During that (whenever it was) staff meeting, all of us on the team were given a $25 gift card to use at our local Christian book store. It came with strings, this gift card, in that we were to buy something that would encourage us, uplift us, challenge us, bless us ... whatever we wanted ... and then report back at the end of the summer, at another staff meeting, what we had bought and how it had impacted us.
It had been assumed and vocalized that I would probably buy a music CD of one of the Creation bands that I was going to see in July.
Turns out I used that gift card to buy Drew a "real" Bible to take to camp. Stillwood Camp. For his first experience as a camper, I thought he should have a Bible with no coloured pictures. One with chapters and verses, not just stories. One with superthin, crinkly, gold-edged pages and a leather-like cover.
But fearing that 'present your findings/share your thoughts' staff meeting at summer's end, I spent $25 at the other Christian bookstore - the one in Abbotsford and bought two books on prayer:
"Can You Hear Me?" by Brad Jursak and Intercessory Prayer by Dutch Sheets.
I'd read Intercessory Prayer years ago but lent the book out and never got it back. I remember not liking the book all that much in 1999. Mostly because it made me feel guilty about not praying enough. Maybe I should rephrase that... after reading the book, I was convicted that not only did I need to pray more, I needed to pray 'better'. It was the 'praying better' that peed me off. I didn't like to think that there was a more effective way of praying. Surely all I needed to do was pray? The Holy Spirit would fix my prayers up to be all spiffy and acceptable if I was too raw.
Anyway, I decided to give the book another shot. And while I was in the prayer section I saw Brad Jersak's book and thought maybe I'd heard good things about it so I picked it up too.
Why did I buy books on prayer when a David Crowder music CD would have been way more fun? Why did I buy books on prayer when a great novel by Ted Dekker or Francine Rivers would have been way more enjoyable?
I don't know. Maybe it was because, back on May 25, I had a bad feeling about the upcoming season. I was alone in the office, trying to tidy up some loose ends so that I could get away early to attend my boss's son's wedding. I got a few phone calls that afternoon; one from my mom saying that the specialist (they had seen regarding dad's 'hollow head' sensation) had diagnosed dementia. And another phone call came from Max's school saying they were going to expel him do to non-academic success. And that was also the day that I found out that Clint was going to lose his license. And then I got an e-mail that had me thinking that maybe I was in a(nother) church that was going to close down. And then all those loose ends? Unravelled. I had a bad day at work.
I had a sense that I was entering a season that would require prayer. It felt like I was entering a storm zone, and would be living under a dark cloud. And as the knot in my leg got tighter and bigger, I anticipated that things would get worse before they got better.
So, anyway. I bought the books. And added them to my 'to read' bookshelf. And somehow never got around to actually reading them. Maybe even, truth be told, resented their presence in my house. Why would I need to know a better way to pray? Couldn't I just keep on praying like I've always done? Why did I have to learn a new way? New words? New whatever?
I engaged in some prayer focused conversations during July and August, and found that Brad Jersak's name came up during most of those talks. In October, I chatted with one of the guys in our youth group and he mentioned that if/when our church closed, he was going to visit a church in Abbotsford called Freshwind, where a pastor named Brad Jursak preaches.
In November the shoe drops and within 12 hours our church votes to close down, my mom almost dies from a perforated bowel and my dad ends up on death's door with not dementia but full blown Alzheimer's, congestive heart failure and few other things thrown in for good measure. As I sat in the waiting room from midnight til 5 am on Nov 4, praying my little heart out, I wished I taken the time to read those books. Maybe it really did matter? Maybe just praying wasn't enough? Maybe I needed to say it in a certain way? Maybe I needed to lie flat out on the floor? Maybe I needed to do more praising and less begging?
Maybe maybe maybe ...
After praying all night, I blogged. And asked the internet to pray with me. I figured someone out there must've read the books. Someone else would 'get through' to heaven, if I'd done it wrong. Someone who was gifted in prayer might be able to interceed on our behalf...
I heard from so many friends who let me know they were praying. It was so calming to know that it wasn't just up to me to lift up my dad and mom in prayer. I could rest, knowing that there was a whole army of folk out there, appealing to God on my behalf. I've already written about the way God answered those prayers.
The crisis, the immediate crisis, is over. My mom is healing. My dad has stablized. The suite is getting prepared. Lawrie, Jared and Jenn have been helping out daily.
And yet, there's still those prayer books on my shelf.
When I was asked, at the end of November to join a prayer group, I knew it was a push from God to get serious about communicating with Him. So I went. And prayed. And have already shared about how big of a stretch it's been.
Then, after that first meeting, I got a (facebook) message from a friend:
"Ok, this is the deal: I am really, really Mennonite. And, as I'm sure you're well aware, Mennonites do not usually go around 'hearing' God speak. We leave that for the crazies, the drunks, and the Charasmatics.
