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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Restoration or Resolution (Part 3)

Restoration or Resolution (Part 3)

Restoration or Resolution (Part 3)

It’s been awhile, once again, since I’ve been here, back to my little blog, my baby that I have let fly solo after monitoring it daily since it’s birth.  Sometimes multiple times in a day.  Loving the feedback; loving that you guys loved some of my stuff.  And now, here we are, after those long months of getting established, pouring my heart and soul and silliness into it, we go our separate ways most days, turning into weeks.  It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way.  We were supposed to be acknowledged by WordPress as blog of the month or week; Freshly Pressed it’s called.

But, really, our little venture has served its purpose: as a fulfillment for my desire to write (whether that’s good or bad writing) and as a catharsis for my troubled soul, helping me to overcome catastrophic events.  Those events that change a person: our thoughts, actions, feelings, personalities, ability to relate to other people, affecting how we relate to other occurrences in our lives.  It has helped shed some light, hopefully, on the anguish and devastation of mental illness as well as given honor to a good man who died way too young.

reading apronsandappetites

reading apronsandappetites

So to catch you up, all who have just today wondered by or to you good people who follow along in my meager efforts to express myself, you can go back here and here to read the previous blogs on this subject or continue reading.

a beautiful day

a beautiful day

The morning dawned with the beauty and the warmth of springtime.  It was 60 degrees!  What a surprise.  A spring day right smack dab in the middle of January winter, melting the snow and creating a day for the outdoors.  A beautiful day that did not lift the heavy foreboding I had that something was wrong; someone had died.  My fear took hold, choking common sense.  If someone had died, then I would have gotten a call.  Of course, that call would have gone through Paul and Gretel for there were no phones capable of incoming calls nor televisions for aired programs in the housing where guests stayed.  Just peace and quiet.  I could call out on the phone that was there, and I could watch the movies they had for guests’ enjoyment, all G-rated, but there was no intrusion from the outside world to disturb those that stayed in this Eagle’s Nest.

That was also the day after my “send her to Thessalonica” dream.  The day I rebelled against the Lord, telling Him there was no way I was reading the Thessalonians.  He had not helped after all those prayers.  Why should I do what I knew He was asking me to do?  So instead I went for the walk that brought me to His feet, to sit and listen and envision His own pain and sorrow.  The walk that brought comfort and encouragement and strength.  The walk that said, “you can do this; go on back and make that phone call.”  The walk that validated my foreboding that someone had died.  And that someone, I just knew, was my son; the son who had struggled with drug addiction for years.

All day I had walked that 200-acre farm.  There were trails to follow and benches to sit on, ponds to meditate beside, gullies to explore, embankments to climb.  I had taken the map provided and thought I fairly well knew where I was, so when I noticed the storm clouds gathering that afternoon, I wasn’t too worried.  At that point in my exploration I had been walking down an almost dry creek bed with woods on the left and a steep embankment on the right.  I decided if I climbed the embankment, the farm should be right there to my right.  When I finally got to the top, pulling myself up with tree limbs, and looked out over the field, there were no houses in sight.  Just field and woods.

The thunder rumbled and the panic set in.  I scurried back down to the creek bed, thinking that the only thing to do would be to backtrack  my path, those hours worth of walking,  and that I surely would not beat the storm brewing.  My first encounter when I reached the creek bed was a big deer that ran out in front of me followed by a ‘possum.  Where had all those animals been all day?  They hadn’t been around earlier.  Were they as frightened of the storm coming as I was?  Would that cause them to fear me, thus causing them to attack me?  I had heard of how vicious an opossum could be when threatened.  As I stood and looked around, there was wildlife rushing around all over that piece of wooded area.  How would they feel about me barging into their sanctuary as I raced the storm?  And I was filled with dread and fright and uncertainty, knowing I would never beat the storm back to where I was staying.

How far back did the creek go?  Now I couldn’t remember how long I had walked it.  Would it fill quickly if the rain poured?

The storm within me was roiling and brewing more than the storm in the sky until I heard in the small rush of wind the voice speaking within my spirit, “Don’t go the familiar way.  Step out and trust and go forward.”

