Gift #2 — A Prayer Partner
So, we have Joseph, the father of this miracle child being open and willing to follow the instructions of an angel. What about the mother, Mary? How does she handle the news that she is going to have a baby? Like every other woman since the beginning of time, Mary finds a woman friend to hold her hand!
Gospel writers often focus on the men involved in the story. That’s just how the writers would have seen the world in that day and age. Luke is a fascinating writer though. He brings the women into the story more than any other Gospel writer. In the third book in the New Testament, Luke introduces us to Mary’s relative Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah. The Angel Gabriel speaks to Zechariah to let him know they will have a son and to name him John. John will grow up and prepare people’s hearts for Jesus. (To see Zechariah’s response to the Angel Gabriel read Luke 1:5-25. It’s quite different from Joseph’s.)
In Luke 1:26-38 the Angel Gabriel comes to Mary, a virgin, to tell her she will give birth to the Son of God. As the angel explains how this will happen, he finishes by announcing that “your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:36-37)
Mary immediately travels to visit her relative Elizabeth. As the two women greet each other they each break out in prayer and praise! While Elizabeth greets Mary with “Blessed are you among women … ” Mary answers with “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.” (vs. 42 and 47-48).
According to verse 56 Mary stays with Elizabeth three months. Then, in verse 57 the scripture says that the time came for Elizabeth to give birth. So we don’t know if Mary was there when Elizabeth’s child was born or not. What we do know is these two women had three months together to pray and support each other.
I love their greeting. They are so filled with God’s love and the joy of what He has done for them, all they can do is praise Him. There is no complaining. Maybe that happened later in their three months together. We are left to wonder about how much time they spent worrying about what the other women in their towns would say. Did they take time to gossip or get petty? Or did they spend the whole three months rejoicing and planning? Regardless of the divine nature of the babies they are carrying, they are still women, human women. It’s fun to wonder, isn’t it?
No matter how they spent their time, they were together. How wonderful that they had each other since the circumstances of their pregnancies were so unique. I imagine they found comfort in each other’s presence, almost as if they had found the one other woman on earth who could understand what it means to carry a child God has announced with a visit from an angel.
I discovered the power of having a prayer partner quite by accident. I was in a Bible study and an acquaintance asked me to go to lunch with her one morning. We started meeting weekly for lunch even after the study ended. We shared prayer requests. Of course, two women having lunch together it was easy for the conversation to turn to gossip. My prayer partner taught me to quickly change the conversation by asking me, “Now how can we pray about that?”. We would even get specific and write down our requests.
I now call her my PPP or “previous prayer partner” because she moved away. I knew I needed someone to pray with me, so I asked another acquaintance. It turns out that in 2011 this new prayer partner, who was a 20-year breast cancer survivor, was praying for me when I found out I had breast cancer. She walked with me the whole journey. We both believe God placed her in my life at just the right time.
I learned through this experience how important it is to have support. And prayerful support is a gift beyond measure! Just as Mary and Elizabeth spent time rejoicing, planning, praying and lifting each other up, my prayer partner spent time praying with me, visiting doctors and supporting my decisions in the process.
The next gift you will give yourself this season is to ask someone to be your prayer partner. It does not matter if neither of you are very practiced at prayer. If you make a commitment to each other, God will give you the prayers. You do not have to meet for lunch. If you cannot meet face-to-face you can email or call each other. You only need to contact each other once a week to check in, offer support, and learn about new requests. You can offer prayers for each other related to this study. Whatever the study gift is, ask God to provide that for each other.
A special note here in case you have problems with trust. So many of us do. Many of us often trust completely or not at all. Trust that is not earned can lead to disappointments and betrayals. Not trusting at all leads to isolation, which can have serious consequences. I learned from an art therapist I worked with many years ago a beautiful image for trust. Begin by considering trust like a dripping faucet that you keep on in the winter to make sure the pipes don’t freeze. Share only simple prayer requests that are of little consequence if the prayer partner cannot handle them. If your partner proves trustworthy in these, then you imagine the trust flowing out of that faucet and into a stream behind your dwelling place. You can share a little more. If the information you share is respected, then you imagine the trust flowing into the size of a small lake. If that trust is respected imagine it flowing from the lake to a large river. The trust grows gradually until it flows into the ocean.