Anyway, while I was at CBC, I was going to this great little church called FreshWind, which was full of crazies, drunks, and Charasmatics, and they were ALWAYS hearing God speak. AND, they would expect YOU to hear God speak. They would say things like 'Ask God when the last time He laughed with you is,' or 'Ask God what He's pleased with you about today,' and then be all like, 'Ok, what did He say?' It was scary.
So now, years later, I've decided that I'm sick of letting them hear God all to themselves, and I want in. So I'm reading this book called 'Can You Hear Me?' (a question, presumably, asked by God) and it keeps telling me to shut my eyes and open my ears and ask God a bunch of stuff. Like who He wants me to pass a message along to.
Guess who that is.
So, the message for you (sifted through my Mennonite filters and the fact that I only believe in this, like, half the time) is this: God is really, really pleased with how hard you've worked at this whole your-parents-losing-important-bits-of-themselves thing, and He wants you to know that He'd fix it for you if He could, because He hates to see you struggle, but it's like when your kids are doing homework, and they're having a really tough time, and you give them encouraging words and cookies but that's all you can do, because they have to learn it for themselves. That's how He feels about you. And He wants you to know that you're doing good.
And then this:'For this is what the Lord says:
I will extend peace to her like a river,
and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream;
you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees.
As a mother comforts her child,
so will I comfort you;
and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.'
- Isaiah 66:12
So there. Take that for what it's worth. I really do feel, though, like God is proud of you, and I'M proud of you.
So...carry on doing what you're doing."
(I cry everytime I read that.)
Then last Thursday, at our prayer thing, guess what comes up? Uh huh. That book. And that author. One of us has read it, and two of us have it yet haven't read it.
And then, I get a "church report" for that other blog I have ... regarding, uh huh - that pastor. And 'listening prayer'.
And then, a total and complete stranger, has been emailing me:
Nov 15, 7 am: I'm a pray-er warrior that loves to pray in agreement! "Father we come overwhelmed in Your presence. We thank You for being our Dad. Hallelujah!!! Give Jane an overwhelming peace & joy and let her know You're working everthing out. Lord we come against this knot in Jane's leg and command that it becomes normal. The incision that opened up in Jane's mom go back to normal and it should heal properly. Father we come against these thoughts that are coming to Jane's dad when he's trying to sleep through the night. Let him have undisturbed sleep from here on out. Lord let her dad know that everything done for him is done for good. We pray this in Jesus name. So be it!"
Keep me posted -AP
Nov 15, 7 pm: We're getting there now. I'm a pray-er warrior that prays in agreement with anyone God leads me to. As brothers and sister in the Lord it is great to unite in faith and see God work. I'd like to continue praying with you as you need a pray-er of agreement. AP
Nov 16: 5 am: I'm sorry I didn't tell you who asked me to pray a pray-er of agreement with you. A.M. knows that I pray with people in alot of places around the world and asked would I pray with you? I prayed about it and I got a peace about it and emailed you. As pray-er partners we can discuss and pray about anything you need. AP
And then today: Dec 14: Anything you need a pray-er of agreement on I'm ready. AP
This whole prayer thing is giving me shivers.
So, yes, I've started reading the book. Cracked open the first chapter last night at 3:30 am while in a bubble bath, waiting for Clint to come home. Apparently, God wants to speak. Apparently He speaks all the time. We just don't know how to listen. I just don't know how to listen.
I keep waiting to hear a voice. A sound.
But it occured to me while typing this out; that maybe He is speaking to me through the internet. All these messages I'm getting? They're from Him. To me.
I think He wants me to get serious about prayer.
So I will.
I was at the hospital tonight, visiting a friend and her daughter. And I drove away making a list of prayer requests:
1. Pray for complete healing for Mick. Pray that the doctors, therapists, specialist and counsellors would have the wisdom to make a correct diagnosis.
2. Pray for Mick's mom. That she would experience peace. That she would stop feeling guilty. That she would be protected from the lies of the enemy.
3. Pray for Mick's sisters as they finish up this semester at school. Pray that they woud have courage, strength, and peace.
Regarding my dad and mom:
1. Pray for God to supply us with long term care-workers. The three angels He has brought into our lives can only help up til January. Pray that God would go before us, and prepare someone to fill the role.
2. Pray for us as we learn more about Alzheimer's. Ask God to show us how to care for dad properly. It's so easy to sit him down in front of the TV... we need inspiration as to how to engage him in our world. Or how to enter his.
3. Pray that mom would have moments of joy in caring for him.
Three things I'm thankful for:
1. I have this month off work. I didn't realize how emotionally exhausting November was til now.
2. The internet.
3. Christmas cards.