As I looked up at the embankment and around at the wildlife and creek, I decided that’s what I would do.  I wouldn’t follow the familiar, but I would go forward.  I scrambled back up to the field, and as I stepped out of the woods and into that field, I could see that, yes, there was the farmhouse.  I was right where I thought I had been according to the map.

And I pondered on the walk back to my “home” the lesson God was teaching me.  I thought of all the people I see coming through the court system who fall right back into the familiar path of drugs or alcohol or bad relationships or circle of friends.  I thought of all the children that didn’t want to leave abusive parents because that was “the familiar path,” all they knew.  I thought of the way Christians don’t want to change church services or opinions or routines, staying in the rut that leads down the familiar path.  The scripture in Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; and He will direct your path” came to mind.

In my walk with God that day, I knew that my foreboding had been for a real reason, one I dreaded hearing, one subconsciously I had been waiting to happen for a long time.  When I finally called my sister and told her I knew that someone had died, she instantly began crying, sobbing.

(continued)

Restoration or Resolution? (Part 2)

After having been gone for such a length of time, I might need to update you, my dear reader, as to what this post is all about because you may be lost if you are just now dropping by.  Just step back a day, and get caught up on my trip to ancient Thessalonica.

For those that follow faithfully:  I so love you!!!!!  Thank you! Thank you!  You give me affirmation and bring my life such joy to know that someone cares enough to hang in there with me.

a wild hair?

a wild hair?

Also, you may never know what wild hair will grab hold of me, and what I will then put on this little blog.

But in the meantime…

Have you been to Thessalonica yet?   Or in other words, did you read the books of Thessalonians?  Does it mean restoration or resolution to you?

“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.”  1 Thessalonians 4:13

My hope was and is in Christ Jesus, God the Son.  The fact that I had lost someone I dearly loved in death and, quite literally, lost my children to trauma or illness or addiction, was overwhelming.  I have intimate knowledge of the word despair.  Even though we as Christians always have hope in Christ, our physical and mental well-being does not always recognize that.  The brain is such an awesome organ, and when it gets sick, the devastation is tremendous.  The fact that we are Christians has nothing to do with the physiology of brain chemistry.  And I am appalled at those Christians who seem to think a person has control over that physiology;  then, through their own ignorance, will condemn the actions of the very people who need help the most.  In my embarrassment, however, I have to admit that I have been one of those Christians, making judgments, condemning, seeing the sin or act instead of the person.  Restoration or ResolutionGod and I have had many, many talks about that; He has heard my cries of repentance and sorrow and self-loathing over those things; He has in His graciousness made me whole again.

“So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens.  We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials.  For you know quite well that we are destined for them.”  1 Thessalonians 3:1-3

the pureness of fresh snow

the pureness of fresh snow

So back in 2002, in the dead of winter, in a place called the Eagle’s Nest, on a farm heavily covered in fresh snow, I clung to the hope God promised me: to strengthen and encourage me.  Paul and Gretel Haglin owned that farm; two beautiful people full of mercy and grace and service.  Their ministry with this farm, this place of refuge and renewal, was only one of the many ways they have served God throughout their lives.  They allowed me to stay here, alone with God, occasionally with them in order that they might  strengthen and encourage me, letting me walk the trails they had made and sit at the benches they had placed throughout the 200-acre farm.

“And give relief to you who are troubled.”  1 Thessalonians 5:24

“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”  2 Thessalonians 2: 16-17

And God my Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, himself, gave me promises and told me how to live and breathe again, how to put one foot in front of the other to continue the life that was still before me.  He  showed me how it was He who first had cried in a loud voice of sorrow “WHY?”  He showed me how the world had changed from the beauty of His making to the ugliness of sin.  He filled me with the knowledge of His great sorrow when the children He loved turned from Him to choose their own way, the opposite of His instruction.  As I sat on the bench crying to God, “Why?” for I had prayed, my friends had prayed, churches had prayed for the healing for my son, a healing that did not come, God opened my eyes to the very beginning of time.

tracks of God's tears

tracks of God’s tears

He let me hear his cry of anguish and pain over the deception of His children, a cry so loud and sorrowful that all earth mourned with Him.   The earth trembled and pushed outward in its effort to bellow; it sagged inward with its great sadness.  God’s tears fell, filling those low spots, rushing across the earth, imparting His sorrow.