If you find you have made a trustworthy connection, you may choose to continue praying for each other beyond this study. Or, you may choose to change prayer partners simply to get to know someone new. What matters today is that you seek the same kind of support Mary found when she was able to spend time with her relative Elizabeth. Prayerful and supportive. Try to stay away from complaining, gossip, whining and pettiness.
If you are someone who is isolated this will feel very risky. In fact, isolation and depression often go together, so much so that one of the first things I ask depressed clients to do is to make a list of 10 people they could call at any time in case their emotions become overwhelming. It is difficult to watch people struggle to come up with a list. And yet, their isolation is exactly why this is so important. Feeling connected is a strong antidote for a depressed mood. So, if you happen to be struggling today to think of who you might ask to be a prayer partner for this season there are a few options. K-Love is a faith-based radio station. You could start requesting regular prayers by turning in weekly online prayer requests at http://www.klove.com/ministry/prayer/ or you can call them at 1-800-525-5683. Platte Woods United Methodist Church has also created a special email address just so you can turn in weekly prayer requests to us. We have a prayer team ready to pray for you through this Christmas season and we would be honored to support you in this way.
Now that you are open, try giving yourself the double gift of prayer and connection!
The gift you give yourself today is to find a prayer partner.
In week #3 of our Chocolate Soup Blog, I mentioned how early in my career, a young client asked me what love is. Honestly, her question still bothers me. To think that some children grow up not fully knowing what love is sometimes makes it hard for me to sleep at night. Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD, a leader in the field of healing trauma, suggests that it is neglect when a parent’s eyes do not light up when their child walks into the room. I agree.
I know that reading a book really is not going to erase traumatic experiences. I also understand that Christmas is often the worst time for some children as domestic violence increases and childhood wishes go ignored. Even so, having experienced moments in my lifetime where I was fully able to embrace the abundant love of God, I just cannot help but try to pass that along! One of those was the “Chocolate Soup” moment I described in Blog #2. If there is any way, my words can help others to recognize, be aware of, and experience God’s love, I am willing to give it a try.
So, join me in a journey of preparation. It may seem a bit early in the season to think of Christmas. As we go along you will see I am trying to give you plenty of time to actually do the activities described in each blog. It will be in your taking action on your own behalf that you will begin to notice changes in your own perspective. Welcome to the journey. I am praying for you to experience your own Christmas Morning “Chocolate Soup” moment!
Gift #1 — Openness
The story of the birth of Jesus begins in the first book of the New Testament in the Bible. If you skip to the 18th verse of the first chapter, it begins this way.
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus. — Matthew 1:18-25
Now that was quite a dream! If I woke up from a dream like that I would have looked in the mirror, assumed I was crazy, and gone on about my day as usual without ever considering telling anyone else. Angels and virgins! Oh My!
Throughout scripture Joseph appears to be a quiet man who does not like conflict. In Luke 2:41-52 it is Mary who confronts their 12-year-old son who stayed behind in Jerusalem. Mary and Joseph frantically searched for him for three days and there is no recording of what Joseph said. Only Mary’s words and Jesus’ response are written down.
It appears that maybe Joseph does not like conflict much. Maybe, as a carpenter he does not worry much about being a “manly man.” Maybe he just lets his hammer and nails speak for him.
Whatever the reason, he is prepared to dismiss his fiancé quietly until an angel appears to him in a dream. In the time of Mary and Joseph, an engagement was as formal as a marriage and could only be dismissed by getting divorced. So, to dismiss her quietly means her reputation would have been saved, as well as his own. When he wakes up however, he does just as the angel instructs him to do. Most scholars look at Joseph’s obedience in this. I do not wish to minimize his obedience. However, I want to shine a light on his openness.
