Before I Knew Your Name

It’s been at least 14 years ago.  I remember being at Aunt Nancy’s house and noticing an empty frame on the table that held family pictures.  Why would you have an empty frame in the midst of pictures of children, grandchildren and other family members?

Then I noticed a sign on the frame that indicated that this frame would one day hold the picture of the child that her daughter (my cousin), Jennifer, would adopt.  Aunt Nancy didn’t know the child’s name, yet she hoped and believed that one day she would see the face of the child for whom she prayed.  One day she would know his or her name.

And indeed, one day Jennifer flew to Guatemala and welcomed her baby Joshua into her arms.  Soon Aunt Nancy would have a picture for that empty frame.

I too have been praying for someone for a very long time.  I didn’t have an empty frame in our house.  I didn’t know her name.  I just prayed for the person who might one day be my daughter-in-law.  And now I know her name:  Angel.

On Saturday, November 9, Will and Angel will stand before God, family and friends and commit their lives to one another in the covenant of holy marriage.

Angel came into our lives about this time of the year 2 years ago.  Well, she came into Will’s life a few months earlier, but he didn’t tell us.  When I found out that he was dating someone, I tried to get a name from him . . . a little information.  But, in true Will Archer style, I got nothing.  (He can keep a secret like no other.)   When I asked him to tell me about her, he said “No, Mom.  I know you.  You will google her!”  True.

Then we were invited to a friend’s wedding and Will invited Angel to go with him.  “Ok, Will, you can’t introduce the “world” to Angel, and I haven’t met her!”  So, he granted my plea and we met the “mystery woman” for dinner at the Longhorn Steakhouse.  We could see that Will was smitten and very quickly so were Noah and I.

I give thanks for the love that I see between Angel and Will . . . for the looks of love and care between them . . . for the laughter, for the joy and most of all, for the abiding faith in Jesus that the two of them share.  I’ve married many couples in 21 years of ordained ministry and my consistent word in premarital counseling is the power of Jesus’ presence in marriages.  My prayer is that Will and Angel will always know the power of God’s love and strength during the good times and the not-so-good times.

Today I know the name of the one for whom I’ve prayed:  Angel.  She is a beautiful woman of God who loves our son and is deeply loved by him and by Noah and me.

Thanks be to God!

Oh, by the way, Angel’s photo is framed along with all of the other family members.

“For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.  My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.  In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.”                      – Psalm 139:13-16

What If?

Today we are waiting for hurricane Dorian.  Someone on Facebook said that “waiting for a hurricane is like being stalked by a turtle.”  Yep!

Like many in Wilmington, we are stocked with water, flashlights, batteries, Oreos, Chips Ahoy and a little patience.  We have all devices charged and have a generator in the garage that was never taken out of the box last year.  By the time we were able to get home after Florence, our electricity was back on.  We bought the generator as we journeyed home from Winston-Salem because we might need it.  What if we don’t have electricity when we get home?

It seems that life before a hurricane is filled with “what ifs?”  We fill up our cars with gas prior to a storm because what if the gas pumps don’t work after the storm and we need to go somewhere?  We clear off the deck because what if the wind picks up the table and crashes it into the sliding glass door?  Yet experience tells us that these are good responses to the what if question.

The what if? question goes beyond a hurricane.  It’s really the question that is repeated over and over throughout life.

What if my decision is the wrong one?

            What if the job doesn’t work out?

            What if the lump is malignant?

            What if they find out exactly who I am?

            What if they find out what I’ve done?

Most often it’s the question that is rooted in fear.  Fear of the unknown, fear of others, fear of the lack of control.

Yet – suppose – what if? – we centered our lives in God’s what if question.

God asks:

                        What if you believe me?

                        What if you trust me?

                        What if you let go and quit hanging on so tight?

                        What if you forgive?

                        What if you ask me to help you?

Maybe the answer to the what if question is to remember.  Over and over, God instructed his people to remember.

“Remember the days of old . . . who brought you up out of the sea . . . who put His spirit within you . . . who divided the waters before you . . . who led you through the depths?  Like cattle that go down into the valley, the spirit of the Lord gave them rest.”  – Isaiah 63:11-14

Instead of asking myself the what if question rooted in fear, I pray to ask the what if question rooted in God’s amazing love.

Francois Fenelon writes: “Oh, how much better are we sustained by love than by fear!  Fear enslaves, constrains and troubles us; but love persuades, consoles, animates us; possesses our whole soul, and makes us desire goodness for its own sake.” * 

What if I believe you, O God?  What if I trust you, O Lord?   May it be so.

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Prayer Request –

I invite you to join me in prayer and support for all of those who are suffering and have lost so much in the hurricane, especially those in the Bahamas.  Also be in prayer for first responders and those who offer assistance to so many.

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*Quote from Selections from the Writings of Francois Fenelon, found in A Guide to Prayer for All Who Walk with God © 2013, p. 320.

Building Margin for Sabbath – Week 4, Day 4

Daily Scripture Reading:

Mark 1:35 –  “In the morning, while it was still very dark, he (Jesus) got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.” 

Luke 11:1 – “He (Jesus) was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray;”

Luke 22:39 – “He (Jesus) came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives . . .”                                                               –

 They are simple phrases: “deserted place,” “in a certain place,” “as was his custom”. Simple but packed with meaning and instruction. Jesus prayed often. He prayed alone. He prayed with others. He went to a place or aside from the other activity going on around Him.

And so I wonder: If Jesus, Son of God, Savior of the world, thought it was important to take time to pray, don’t I think it’s probably a good idea for me to do likewise?

The practice of Sabbath renews and refreshes us and the practice of daily prayer gives us strength from day to day. Praying is not meant to be difficult – just talk to God. He listens. But don’t stop there. Be quiet before God and listen to him speak to you. If you find it difficult to pray and/or to listen, read the Psalms. Every human emotion is found in those verses.

Building margin into our lives for Sabbath, sabbath moments, and prayer will change our lives. God promised and He is always faithful in His promises.

Prayer: Holy God, thank You for hearing my prayers. Thank You for knowing my heart. Thank you for understanding my concerns. Speak to me, Lord, this day and guide me in Your perfect peace. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Reflection Question and/or Application for the Day:

When do you pray? Where do you pray?

How do you listen to God?

Is time with God your “custom”? If not, what could you do differently today to build margin for prayer?

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Devotion from Building Margin for a Balanced Life, devotional book, small group study and sermon series

©Tim Reaves and Trish Archer

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