Does God Answer Prayer?

Isaiah 65:24 Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.

Movin Up“Why?”

As Philip Yancey says, the question that never goes away.

Does God answer prayer?  The answer is yes.  The answer is no.

I have searched long and hard for the past 20 years to finally find out that, yes, God answers prayer.  And I have found out that, no, God doesn’t answer prayer.

When I ask for my friend to find her necklace that is meaningful to her, and in a minute or few she finds it in the tall grass, God has shown my little granddaughter that He cares about even the smallest things that cause us anxiety.  Thus, when she can’t find something, she comes in my office and asks me to pray that she finds a picture she was looking for, like I did when I prayed for Teri’s necklace.  God led us to the picture right away.

When I ask for healing for my children who have serious mental health issues, He is silent, letting us forge ahead through the thick jungle of confusion, sadness, depression, hopelessness, pain, searching, hospitalizations, imprisonment, and heartache.  And heartache.  And heartache.

How are we standing?  Bloody and battered from the wildness of this uncharted territory we have never walked before.  Is it His strength?   Is that the answer?  Not this but this?  “Lean into me, and I will bring you to the other side albeit not the person you started out being but now someone that resembles that person.  You carry them  as I carry you.”

Did that answer my prayer for healing?  No.  Are they healed when we all come out on the other side bruised, panting from the struggle?  No.

When I pray, I know that God hears.   1 John 5:14 ~ This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.

When I pray, I know that something in the heavens shifts and moves, and shifts and moves me, in some way, now or much much much later.  I have not suffered and been in great distress alone.  Others have suffered far worse than I have.  Even the Lord Jesus prayed fervently for a change in circumstances.  Prayed so fervently, in fact, that his sweat was blood.  Jesus Christ experienced hematohidrosis while praying in the garden of Gethsemane before his crucification as mentioned in the Defenders Bible by Physician Luke as “and being in anguish he prayed more earnestly and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.     ”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2810702/

Matthew 26:38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Matthew 26:42 “He (Jesus) went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’”

Matthew 26:44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

“Why?”  Is there ever an answer?  Yes, sometimes.  All we have to do on occasion is see how we have caused our problems through bad habits, bad choices.  Or we can see how our genes or work environment has caused our problems.  But when the Why answer is elusive and a great mystery, and the healing or the saving wasn’t quick enough to heal or save or the evil that was perpetrated against us or those we loved destroyed, then we stand, as Jesus did, overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.

And we need someone to stand with us in the Why.  We need someone to stay and keep watch, to pray with us and stand firm by our side, not judging and rationalizing, not looking for the human weakness but calling for the supernatural strength that sustains and passes understanding.

Perhaps the answer is Love.  Do we love enough to stand with each other in the Why moments?

 

 

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Searching for… Hope

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by Jarred Dobbs

Another New Year has come and gone, and we are steadfastly headed down the pathway of 2017.  I always make resolutions at the beginning of each new year.  Some I resolutely work on until I reach my goal, and others linger around until they come to completion.  Then there are those that somehow slip through the cracks and don’t make the cut that particular year.  On occasion, and more often than not, they get put on the burner again at the beginning of the next new year.

So far this year my resolution schedule is behind only a tad.  That hasn’t been the case in the previous years.  The drawing of the kitchen with an Aprons&appetites plaque is by my son.  He drew this several years ago.  I am just now getting this one on here.  There is another one simmering on the burner somewhere, and someday it will make its way to the blog table as well.

What does all that have to do with hope-blog?

All those New Year resolutions keep me pressing forward, keep my goals in front of me.  hope-blogThey are carrots spurring me on, giving me the prize if and when I finally get to it.  The methodical doing and ticking off of items on my list gives me a hope that transverses from New Year resolutions into daily life struggles.  “I got this accomplished, so maybe that can happen, too!”