Without an open heart and mind we would not be reading this scripture. Nothing would have been recorded. If Joseph had dismissed the dream as a fantasy of his own, there would have been no follow-through. Instead, Joseph has the dream and embraces everything about it.
Joseph is ready to accept the appearance of an angel. Joseph is willing to believe that what his fiancé had told him about being a pregnant virgin is indeed true. Joseph is capable of embracing the dream, the instructions and the task of raising the child of God. Joseph is ready, willing and able. For those with a human father who was either abusive or neglectful it may be difficult to imagine a man ready to sacrifice his own reputation in order to take care of a pregnant woman and her child. Joseph did just that.
Joseph did ordinary things for a child who was far from ordinary. My grandson is nine right now. When I try to think of Jesus at nine years old I imagine a child following his earthly father into the carpentry shop each day and learning how to carve and fit pieces of wood together. I imagine all the time that Jesus and Joseph must have spent in each other’s company. Ordinary days made possible by Joseph’s openness.
Readiness, willingness and ability flow from openness. When ordinary human beings are open to God’s abundant love, extraordinary possibilities flow.
Any gift we receive requires that we are open to receive it. Try something for me. Make a fist with one of your hands. Now, try to pick up your phone with that clenched fist. Kind of hard to do, right? It’s the same with your heart and your mind. When our hearts and minds are closed, the love that God would joyfully give us, bounces off and continues to flow along. It’s like rock-hard soil after a drought. When the first rain falls after a drought, the thin layer of dust on top turns to mud and slides right off, bringing no relief to plant roots buried deep beneath the layers of rock-hard soil.
If your heart is thirsting for God’s love then ask God to help you open up. Ask Him to prepare you so you are able to receive a love that knows no bounds. You are the reason God sent Jesus in the first place. God is longing to shower you with His merciful love. Right now all it requires is your openness.
I know “openness” sounds a lot like being vulnerable. That’s exactly what it is. Imagine how vulnerable Joseph was to the ridicule of his neighbors and friends for taking a bride who was pregnant, and not by him! This man who does not appear to relish conflict walks right into it for the sake of God’s son.
And this story does not end with “and they lived happily ever after … ” either. In fact, the angel of the Lord appears to Joseph again in Matthew 2:13 instructing Joseph to take his new family and flee to Egypt because King Herod is searching to kill the boy.
Becoming open to God’s love does not mean your trials and challenges will be over tomorrow. In fact, the challenges to learn self-discipline, patience and kindness will only be starting! It’s just that the benefits of embracing love, joy, and peace are so worth it. So often when I ask for a miracle, I expect the miracle to happen followed by fairy dust and easy tasks! It seldom happens that way.
Here’s what I mean. Imagine you had a dream to be a baseball player. So you try out for the team. Because the coach sees potential in you, you get a spot on the team. It’s a miracle, right? God answered your prayers. Now, the hard work starts. Since you want to pitch, you start to practice. You choose to spend hours practicing your throw. All that time spent practicing becomes worth it when your speed increases and your accuracy improves! After a while you can think “curve ball” and that’s what your arm throws!
Another personal example for me is graduate school. I spent three years learning to be a counselor. Three years is a long time when you are taking classes, raising a child, providing counseling as a student intern, and working as a teaching assistant. At times I did not think I would ever get through that period. In spite of the hard work, I was open to the call from God to be a counselor. Once I graduated and was working as a counselor, I found myself incredibly grateful for the theory and techniques I had learned as a student. It made the journey worth it for me.
Part of the stress of Christmas is the expectation that giving the perfect material gift can provide joy for an entire year or longer! Then disappointment sets in when the gift gets broken or is underappreciated! Material gifts give us pleasure for a day or two. That pleasure is an emotion that comes and goes just like every other emotion.
