Answer to prayer

The delicious scene in my classroom this week.

The delicious scene in my classroom this week.

There’s not supposed to be any of that praying stuff in public schools, but it happens anyway. Not out loud very much, I’ll admit, unless it’s a desperate or angry outburst.

However, my high school students were the answer to my prayer this week — and I was the answer to theirs.

After a picnic honoring our little town’s volunteers Sunday, I was left with a carload — yes, a carload — of desserts. Those temptors, though, were NOT ALLOWED into my house. I’ve lost more than thirty pounds over the last year — and they are also not allowed back into my “house.”

So, I decided I would take the yummies to school Monday. After all, everything edible disappears rather quickly from the faculty room. But then I remembered that my peers were all on diets and could possibly throw the cakes and cookies at me. Not a good way to start a Monday.

What to do, Lord?

Just then David waved hello down the hall — certainly a sign from God. And I hauled the hefty remainders of a full sheet cake, a decadent devil’s food cake (appropriately named), and dozens of cookies into my room, where I made a banquet-sized layout.

One by one I pointed my juniors and seniors toward my room and let them take what they wanted. Oh, yes, the State of California still does not want sugary foods disseminated during school hours. But this was BEFORE school hours, so I decided it was okay.

And that rationale was quickly justified when one of those boys said, “Mrs. McHenry, you are the answer to my prayer today.”

So, I’ve been thinking: Could you be the answer to someone’s prayer today? And could that involve cake? You decide.

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Are you the answer to prayer?

I didn't think cherries would be the answer to my prayer.

I didn’t think cherries would be the answer to my prayer.

I was feeling pretty empowered this morning with my new pruning saw. My loppers a week ago were just not enough to tackle a snowball bush that had gotten completely out of control. But the new saw was cutting through everything — until I got the thing stuck between entangled branches.

I need help, Lord! 

Almost immediately I heard a voice: “Workin’ hard?”

I turned around to see an elderly gentleman walking past my home with a grocery bag in his hands. “Yes!” I said. “Always!”

I had to smile. He wasn’t actually what I was picturing as help.

“Here,” he said, reaching into his bag, “I’ve got something for your hard work.” And he pulled out a handful of bing cherries.

My very favorite fruit — “better than candy,” I always said.

I smiled, put out my hands, and thanked him. “God bless you! Have a great day”

“I am,” he said. “I am!”

I set the cherries down on a bench on my porch and returned to my stuck saw. With new determination I pulled hard and the saw broke free. A minute later I had the shoot cut down.

Sometimes a simple act — even a handful of cherries — can be an answer to prayer. Sometimes WE are the answer to someone else’s prayer — maybe even that ride to church that another person needs or a word of encouragement or a helping hand.

There’s an expression going around: Love Does. I agree. Love is not just words — it is demonstrated.

Similarly, I wonder if this is also true: Prayer Does. I know that God says “Be still” sometimes, but what if we stepped out in faith anticipating the answer.

I am just believing that Prayer Does. What do you think?

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Not tire[d] of prayer

A deflated tire can inflate our need for prayer.

A deflated tire can inflate our need for prayer.

Ping!

A dashboard light came on, indicating that one of my tires was low. I was twelve miles from home with another thirty-plus to Reno, where I would inspire and organize church folks to prayerwalk around three local public schools and two college campuses in just over an hour.

Feeling a little desperate, worried, and clueless about what to do in the middle of nowhere, I stopped and did what any woman might do — call my husband and play a little helpless, hoping he would offer to rescue me. He didn’t. But with his coaching, I headed back onto the highway and made it to our church.

As I prayed my way along the highway, I realized God had me right where he wanted me — desperately trusting him. However, because I absolutely knew that God wanted me at that prayerwalk event, I could also boldly and confidently pray that he would show up bigtime as we prayerwalked those schools that morning. He did!

Desperate confidence is my new approach to prayer. I desperately need God for every single moment of my day, but I can confidently, even audaciously ask him for the big things of life beyond my reach.

Try on some desperate confidence today. It seems a little oxymoronic, but I think it’s just how God wants to meet us.

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Beach glass and shells

Beautiful, yes, but more beautiful is our new "familia" from Cape Verde.

Beautiful, yes, but more beautiful is our new “familia” from Cape Verde.

When Craig and I vacationed on the Oregon coast two summers ago, I walked our long beach many times hoping to find one single piece of beach glass. Didn’t happen.