Over the past few months my hope gauge has been broken, and that has left me with question upon question upon question.  In the search of some way to mend my state of mind, raise my hope quotient, I am reading a book entitled The Hope Quotient by Ray Johnston as well as The Question That Never Goes Away WHY by Philip Yancey.

The carrot is before me.  I feel a twinge of hope.

I’m No Angel and Never Will Be

angel-blog-2

Snapchat is such fun!!!  I have been having a ball posting those short videos to Facebook about the deer committing suicide (deer season) because they wait on the side of the highway until a person gets right up even with them, and then they bound out either in front of the vehicle or smack dab into the side of it.  W.E.I.R.D.

My deer motto:  Kill them all!  Eat hearty!

There is a reason I dislike deer so very much.  Too many people have died as they tried to avoid these animals or from the result of hitting them.  My friend, Bob, an Indian motorcycle enthusiast, was killed by a deer doing one of the things he loved most:  riding his Indian motorcycle.  It came out of the trees as he cruised along one morning and either ran into him or right in front of him.  He laid that beloved motorcycle down trying to get away from the deer.  But the deer won.  The trauma was too much for his body.

Now, here is the whole purpose of telling you about Bob and why I will never be an angel.  Bob was a believer and a follower of Jesus the Christ as am I.  He struggled with stuff as do I and most other believers that I know.  Those things range anywhere from saying something we know we shouldn’t to you name it.  Those things break the good relationship, the good friendship, the joyful association, between Christ and us unless and until we acknowledge that, yes, that was sin, and we are sorry.  It does not, however, take away my salvation nor take away my assurance that what Jesus did for me, and what I accepted as truth and embraced for eternity, can ever be jerked away.

God the Father, our adopted Dad, forgives and gives us peace about making that wise choice.  God the Son is joyous that his sister or brother has made a leap in her/his faith and walk with him.  God the Spirit breathes easy for his work was accomplished, that nudging to recognize sin as sin, no matter how large or small.

And so, you see, when I die, I will be in Heaven with Jesus.  I will be walking by his side and talking with him and enjoying in the most profound sense his essence, his glory.  I will not be an angel.  I will not gain my wings.  As a believer and child of God, I will be so much more than an angel.  Scripture says believers will judge angels for we are the sons and daughters of God.  Only we human beings are made in the image of God; not angels.

If you have someone who has moved to Heaven already, as I have, then you can rejoice in your great sorrow because you know without a doubt that they have surpassed getting wings.  They are in the presence of Jesus in a very close and personal way as we cannot experience here on this limited earth.

And sometimes… perhaps those now unfettered by time or space people we love check in on us now and then.  Or perhaps they send angels to do that job for them.  Either way is fine with me.  I just know that someone is.

And when they are not, this little angel is:  my Ava.

angel-ava

My little angel

 

ava-2017

May you have a happy new year!

Little Red Hen’s Babies

butternut squash

butternut squash

It’s almost time.  Time for my little babies to find a home.  Time for someone to adopt them and care for them and reap the rewards of good parenting.

They are used to lots of attention and babying.  As they should be.  After all, they are my babies.

Last year, before enjoying a delicious oven-roasted butternut squash, I took out the seeds, washed them, and dried them.  Then I put them in a brown envelope and labeled them.

This spring, after researching a bit, I made up some potting mix.  Lucky for me I have a friend who has horses.  Which means I have plenty of manure to mix in with my peat moss, perlite, and Epsom salt.  I shall forever hereafter feel completely different about a horse’s ass.  They aren’t all bad.

Next I got the seeds out and planted them.  My name should be Little Red Hen.

Since my sweet husband got me the coveted greenhouse for Christmas a year ago, at the first of March I planted my darling seeds from last year’s meals and desserts.  It was still cool at night, so my husband put a heater with a thermostat connected to it.  Everything was ready.