Joseph on the other hand gave the son of God a gift that would last for generations. His openness was observed and noted. His openness was recorded because others noticed how unique it was. Others saw the sacrifice it meant for him. Jesus grew up knowing what Joseph had done for him. Jesus grew up knowing that Joseph believed what the Angel told him not just once but twice!
We know that Joseph was ready to dismiss Mary at first. He doubted her faithfulness. It took an angel to convince him otherwise. Take a moment and list three things that get in your way of believing that God loves you today, in this moment, just the way you are right now, regardless of the circumstances you find yourself in.
Now take a moment to imagine that you happen to be reading these devotions because God has a message for you. He loves you. He wants so much for you to know His love that He went out of His way to make sure you were reading these devotions today. All you need in order to receive that love is to be open in the same way that Joseph was.
Today your gift is to seek Openness. Every time you open a door (even a car door) say, “I am open to God’s Blessings.” Or, “My heart and mind are open to the Blessings of God.” Let go of any preconceived notions of what God’s Blessings will look like. Practice being open like Joseph. Be open to a dream actually being a vision. Be open to angels speaking to you. Be open to a message that seems impossible at first. Be open so the love that God has for you can be poured into you.
Today would have been Sharmalee’s 74th birthday. Sharmalee is the mother who was killed on June 10, 2018. So, in honor of my dear friend, it is time for me to write about resilience. Resilience is a quality that lies deep within each of us whether we know it is there or not. It’s that quality that allows us to step one foot in front of the other even in the most difficult of circumstances. Sharmalee certainly demonstrated resilience in many of the ways she lived her life. Especially in her willingness to help others in her work with CASA and here in her work with Care Night.
One aspect of healing after tragedy is the rebuilding. One of my favorite scriptures comes from Isaiah 61:1-4. In this scripture God promises to comfort those who mourn and to bring beauty from ashes. God even promises to help us rebuild from the rubble of our lives. What a beautiful description of resilience.
Another friend that comes to mind when I think of resilience is this “prim and proper little old lady” I met here at the church. She graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute in the 1950s. She found work drawing the pictures for a children’s clothing catalog. It was nice work that helped to bring in extra money for her young family. Then, the camera came along. Photos began to be used in catalogs instead of artists’ drawings. “Technology” completely changed what consumers expected in a catalog. She lost her job and her career.
My friend did not give up. She found work in a department store. At first, it was simply extra money to help with family expenses. And then she got divorced. With children to raise on her own, my friend worked her way up to department manager. She worked for the department store until she retired.
My friend’s journey was filled with challenges. And yet her faith and resilience surfaced repeatedly. Instead of allowing the rubble to bury her, she used it to build something new for herself and her children.
I understand I am making this sound easy because I have condensed both Sharmalee’s story and the artist’s story to a few paragraphs in a blog. I get that the journey back from tragedy and heartache is difficult. I know what it is like to simply put one foot in front of the other hoping to make it through the day. That’s why I find such strength in Isaiah’s words. The Lord has come to “provide for those who mourn in Zion. To provide a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, a garment of praise instead of the spirit of despair ….They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.”
No matter what the tragedy or challenge, with God’s help we can rise above it. So, this fall we are offering groups designed to help participants rise above the rubble. We are currently offering one group for those going through divorce on Thursdays from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. Beginning on September 13th from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. we will offer two different groups focused on loss: one group for those experiencing the loss of a loved one, and the other focusing on non-death related losses and transitions.
The leaders of these groups have experienced challenges in their own lives and know how to be gentle with others as they struggle to rebuild. Join us and discover the resilience in your own life.
We are also offering a meal, because sometimes we are just not ready for a group experience. And yet it really helps to be in fellowship with others. If that sounds more inviting, please join us in the dining hall on Thursday evenings from 5:45 to 6:30 for some great “comfort food”! The food and fellowship just might be a great jump-start to the healing process. Care Night Meals will begin September 13th and be offered through December 13th. See you there.