Those two whom God loved, the two who walked daily with Him and enjoyed His fellowship, his friendship, had opened Pandora’s Box and let sin in.  And in it came.  Rushing with its white hot wind, scorching the earth, burning the two as well.  I could see the plants turn from their beauty as sin rushed by, now reaching out with thorned fingers to catch hold and entangle the unsuspecting, just as sin had taught it to do. Sin hurried on, creating suspicion in the once docile animals, causing them to turn on the two, putting fear between them and the two they once called friend.   Death began.  The change was too great, the sin ever-present.  Beauty destroyed by decay.

God’s sorrow was more than I could bear for it overshadowed the grief that had overcome me.  No, I was not the first to ask the question Why.  God, Himself, was.

But as is His way, He comforted me, filled me with His presence, His greater-than-sorrow love.  The kind of love that makes the eagle soar, that causes it to rise above the storm.  The kind of love that sustains and carries and says, “You can do this.”

He then sent me back down the hill to make the call I had been dreading to make.

(to be continued)

Suicide: Selfish Action or Despairing Reaction?

a journal

a journal

Odd.  Just this past week I got out my Purpose Driven Life Devotional to use it again, needing to understand life better, trying to wrap my head around our purpose.

And now, ever since Sunday morning at church, when our associate pastor stood before us, the congregation, and told us about Rick Warren’s son committing suicide, I have been heart-sick.  My thoughts and emotions are with their grieving, their unanswered questions of “Could I have done more?”  I have reflected on the long journey they have been taking with their son and his mental illness, the toll it took on their son as well as them for that is what illness does in a family.  Those debilitating illnesses of any kind, those long-term illnesses with a need for long-term help not only affect the sick person but affect the caretakers as well.

The problem with mental illness, deep depression illness for today’s discussion, is the misunderstanding the majority of people have about it.  It’s not something an ill person wants to have.  Those with chronic depression do not want to be sad all the time; they do not want to have to fight every single day of their lives just to feel the slight presence of a “good day.”  They want, as badly as a child wants its Momma when it is scared or hurt, to be “normal,” to be happy, to be able to walk without a cloud of heavy darkness constantly hanging over them.  They would love to be able to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.”

But it’s just not possible sometimes.  Some days they lose the fight they fight every day to live life.  And sometimes when they lose… they commit suicide.  That happens in an instant; that decision.  The pain of sadness hurts, and sometimes it hurts so badly that all one wants to do is just leave.  It is not, as the leader of a visiting singing group at our church had the gall to get up and say before the entire group of people there to worship God, “an act of cowardice.”  No person who commits suicide is a coward.  My heart wants to cry out to God to let this particular man experience the despair of depression.  But the Christ who suffered for me and has sent a part of Himself to live within me fills me with compassion instead; something this man clearly does not have.  And the knowledge that Christ is with us does not keep us from the Dark Abyss; it does not keep us from feeling despair any more than it keeps one from feeling the pain of a broken bone.  But it does, as Rick Warren’s son knew, give us a hope.  And with that hope, those fighting this horrible illness grope along through the darkness of depression; some days victorious; some days just holding their own; some days losing.

It’s the losing days that we, as caretakers or friends or health workers, worry about.  Those are the days we check and double-check the one we love.  But what of the losing day we know nothing about?  That moment in time when the despair is overwhelming, the tiredness of the fight creating such a longing to leave that the sick one does just that:  leaves.  One way or another, but leaves.

It’s been 12 years now since I almost left.  But I remember the day as though it were yesterday.  My grief that evening had doubled: first I grieved the loss of my husband and now the grief over my son as well hit me.  And this particular evening it was just too much grief.  I had to leave; I couldn’t stay.  The thought that my family needed me never entered my mind.  There were no thoughts but one:  I had to leave; I couldn’t bear the pain anymore.   All I could feel was the horrible blackness of despair.  The leaving would not be a cowardly act but an act of one whose thought processes are skewed by the darkness of depression.

As was her nightly ritual at that point in time, my sister called me to check on me.  And as usual I was crying.  We would talk; she would say she was coming down, but I would assure her I would be fine.  And I would rise above the grief and be fine.  But this night was different.  Dar called; I was crying; we talked.  And when she said she was coming down, I continued crying and talking and telling her I would be fine… until I realized I was talking to no one.  I knew she had dropped the phone, got in her car, and was probably speeding way past the legal speed limit to get to me.

