Friday, June 22, 2012

God Pulls a "Gideon"

I have been writing my prayers down for about 2 years now. It's a practice I abandoned after college graduation when life got busier. I don't remember why exactly I picked it up again, but I do know it's done wonders for me. I used to write everything long-hand in a journal. Until my arm went numb and, out of necessity, I graduated to Microsoft Word.

Having a written record of my prayer life is a fascinating thing. I can go back and physically high-light prayers that were answered. I can see the hand of God in a very real sense when I go back and explore my private prayers.

During this time I've come to have a deeper understanding of how God designed prayer to work. About three weeks ago I felt God urging me to pray about something very specific. Something that, to my unseeing eyes, seemed very unlikely and slightly impractical. After getting over those first few inklings of "Did God really say this?" I decided there was no harm in telling God that I thought He was requesting me to pray for something and that if it was His will, that I indeed, would pray for it.

So I told my husband about my challenge to pray everyday for a month for this specific request. I wanted some accountability, so I shared my desires with him. Last night, three weeks into my prayer challenge, I prayed to God about how the likelihood of my request seemed even less plausible than ever. I prayed that I would understand why He'd laid this desire on my heart if it was so unfathomable. It felt so very far out of reach.

I closed my laptop and walked to my kids' bedroom where we went though their daily bedtime routine together. First on the agenda, reading a book. Micah chose his kid's Bible and said he'd been trying to read a story but was having trouble with one of the main words. He showed me the page and I read, "God Helps Gideon." I racked my feeble memory... which one was Gideon?

We didn't get too far into the story before I was smiling about the genius of my God. He would answer my question through my child's Bible story book! He connected the dots for me as I read about Gideon.

Gideon has a big army to fight the Midianites (Judges 7) and God tells him he has to send home some of the soldiers. Once his army is cut significantly in number, God tells him to send home all but 300 men. God says he did this so that Israel could not boast that their own strength had saved them.

In other words, God took a difficult situation and made the odds even worse. If Las Vegas betting lines had been open back then, everyone would have put their money on the Midianites. I recognized my own story in Gideon's. I was praying for something that had no earthly reason to happen. But it was suddenly clear to me, if this God-given prayer request does come to fruition, there will be no one to take the glory except God himself.

When all things point to "no," and God still manufactures a resounding "YES," we can be humbled and awe-struck by the deftness of His might!

He doesn't need the circumstances to be favorable. He doesn't need the right political environment. He doesn't need your help, or mine. He definitely doesn't need my pleas and prayers to make it happen. But He must long for us to join Him in a petition that He, himself put on our hearts.

Isn't that a beautiful pattern of prayer? We can say, "God, what would you have me pray for?" And He'll meld our hearts to passionately crave those same things He has already destined. And then when we come to Him and ask for those things, we've come full circle. The desires of our heart have indeed become the desires of His. And no one gets the glory but Him!

During a brief online research about dear, old Gideon, I came across a guy who penned an expression that I've adopted in the title of this post. He says that sometimes God pulls a "Gideon!"

Have you seen an unlikely outcome become a real thing in the hands of God?
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Friday, June 8, 2012

What You and I Can Learn From Sister Wives

That's right. There's something to be learned from Sister Wives, the TLC show about a Polygamist family (they call themselves Plygs), currently in it's third season.

After giving up cable for nearly three months, my husband decided last week that it was time to call Direct TV. He was a victim of marketing when he subscribed during a trial period that now allows us (him) to watch every single NFL game of the season.

While I wasn't very (at all) excited about this primo NFL package, I was supremely happy this morning when my own voyeuristic side was re-awakened by the oddity that is reality tv. The mild headache I'd had last night got out of bed this morning as a full-on migraine and so I plopped on the couch and begged the boys to keep it down. And then I reached for the remote and plunged back into the world of Sister Wives (3 episodes in a row!). Ah, how I'd missed it!

I think my fascination with all reality tv is, at core, the same reason I chose to minor in Sociology. I like to see how people live. This desire is what had me perched at my mom's side during play dates instead of playing with my friends. I preferred to listen to mom and her friends chat about the life I would eventually take as my own (that of a Stay at Home Mom). I like personal details and specifics. From the mundane stuff like how often a person vacuums to the bigger issues like raising kids, 401ks, and in-law relationships.

If you haven't seen Sister Wives, you'll just have to trust me that it is a fascinating look into the lives of oh, about 17 kids, one dad, and four wives. And in the vein of searching for truth, I should say that these people not only claim a love for Jesus Christ and his teachings (they are a part of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints or FLDS) but also say that their preferred form of marriage actually makes them better people, closer to God.

After getting caught up on the current season, I'm convinced The Sister Wives have at least two lessons to teach us, mainstream Christians:

1. They whole-heartedly believe that the Bible promotes Polygamy. Which is, to put it mildly, not something I find when I read the Bible. Keeping in mind that they read from The Book of Mormon, too, what I've learned from this well-intentioned family is to always question my reasons for my own beliefs. There's a lot of talk in my generation of the Church lately. Talk about our "Grandfather's religion." The idea is that adopting your Grandpa or Grandma or neighbor's religion as fact without examining it is not good enough. Do you believe what you believe because you've looked into it, prayed about it, and researched it? Or do you believe things are this way or that way simply because, well, someone you trust said so.

Psalm 119:130 says, "The unfolding of your word gives light; it gives understanding to the simple." In other words, reading the Bible will shine light on the answers we seek. There are many concepts and ideas expressed in the Bible that can require a lot of reading and praying to understand. But this verse tells us that the understanding will eventually come.

There's no verse that says "Thou shalt not enter into a polygamous relationship."Yet, our reading of the Bible should shed light on the issue. When God taught us about marriage by creating the very first one, He gave us one man and one wife and declared that together they were one. One. Implying whole. Not two-thirds or .75 with a little room to spare should you desire to seek another wife. One. Complete.

Do you know what the Bible says about marriage? Salvation? Baptism? Do you really know or are you adopting and espousing someone else's convictions?

2. There is one trait in particular that I truly admire about the four wives who make up the Brown Family. If you watch the opening credits for the show, Meri, the first wife, says she believes in this lifestyle because it makes everyone better. It is my own opinion, after watching the shows, that each wife feels that this is the case. That by sharing a husband they become more selfless. While I don't agree with their methods of gaining this selflessness, I think we can all learn from their intense motivation to learn to put themselves last and others first. They also use their marriage as a means to work on their jealousy (which was magnified big time when the last wife joined the family).

I don't know of any other reality television show that has so piqued my interest. (Unless maybe it's that other Christian group from Great Britain. The gypsies in My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding who have an interesting interpretation of modesty.) But I do know that I can't depend on a video crew to film my every move and point out my own sin or misinterpretations of scripture. That's something that will have to be between me and the Holy Spirit. "Sinless and Selfless" is the goal. I'll never attain perfection, but with some introspective channel surfing, maybe I can get a little closer!

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