The Awkward Summer
My apologies for not writing sooner. The spring/summer has been an awkward one. In May, there was another school shooting followed by the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. It was painful to say the least, to watch reporters struggle to transition from tragic news to joyful news.
I also had a friend get married in May — Sharmalee. She was married May 26. Then, on June 10 she was shot and killed by a family member. This tragedy hit close to home. It was especially painful for those of us who work on Thursday evenings, Care Night, here at the church. Sharmalee was an integral part of launching Care Night. She shared in the vision of providing support to those struggling with mental health issues and their families.
Following her tragedy our team knew we needed time to heal. We have taken some time off from Care Night this summer. There were no classes in July and there will be no support groups or classes for most of August. We respectfully ask for your prayers as we take some time to acknowledge our personal loss and seek God’s comfort and healing grace.
I personally am blessed to be surrounded by a wonderful team of volunteers and staff colleagues. While it would be easy to ignore our own pain and just keep going, taking care of others, we want to model positive mental health practices. We want to set an example of self-care. We want to extend support to others when we return with our hearts fully ready to share rather than from a place of brokenness.
May you enjoy the rest of your summer. We will post information soon about our fall support groups and classes. We look forward to continuing Sharmalee’s legacy of bringing support, education and hope to others.
“Why a Support Group?”
I just experienced a “Griefburst.” “Griefburst” is a term Dr. Alan Wolfelt uses in his book Understanding Your Grief. A “Griefburst” is when a wave of grief washes over you. Sometimes you can see it coming. Most of the time it’s unexpected. I learned through participating in, and later facilitating, a grief support group to allow the wave to simply wash over me. As long as I let myself feel all the sorrow it brings, the wave will just as rapidly wash away. On the other hand, if I try to ignore it, grief tends to grow and grow and grow, until at last I take time to pay attention.
My current “Griefburst” is related to moving. I’m downsizing and leaving the space I’ve lived in for 20 years. I knew the sadness was there. I’ve just been too busy to pay much attention. Even though I was not caught off guard, I waited long enough that this was a big wave. Thankfully, I’ve learned from support groups how to do some self-care so I was able to ride the wave.
So why a support group? How can a group help when it seems that each of us journeys through life in our own unique way?
There are several benefits to groups. I found an article on the Mayo Clinic website that lists eight benefits and offers suggestions on how to find a group that best fits your needs (see link below). I’m going to focus today on three benefits: Connection, Accountability and Normalizing. These are benefits that I have observed or that group members have shared with me.
When we are going through any of life’s trials and challenges, we can often feel isolated, like we are the only one going through this. It’s amazing the reassurance we feel when we find out we are not the only one facing cancer, or going through a divorce after 20 years of marriage, or recovering from addiction, or dealing with financial stress. No, you are not the only one walking through that valley. One group member puts it this way, “Life is not easy, but God does not expect you to do it alone. I truly believe God is the key to peace in our darkest hours.” MJ.
Knowing there is someone else paying attention to our progress, often gives us the extra motivation to keep striving to achieve our goal, even when everything in us wants to quit. Whether that goal is divorce recovery or healing from a significant loss, having someone else to check in with makes a difference. This is why programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Weight Watchers are so effective. According to one article, “A Consumer Reports survey found that people who went to meetings were more satisfied with the program (Weight Watchers) and lost more weight than people who used only the online tools.” From https://www.webmd.com/diet/a-z/weight-watchers-diet *(accessed 3/21/18)
Dr. Wolfelt is one of the most gentle and informative authors on grief we have found. In his book Understanding Your Grief there is an entire chapter on: “You are not Crazy. You’re just grieving.” Over the years, I have been amazed at how many times I’ve heard the words, “I thought I was going crazy. In a culture that values having things tied up in pretty little bows, grief catches us completely off guard. It is not pretty. It does not proceed in predictable stages In fact, it can feel so sweet one minute with precious memories flooding through our minds And then, it feels like a tidal wave trying to pull us under in the next moment. By participating in a group, we hear others sharing the twists and turns in their journey and it reminds us that as crazy as our journey may appear, it really is a journey towards healing.