However, on the island of Sal I could have picked up enough to fill a punch bowl.

It was a magical place, Sal. One of the islands of the Republic of Cape Verde, it sits in the upper half of a group of ten volcanic land dots that form a right-facing V off the coast of West Africa. The sand is finer in texture than any I have seen on the two coasts of America and on Hawaii. The island is desert-like — sparse and barren — but all you need to feast your eyes is the green-blue and grey-blue of the water.

I also looked for shells and found sea-worn pieces. At first I was disappointed that I couldn’t find whole ones, but then I decided that worn pieces of shells and glass are richer finds.

I too am wearing away, and that fact is a good thing. The judgmental Janet of young adulthood is refining a bit. Formerly critical eyes see beauty more easily — in places, people and experiences.

Yes, we were on vacation on Sal, but the focus of our trip was son Josh’s wedding to his lovely Benakar, whose family lives in Cape Verde on two of the other islands.

Our borders and family reaches and perspectives were expanded in so many ways. We now are “familia” across continents.

I have a large collection of perfect shells throughout my house, gathered from beaches and gift stores over decades. But my treasures now will be the worn pieces of shells and beach glass found just feet from where my son and his bride covenanted to love, honor and cherish — reminders of our expanded familia and work God has been doing in my heart.

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Stillness

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I FINALLY got to see a hummingbird in my new feeder outside my kitchen window. Somehow it had avoided my glance and drained a full round in the last couple weeks.

It hovered there above the feeder looking this way and that. Still but in motion.

That’s how I have felt as I have approached prayer time recently. I pray through my lists, both written and mental, and then make a very weak attempt to listen. But I’m not really silent. Distractions of house chores and email and yard work and writing projects call continually to me.

It’s as if I had invited a friend in to visit and then shut the door in her face.

“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

My impulse is to say, “I know, God! I know you want my attention. I’m here!” But I know better, because there’s an anxious and impatient stirring that seemingly compels me to move and do and check things off The Lists.

While I am traveling in the next two weeks I will open the door, invite my Lord to step in, and then listen . . . until he speaks.

 

 

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Unexpected answer

Could disappointments or even tough circumstances be answers to prayer?

Could disappointments or even tough circumstances be answers to prayer?

I had just under forty-five minutes to pick up the house and get dressed. Somehow in the madness of last-minute, bad news I had forgotten that my dear friend June and her daughter-in-law Sue were coming by to visit. So, I was madly throwing things in drawers and closets and vacuuming up evidence of several days of July 4th family fun.

I grabbed what I thought was a leaf from the kitchen windowsill, only to find it was not a leaf blown in from the recent storm but a hunched-down butterfly that was now fluttering in my hand. Out the door I swooshed it and watched it fly toward the flower garden — stained glass in motion. Such a beautiful thing it had been there on my windowsill in the guise of a dead maple leaf.

And isn’t that what life brings sometimes? Beauty in the guise of ugliness? Benefit in the guise of inconvenience? Blessing in the guise of pain?

Just minutes before that incident I had been stewing over an email announcement that my high school English classroom had been flooded in recent storms while the roof was being replaced. I had pictured tens of thousands of dollars of textbooks and novel collections wet and ruined. I had imagined drenched binders of more than twenty years of teaching tools, as well as ruined computers. I had nearly every moment planned in the next few days leading up to my son’s wedding on the Cape Verde islands off the coast of Africa. I did not have time to salvage my teaching life.

But God was telling me something with the dead-leaf-turned-butterfly scene, and so when June called to tell me they were a little delayed, I slipped over to school to check out the mess. While it was true that it had been literally raining in my room, someone had put tarps over my books, teaching resources, and computers. And when I got home and called my boss, she said that I would be getting new carpet, new ceiling, and probably new student desks — all of which I had been requesting for years.

Isn’t that just what God does with us in prayer sometimes? We pray for one thing and receive something altogether different — all bummed out and disappointed and perhaps even hurt if not a little mad. Why did God place that dead leaf in our lives? But after we pick it up, examine it, feel its flutter, and really think about it, we find that dead-leaf life circumstance is actually a butterfly blessing — what we really wanted and needed in the first place.

Have a great day. I hope you see lots of butterflies.

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Weighing the college pros and cons

How do you decide which college to attend? SeniorYear101blog.wordpress.com

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