The first babies to pop their little heads up through the dirt, some wearing their seed as a hat or in folded leaves as though praying, were the butternut squash. Little Red Hen's Babies Next came watermelon and cantaloupe. Little Red Hen's Babies

praying cantaloupe

praying cantaloupe

Little Red Hen's Babies

Okra

Lemon cucumber was next.  Along came my cute little okra wearing the hard, round seed on their heads.

But where were the tomatoes?  I had to buy seed for those because I couldn’t find the seed I had saved from last year — or maybe I didn’t save them — but the dirt was just sitting there, empty.  No little baby heads poking up through the dirt.

Finally, on a day that I forgot to open the greenhouse and it got about 120 degrees in there, they popped out.  Tomatoes do love the heat!  So now, I have baby tomatoes growing into beautiful tomato plants almost ready for adoption.

Such a bittersweet time here at My Babies Nursery.

Don’t Teach Your Children To Go To Church

Don't TeachLately, I’ve been thinking a lot about church attendance:  why people go or don’t go to church.

It dawned on me this past Sunday, as I listened to our pastor preach about John the Baptist, what the answer was.  He talked about the way John the Baptist lived, eating locusts and honey and wearing rough clothing because all he cared about was bringing the message that God had ordained him to bring to the world.  He cared for nothing but the job set out for him.  His love and focus was to do that job well because he loved the God who had called him to do it.

And that, my friends, is why we steadfastly attend church.  Unless, of course, you are a Sadducee or a Pharisee.  If that is the case, then you are attending church to be seen and let all your “good” works be known to the world, whether your world is large or small.

But for the Johns (hmmm)(I should rephrase that)… but for those John the Baptist church attendees (much better), it is because you love love love God and cannot stay away from the place Jesus brought into being, the church.  He went every week, and so that is what we want to do.  He set the example, and so we want to follow that example.  He is our focus, our engine, our sheep herder.  He is the reason we love to go to church.

So don’t teach your children to go to church because they will quit going to this social place their parents seem to like.  Teach them Jesus.

Because once you fall in real love with Him, you never want to leave.  Because once you learn who Jesus is, you want to be closer and closer.  Because once you really understand what it all means, you will always have it in your heart and soul and mind.

Nehemiah 8:8

They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.

Punkin People

Punkin People are a certain group of well-known humans.  Some of them are loved and cherished and adored and gifted with hugs and kisses and many splendorous things.  Other Punkin People are abused physically and verbally, used as objects for the satisfying of pleasure or used as objects for the satisfying of wrath.

This last group of Punkin People make my heart heavy with sadness at their plight.  My only solution to that sadness is to be on guard against those perpetrators of Punkin abuse:   Confronting what I see or calling those in authority or personally stepping in with some form of help.  These little Punkins have the carved scared faces, the sad faces, the unsure faces.  Carved by the hands of those who should have been trying to carve beauty in the little Punkin.

My little Punkin People are loved.  Beyond measure.  By many people.  They are so very blessed.

My little-to-big Punkins

My little-to-big Punkins

We praise God for them.  We lift up their uniqueness to the Creator that He will carve them to His liking, not to ours.  We ask for the help we need to be wise caretakers of our Punkin field, to nourish these little Punkins properly, caring for them the way the Master has planned.  With love and adoration and hugs and kisses and many splendorous gifts.

Just as He has done for me.

Yes, my name is jacob

We had a great sermon Sunday.  I can’t imagine how difficult it is over a 45-year span of pastoring a church to come up with good sermons week after week.  Somehow our pastor has managed to do just that.

Hebrews is the book our Sunday School is studying right now.  And that is where Brother Jack got the source for his sermon.  Hebrews 2 to be exact.

Its focus is about Jesus being our High Priest; that He met all the qualifications to become so; that He has become our High Priest through His life here among us, one of us, and His death for our sins, thereby destroying Satan’s hold on death.

And all of that was done for us, all the people of the world, all of us who were meant from the very beginning of creation to commune with God freely and openly.

Adam and Eve

Adam and Eve

Until the Big Supplanting.