On Care Night, we try to offer a variety of support groups. The topics change routinely depending on requests we receive It is important to check the Care Ministry page of the church website to find current groups The one group that does not change is “Hope & Healing.” You can find us meeting at 6:30 almost every Thursday evening. Feel free to drop in and treat yourself to some connection, accountability, and normalizing.
My prayer for you at this time is that, as MJ says, you have discovered that God does not expect you to do your journey alone. May you find your peace and hope in God.
See you next time.
- For more information about the benefits of a group: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/support-groups/art-20044655
- For more information on Dr. Alan Wolfelt and his Center for Loss: https://www.centerforloss.com/
- For the current list of Care Night Groups: plattewoodschurch.org/care
- To volunteer as a group facilitator or to request a new topic for a group please email Vicki Krehbiel.
How was your week of “Chocolate Soup Time” with God? I hope you found joy in the thought that the Creator of the Universe smiles when you take time to chat with Him.
We are going to refocus our thoughts today on Love. Early in my counseling career I was asked by a teenage girl what “love” is. She was sincere. She and her siblings had been removed by the state from their parents’ home. Knowing that, I still asked her who had tucked her in at night. Probably one of my greatest fumbles as a counselor. She not only could not answer my question, she did not even know what “tucked in” meant.
“It’s when a grownup carefully tucks all the covers around you in your bed so you feel safe and cozy,” I tried to explain. My thinking was, the extra care taken to make sure a child feels safe and cozy at bedtime is one act of love. It was a starting point, or so I thought.
Her response was to describe for me a world where children put themselves to bed and got themselves to school while the adults entertained themselves with drugs and alcohol. She did not have a starting point for me to build on.
That experience is probably why Care Night at Platte Woods UMC is so near and dear to my heart. No, we are not offering to tuck our neighbors in at night! We can however, provide a hearty meal of comfort food along with some fellowship. And if you choose to stay for a group or class, that’s awesome but not a requirement.
What is Care Night? I’m so glad you asked. It’s an idea we borrowed from the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. It is the one evening each week we set aside for renewing, restoring and rebuilding our mental, emotional and spiritual health. It is the evening we offer support groups and classes to meet these needs. Whether you are a church member or a community member or you just need some support, you are welcome.
Every Thursday we begin with a meal. The meal usually begins at 5:45 pm in our Dining Hall. Each week our volunteers prepare the best comfort food you can imagine. If possible, we appreciate a little notice that you will be coming and how many you will bring. Let’s say by Tuesday if you connect with me at firstname.lastname@example.org that would be helpful. If you forget to contact me, that’s okay. We look forward to seeing you. We appreciate donations too but they are not required.
At 6:30 our classes and groups begin. Each semester these change so you might want to check out the Care page on our website to make sure you get the latest information. We do offer a Hope & Healing support group in the prayer room that stays open for folks new to Care Night. It is led by our Counseling interns who are prepared to listen with warmth and acceptance. No matter what your latest challenge is, they are here to offer encouragement and support.
If your childhood experience was similar to the teenage girl who asked me about love, we certainly cannot replace what you have missed. On the other hand, a meal and support group may go a long way towards a new understanding of love. At least, it’s a starting point.
Welcome Back! I am grateful you chose to revisit the Counseling Blog.
On February 4, 2018, Pastor Britton Fields, our Director of Youth Ministry provided a thoughtful message on the “Fear of Isolation.” In his sermon he mentioned how God ministers to us through a “ministry of presence.” When we are feeling isolated, burdened or overwhelmed, we can trust that God is with us. What a powerful message! If you missed his sermon you can watch it here
Britton mentioned our Care Ministry Team and introduced myself and Pastor Nancy Liston, Pastor of Care Ministry. So much of what we do in Care Ministry is exactly as Britton described. We provide a safe space for those who are hurting to tell their story. Most of the time we are simply there to listen.
