursday, April 17, 2014

I Suck At Praying (But I Try Anyway)

So I read this article this week :

And it really resonated with me.

"When the motivating factor in your prayers is self-interest, you may find yourself more and more frustrated and disappointed by the results....

"... Sometimes we treat prayer as a bargained-for exchange: if you spend a few seconds asking God for stuff, He’ll grant your wishes." 

That's totally me, unfortunately.  I needed this smack upside the head, this gentle reminder.
I pray the Lord's Prayer every single day and I go from there to "Thank you" for everything He's given me and then I totally continue to "And here's the list of stuff I'm asking for."

I always forget to say "Amen." I get distracted by other things, like the gym, like work, like writing.  When I remember I forgot to say "Amen," I immediately take up where I left off in the Asking For Stuff list, and then I get distracted, and the whole thing starts all over again.

"Expect to discover your God-given purpose when you spend time in His presence. Expect to be filled with an unbelievable amount of peace despite whatever situation is railing around you. Expect to experience an unexplainable joy in the midst of external hardships and internal doubts.  Come before God with expectancy in your heart and watch Him satisfy your ever need.  But be open to the God of the universe satisfying your needs in ways that exceed your expectations or desires. He knows best."

That doesn't sound like a tall order, but it totally is for me.  Spending time in His presence is hard for me, because #1, all the ways that are usually described of how to spend time in His presence are things I kinda recoil at, thinking that it sounds so unbearably cliche, "listening to worship music" I don't like most worship songs. "sitting in complete silence in a private place"  I've got stuff to do.  and #2, when I do try to spend time with God, I expect instant results, and He doesn't work like that.  Hence, the name of this blog. God Is Patient, I Am Not.

I've gotta be better, I've gotta try harder, which is coincidentally the anti-thesis of the whole Christianity thing anyway - it's not about your works, it's about your faith.

All I can say is Thank God He's patient with me. Because man, I am pretty much a disaster, ho ho ho.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Be WITH me

The past two months have been hell at work, for a bunch of reasons that I will never discuss until maybe five years from now with a lot of good tequila.

For the past two months, I felt like I was walking into a war zone for eight hours a day, five days a week.  And every day before work, I would get out of the car and take several deep breaths and send up a few prayers to God, sometimes as simple as, "Please let everything go okay today" and sometimes as complex as "Please don't let anyone yell at me, in person or on email. Please let me discern when I should interrupt my boss when she's on the phone and I have another call for her.  Please forgive me for the murderous thoughts I have towards the MIS department, who aren't even located in the U.S. anymore, and it's not their fault their accents are so impenetrable."

What I suddenly realized one day is that I kept asking God to prevent things from happening TO me (or prevent me from acting on murderous impulses.) What I should've been asking Him to be WITH me.

That praying isn't about getting God to be your bodyguard, where He stands in front of you and blocks Bad Stuff from stabbing you in the neck.

Prayer is about asking God to dwell WITH you. I think technically He's supposed to dwell INSIDE you, via the Holy Spirit, and yet most days, I feel like there's too much bitterness, fear that I'm gonna get written up, cynicism, or junk food for me to feel like the Holy Spirit's in there too.

So I started asking God to be with me.  To walk with me.  To stand alongside me. To help me stand in the face of whatever stresses the day was gonna throw at me.

I won't say things instantly got better.  In fact, they pretty stayed the same until one day... we were out of the woods. I survived.  For now.

I know there's a lot more to praying than what I just mentioned.  That it's not just about Him walking alongside me, but the whole relationship aspect, that Get to know Me! thing that is supposed to be at the heart of real prayer with God.

And I'm working on that. I'll always be working on that.

But that moment, that day in the parking lot, felt like a step in the right direction.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

I Got Your Back

I was running slides at church a few weeks ago, and it was that seemingly elastic stretch of time between services.  Where it seems like you have all the time in the world until suddenly the band is taking the stage and you better be in your seat ready to hit the lyric slide for "Louder Than The World."

Since our church has moved locations to a place further down Hollywood Blvd., we don't quite get the stream of crazies that we used to.  Sure, there's a few bums that like to sleep in the space between us and the fire station next door.  I figure they like to think they're covered either way with blessings from God or water from a hose.

But we don't get the crazies who sometimes bum rushed the middle of the service and made things interesting like we used to.  Which is slightly sad.

But here I am, in between services, wolfing down a granola bar.  I sit in a little alcove sandwiched in the far corner, and most people don't even know I'm there, they walk right past me, which is totally fine.

But I hear one of the ushers talking.  Or perhaps enduring is a better word.  Because there's a gentleman rambling his brain off to the usher in what the gentleman thinks is conversation, but more is passing for something like a cross between a rant and a lament.

It's your HEART (mumble, mumble, mumble) in your SOUL! (mumble mumble mumble) your HEART!”

Now granted, I only hear bits and pieces of the conversation. I do not know what part of the train of thought “your heart” and “your soul” occupy in this rambling. I don't know what the thesis is that he's trying to get across.

But I do know that the volunteer usher feels pinned down. Because I keep hearing her say, “Yes... Yes.. YEP! Yes... Yes... Yeah.” in that way that clearly communicates I am stuck in a conversation with a somewhat crazy person. Okay, he might not be crazy. But he's not all the way there. And I can't excuse myself from the conversation because I'm a volunteer usher and I'm supposed to greet people coming into the sanctuary. So I can't walk away from this potentially crazy person. But I have a feeling he's not going to leave me alone.

Yep, I got all of that from her “Yep.” You would have gotten it too, had you been there and heard it.

So off I go to get the helpful security staff, who are trained to politely deal with people like this. I don't make eye contact with the volunteer usher, though, because I'm worried I'll catch the eye of the not-all-there gentleman, and say what you will about the Potentially Crazy people, but almost all of them do this: if they know they have an audience, they'll usually escalate.

So I head outside and grab the first security person I see. And he goes inside, where another security person is already on the scene, chatting up the not-all-there gentleman and gently escorting him away.

I smile at the volunteer usher and say, “Don't worry, I had your back.” And she smiles at me and thanks me, even though I wasn't number one with the Help Brigade.

But it occurred to me, how many times has God had my back and I had no idea? That I was doing my best to be polite and endure a situation and thinking I was on my own? Until help came out of nowhere and I realized He was behind the scenes, tinkering around with stuff and figuring out who to send to me for help.

I must try to remember that more often.