That’s what I call it anyway.  Adam and Eve putting their desires and wants and will before those of God.

Supplanting His wisdom with what they thought they were going to get.

Supplanting His fellowship with what they thought they wanted in someone else.

Supplanting His ways with what they thought would be better ways, their own way.

Jacob supplanting the blessing by his father, Isaac, meant for Esau

Supplanting.  Just like Jacob did to Esau.  Deceiving Esau out of his inheritance, his blessing.  Jacob means to follow, to be behind” but also “to supplant, circumvent, assail, overreach”, from the word for “heel.”  And he was named Jacob because he had hold of the heel of Esau when they were born.  He was the second born, making him, I suppose, always hungering for what rightly belonged to Esau.  Coveting, allowing greed in, thus lying, deceiving, and eventually… supplanting.

Back in Genesis 32 as Jacob seeks forgiveness from his brother, Esau, he wrestles with God, eventually getting a blessing from God.  How did Jacob get this blessing?  Did it come from being able to tussle all night long without wearing down?  Did it come because Jacob won the fight?  Did it come because they both just got worn out?

It came because Jacob admitted who he was.  After years of deceiving and going his own way… well, gotquestions.org says it best:

In the end, Jacob does what we all must do. He confronts his failures, his weaknesses, his sins, all the things that are hurting him . . . and faces God. Jacob wrestled with God all night. It was an exhausting struggle that left him crippled. It was only after he came to grips with God and ceased his struggling, realizing that he could not go on without Him, that he received God’s blessing (Genesis 32:29)

Perhaps, after you have wrestled all night, after you have struggled for years, you as well as I can admit who we are, confess our sins, and say:

Yes, my name is jacob.

Byron, Wasana, and Sumia… as one journey ends

As a child grows out of the services of World Vision, that organization sends a packet with all the information of the new child I can temporarily adopt and help on a monthly basis.  The front of the packet says “as one journey ends… another begins.”

And so these past couple of weeks I have discovered that my little Wasana’s village has become such a self-sufficient bunch of people that they are now being phased out of the World Vision ongoing help.  How exciting for them!  And how sad for me.  Little Wasana will be 14 in September.  We began our far-away relationship when she was 7.  Over the years I sent small gifts (stickers, pencils, hair clips, etc.) for which she would always send a big thank you and tell me about getting them.  She went from an unsmiling, scared-looking little girl to one with a nice school uniform and a beautiful smile.

I will miss her updates and her letters.

Before Wasana was Byron from Ecuador.  He and I only had three years together before he grew too old for the program.  I still pray for him as I am sure there are many opportunities in Ecuador for a young man to be lured into a harmful and dangerous lifestyle.

And now… little Sumia comes across my path.  From Bangladesh.  Her picture depicts sad eyes, very short hair (Ava and I thought she was a boy at first) and no smile.  I am already worried about her and glad I will be helping her, perhaps even bringing joy to her little face.  Her picture is on my computer where I can see her everyday, prompting me to pray for her every day.  Which then prompts me to pray for Byron and Wasana.

Children I love even though I have never met them.

There have been incidences wherein I absolutely knew people were praying for me.  I could feel it in my soul.  And so I have asked the Greatest Lover of small children, Christ, Himself, to allow these children to feel the prayers that I am praying.

May it be so.

My Sunday Thing: Praising God at the First African Baptist Church in Savannah

the sanctuary

the sanctuary

This photo is from the web site of the First African Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia.  It is taken from the pulpit looking back toward the door that goes outside, the door we came into Sunday morning to spend in worship with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

It was awesome!

The HHHs are back.  The Hogbottoms are on our annual trip to Hilton Head (thus the Hilton Head Hogbottoms).  It’s only been two days and true to our name we have bellied up to the trough at several wonderful restaurants and ate like the hogs little piggies we are when we come to this lovely island.

