Prayer has been part of my life for as long as I can remember - from the bedtime "Now I lay me down to sleep" to "Please, God, don't take him at Christmas." I pray every day, and usually many times a day. For me, prayer is a conversation with God. Over the years, my prayers have changed - or maybe they have just matured.
When I was a child, God was an imposing figure - a larger-than-imaginable man with a long white beard who was able to strike down bad people, but who always looked kindly on little children. Now I know God is all powerful, spiritual, loving, giving, and forgiving. And He wants to hear our desires and needs. But we don't have the whole universal picture, and never will. Only God does. And we're not alone down here on earth, either. There are other people down here with us, and as much as I sometimes have my doubts, all those people are God's children, and He loves them. It's good that He does, because some of them aren't very loveable at all.
Now, more and more frequently, I find myself waking up in the morning with, "Thank you, Lord, for giving me another day in this wonderful world. Please keep me safe today." And as the day progresses, there are lots of little conversations - as if I'm talking with a friend. "Lord, thank you for this food. Let it fuel me to make it through the day." "Lord, please hold my hand and cover my mouth." "God, help me know what You want me to do here, because I'm at a loss." "Lord, I need your guidance. I don't know which way to go." "Lord God, give me patience to deal with this traffic in a Christian way." and usually ending the day with something like "Dear Lord, thank You for all my blessings. Thank You for walking with me today. If You want me to continue, please give me another tomorrow. And most of all Lord, stay with me, guide me, and know that I love You."
I laughed when they outlawed prayer in school. What a joke! Did they really think a law could put a stop to my communication with God? How can anyone really, truly prevent someone else from praying? To this day, I don't understand the concept there. They can prevent Bible reading aloud. But they can't prevent the human brain from thinking, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want..." I can't remember very many times I sat down to take a test that I didn't say, "Lord, be with me and guide my pen." I was a pretty good student, but I figured you can't be too careful, so just in case...
OK, I admit that most of my prayers are selfish. Sometimes not, though. There are the prayers for panhandlers or politicians: "Lord, bless her. She needs a blessing BADLY." There are prayers for friends and family: "God, take him in Your loving arms and help him through this. Wipe his tears, and strengthen and comfort him." And prayers for my children: "Lord, You know I did the best I could raising him. I love him more than only You can know, and I know You love him too. Now, all I can do is relinquish his care to You. Please hold him in Your arms, like I did for so many years, and keep him safe."
God has seldom told me NO. But He HAS has put me places I didn't want to be. He has kept me from places I DID want to be. He has tested me many times in uncomfortable ways, and He has put people and obstacles in my path that I have stumbled over, and occasionally I have fallen. But He has never left me down there. He has always offered His strong hand to help me pull back up.
Don't misunderstand me here, though... There have been times in my life that I have doubted God. There have been times I have even doubted His very existence. I have been angry at Him. I have yelled at Him, and questioned His decisions and actions. Directly and loudly. I don't know for sure, but I think when I get that way, God probably waits patiently and quietly for me to calm down, settle down, and come back to Him, kinda like a wise and loving Father with a wayward and sassy daughter.
I'm happy to report it has been many, many years since I doubted Him.... not so many since I've been angry. But God is all-knowing and all-powerful, and He lovingly and patiently tolerates my stupid little tantrums. At least I hope He does, since I'm human, and have human emotions.
Today is Christmas. The day we celebrate as the time God gifted us his Son in human flesh and blood. Now, over 2000 years later, we gather our own families and friends around us in love and companionship and happiness. Oh yes, we put up Christmas trees, and we sing Santa songs, and we hang stockings. We give each other gifts. Theoretically gifts symbolize the gifts of the Magi to the baby Jesus, or even symbolize God's gift to us of Jesus. Now, I have no illusions about that. I know there are people celebrate Christmas as merely a opportunity to score toys and stuff. But that's all I have to say about that.
This morning, I was blown away by Mark and Michelle's gift to their friends and family. In fact, I teared up when I opened the little envelope and read the card that said, "A gift to Heifer International in your honor will provide the resources to help smallholder farmers increase their income so that they can feed their families nutritious meals every day, send their children to school, and light their way to a better future." What a thoughtful and meaningful gift! (Last Saturday, they gave a donation to the Birmingham Humane Society in honor of Aaron and Britt.) And then Mark cooked breakfast for us. I can't remember a more warm and wonderful Christmas morning. (I know it's Michelle's influence. Again, I have no illusions LOL). Thank you, God, for bringing Michelle into our lives. She is a blessing - not only to Mark, but to our family.
Aaron and Britt were in Indiana with Bobbie and Steve and the rest of Britt's family. There's another blessing, (Thank you, Lord. You seem to know what we need!) and I had already prayed for traveling mercy for them.
And then, this afternoon, my phone rang. I saw it was Aaron, and answered with a cheerful, "Merry Christmas! Are y'all having a great time?"
"No. I'm not."
"Oh, Aaron! What's wrong? Is everyone all right?"
"Oh, Mom, Coda is dead." and he moaned in despair and pain.
Aaron's words still echo in my head. Their dear, sweet, loving, happy Coda dog had been hit by a car. I can't express in words the grief and anguish I feel for Aaron and Britt. And my own selfish helplessness and distress at the loss of my precious Grandpuppy.
It was a stupid accident... basically an unavoidable accident, unless Coda had been kept in a cage or on a chain. And in his short life, he never knew anything but being hugged and loved by Aaron and Britt. He didn't know desertion or cold or hunger. Coda never heard a loud or unkind word. Even Aaron's reprimands were gentle and loving. "Coda, we don't pee in the house. Understand? That is a no-no." "Coda, Buddy... see that garbage can? We don't pull things out of it. Getting in the garbage is a no-no. Understand? Coda, Look at me. Understand?"
So a perfect morning turned into a tragic afternoon. Coda was truly a part of our family. and sadly, MORE a part of our family than some real family members are.
Dear Lord, I know you have your reasons, but for the life of me, I don't understand this. Maybe I never will. I know Coda's sweet spirit is in doggy heaven, because I can't fathom such a loving spirit being anywhere but playing with squirrels and butterflies over the Rainbow Bridge. So here is my prayer, my sincere desire, my deepest need right now: I need You to be with my dear son and his beautiful wife. Now, more than at any moment in the past, they need peace. They need courage to get through the next few days and weeks, so give them courage. Give them comfort. I believe with your help, they can lean on each other, depend on each other, comfort each other, and help each other work through the unbearable grief and loss they both feel. Only You can perform this miracle, and we need a miracle now.