So, you may be wondering why the counselor who listens to other’s traumatic stories all week long has titled her blog “Chocolate Soup Time.” It’s related to a life lesson I learned just a few years ago. Spending time with God is not always a chore and it does not always have to be focused on the pain in our lives. Here’s how it happened.
When my grandson was barely two, his favorite activity with me was playing in a water table. He enjoyed filling and dumping and splashing and getting wet. One spring morning we were dumping and filling as usual and one of us started calling the water in our cups, “Chocolate Soup.” We filled our cups with Chocolate Soup. We stirred it carefully. Then we pretended we were drinking it. As the water trickled down our chins instead of going in our mouths, he started giggling. His pure delight was contagious. Before long I was giggling and laughing with him. Nothing else in the world mattered at that moment but the pure joy of spending time with him in laughter.
The next morning, I sat down to write in my prayer journal. As I took time to shut out the rest of the world and focus on God, it occurred to me that God was just as delighted to spend time with me as I had been to spend time with my grandson. That thought changed everything for me. It took more than 50 years and a grandchild for me to understand the depth of God’s joy when we take the time to focus on Him.
Perhaps you’ve heard the story about how the disciples tried to keep the little children from getting close to Jesus. Jesus scolded the disciples and said, “Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to me. God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.” Matthew 19:14 (The Message)
Take a moment right now to soak this in. Take a deep breath. And picture this: God enjoys your presence. You can make God smile just by spending time with Him. Breathe that in. Breathe out your stress. Breathe in God’s smile. Breathe out isolation. That’s the message Jesus came to bring us. God is with us always. We just need to take time to notice Him.
During Lent, Pastor Jake has provided some special prayer times so we can notice God’s presence in our lives. Tuesday mornings, 9-10 a.m., and Thursday evenings, 6:30-8 p.m. You can pray on your own or with others. You can say a quiet prayer or choose to do a prayer station he has set up. Whatever way you choose just remember, you can make God smile!
Meet me here next week for more Chocolate Soup Time!
Welcome to the Counseling Blog for Platte Woods UMC. I am Vicki Krehbiel and I have worked for PWUMC for 16 years. I am currently the Director of Counseling.
I am also the “prodigal daughter” in my family. I decided to become a counselor following a season of rebellion in my life. In my early 20’s I rebelled against the traditions of the Mennonite faith I was raised in. As I questioned the “shoulds” and “oughts” of what I’d been taught I discovered my faith was something deep within me and I could not run away from it.
Even more profound was the discovery that God welcomed my questions. The more I asked, the deeper my connection. I’m not saying I always get answers. Just that the process of asking draws me closer as I learn more about who God is and what He wants from me.
Having that experience lends itself well to who I am as a counselor. I can hear the questions of others without having a knee-jerk reaction to fix things for them or give them my answers. I understand how important it is to find answers for yourself. Then your faith is your own, not a replica of anyone else’s. And your healing process is genuine.
To understand more about how our questions draw us closer to God explore the exchange between God and Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3 to 4:17. I find comfort in seeing that it takes God a chapter and a half to convince Moses to go lead the Israelites out of Egypt. In my life, that chapter and a half can translate into months and sometimes years of God coaxing me to take action.
Many of David’s Psalms also reflect the times when David himself questions God. Psalm 13 is a brief example. It’s a little like watching a TV sitcom because the story wraps up in 6 verses. Hear David’s questions.
- “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
- How long will you hide your face from me?
- How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
- How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” Psalm 13:1-2 (New Revised Standard Version)
Those questions sound familiar. If you’ve ever experienced grief and loss, depression, loneliness or chronic pain you know the questions personally.
David’s reassurances in verses 5 and 6 come much quicker than they do for most of us. Even so, David’s genuine faith can comfort us today. We can repeat David’s words of faith until they speak hope into our hearts.
“But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” Psalm 13:5-6 (NRSV)
May David’s words speak hope into your heart. May you draw closer to God with your questions.