Today after our fantastic time in worship with all the others at church, we strolled along Bay Street looking for a place for lunch.  We settled on Your Pie, a great pizza place.  Just a little spot on the corner a couple of blocks from Montgomery Street where the First African Baptist Church is located.  Great crust, great toppings!  Of course, it only took a few hours till we were starving again.  This time is was the Crazy Crab on the island.  YET another good choice!  Cheesy grits, crab cakes with chipotle sauce, grilled shrimp, parmesan crusted grouper.  These people know how to cook!

But the highlight of the day was the worship service of the morning.  The coming together to give God our time, our thoughts, our offerings, our love.  As the song says that we sang this morning, “Forget about yourself.  And worship Him.”  I wish I could have had a video of the congregation singing that song because it was powerful.  If you haven’t heard it, take the time to listen to it.  Just click here.

The offering was made important:  blessing God, giving with joy and fellowship with Him and each other.  We took our tithes and our offerings one at a time down to the front and dropped it in two buckets.  Coming in a line, one after another, adults came with sealed envelopes, young ones came flapping their dollar bills.  The Hogbottoms came with folded money and our visitor card.  Dropped in to mingle with all the other joy from giving.  The whole time the choir and congregation singing I Will Bless The Lord At All Times.

It’s a song by Joe Pace with these lyrics:

I will bless the Lord at all times, He’s good

I will bless the Lord at all times, He’s good
I will bless the Lord at all times, He’s good
I will bless the Lord at all times, He’s good

He’s good, so good, real good
Each and every day of my life
I’ll bless the Lord for He’s good

Yes.  I’ll bless the Lord.  At Hilton Head.  At Savannah.  At home.
He’s good.  Real good.

And worthy of my Sunday morning.

Soothing the Soul with Seeds

THE FINISHED PROJECT

The Greenhouse

The Greenhouse

It’s not too big; just right.  It’s not fancy; a hodgepodge of containers and lids-with-no-Soothing the Soulhome to catch water.  I’m not a seasoned greenhouser, horticulturist, grower-of-good-stuff.  But, it’s already sprouting something.  I’m not sure if it’s a tomato plant or a sunflower seed from the dirt I used to sprout the tomato plants.  All I know is the little plant is coming up in the tomato lid.

I  dragged out all my seeds; it didn’t matter how old they were.  Some were in packages from the store; others were in containers; the seeds I had saved from plants in my yard… or someone else’s yard.  I guess I’ll know what they are when they turn into mature plants.  It’s the growing I care about.  Watching the seeds turn into something to nurture.

seeds are all planted… some I have no clue what they are.

seeds are all planted… some I have no clue what they are.

As you can see, my little greenhouse is as haphazard as I am.  The seeds that were in marked packages, got marked as that.  The others are just those surprise plants.  I’m so excited to find out what they are!

Soothing the SoulSince the greenhouse sits on the site of the sunflower house, there are already sunflowers poking their little heads up through the lime and rock, asking “What’s going on here?”

Soothing the SoulThere are other plants coming back to life after their winter siesta: peonies, sunflowers, sage, coreopsis, lilac, honeysuckle, ivy, bulbs of many varieties, lamb’s ear, baby’s breath, butterfly bush, roses.  Just to name a few.  The summer plants that have been waiting patiently in the garage for the spring rains are partying it up in the sunlight and April showers.  Or downpours as is the case right now.  Over six inches in 24 hours.

The rest of the oasis — my backyard — is a mess.  A big pond of muddy water sits where we had to dig up the sewer line, still waiting for the extra dirt it needs after settling.  The fence is down for the backhoe.  The deck is a mess of “stuff” for summer fun that needs cleaned and set to rights.  The pool is covered with the plastic that is covered with rain water, awaiting the right temperature for the uncovering.  Right now it’s just getting rain water pumped off.

But I know in a month, after a lot of hard work, our backyard will once again be that beautiful place of peace and tranquility.  Better (almost) than going to the beach.