My plans to leave had been derailed and I cried that much harder.  I knew that whatever pills I had planned on taking would only be pumped out of my stomach at a hospital; whatever mode of transportation I could think of to leave this world had just been shut down by the fact that my sister was on her way to do whatever she had to do to save me.

And then she walked through the door…

Thoughts of an addict

Don’t tell me what I’ve done.

You don’t know how I feel.

What am I even capable of?

I will steal, but will I kill?

That test has not presented itself

And for this I do not know

But I warn you, anyone this concerns,

Don’t try me; through me anger flows.

I do what I say;

I say what I mean.

I inherited crazy;

It’s all in my genes.

So smile and laugh with me!

I’m broken inside

Twisted and tied.

I see your face

Torturing myself.

I get lost in the pain

Forgetting what is real.

My thoughts turn to hate

My memory fades

Yet I still feel you.

All the hurt I endure

I am cold and insecure.

I feel warm when I’m with you.

Please save me.

Just take it all away.

I don’t wanna stay

Here anymore.

A Whole New Look at Drug Rehab

If your family has ever dealt with a loved one who is addicted to alcohol or drugs, then my heart goes out to you; my compassion and empathy is profound.  An addict will sell themselves, give up their children, cut off ties with family, and wander from place to place or live in the streets and alleyways.  Their thoughts have been in drug mode for so long they don’t know how to think normal thoughts anymore.  They don’t know how to “pull themselves up by the bootstraps” and get clean.

It’s not because they don’t want to.  Their self-loathing is immense; their pain from the disappointment of losing themselves and sometimes their families is deep.  The uphill climb to “clean” is a monstrous mountain to them that seems so gigantic that they fail before they even begin the first ascent.

Does the drug abuse come from undiagnosed mental illness?  Did it begin with casual use as a young person and then became the demon-clawed monkey on their backs?  Was it some horrible experience that first drew them to the escape from real life into the fantasy life of drugs or alcohol?

The reason isn’t important.  The overcoming is.  The ability to live the rest of their lives without the use of drugs or alcohol is what matters, not the whys.

Teen Challenge

Teen Challenge is a place for these lost souls, these hopeless people, to be saved.  Quite literally.  Here is their mission statement:

“To provide youth, adults and families with an effective and comprehensive Christian faith-based solution to life-controlling drug and alcohol problems in order to become productive members of society. By applying biblical principles, Teen Challenge endeavors to help people become mentally-sound, emotionally-balanced, socially-adjusted, physically-well, and spiritually-alive.”

It is not for those who aren’t ready to climb up out of the pit, nor is it for those looking for an easy road to sobriety.  This program is the hardest thing any person will probably ever do in their lifetime for themselves.  From day one there is no smoking, no foul talk, no talk of the street, no disrespecting the counselors… the list goes on and on.  From day one there is a work ethic in place, a hygiene standard, an accountability practiced… just a few of the things used to build self-worth.

The program is about one year and can be all the way to two years.  The men (the median age is 35) sleep in bunk beds with their clothes and shoes and personal items neatly in place, and those beds made up military style of the mornings which begins around 5:30 or so.  They have work details, jobs in the community, for which they are not paid.  They are immersed in Bible study and surrounded by encouraging people.  They are required to dress in accordance with the dress code and go to church regularly.

This program is not for sissies.  This program works.

Prison costs about $23,000 a year to house an inmate; Teen Challenge is less than half that.  My question to judges, both state and federal, is why are you not utilizing this program?  The fact that it is based on voluntary entry and the person is able to leave at any time is always the excuse used when sentencing an addict to prison instead of Teen Challenge.  But that is no issue in reality.  If  the person leaves,  then it’s off to prison.

The rigorous routine at Teen Challenge serves only to enhance the lives of those who stay, creating persons with skills and abilities to stay sober.  The atmosphere in a prison serves only to degrade even further an already beaten man/woman, offering nothing more than a housing unit until they are released.  Being ordered to Teen Challenge is a win-win situation.  The offender makes it through the program and lives a productive life:  society wins.  The offender leaves the program and is then sent to prison: society still wins.

Why not give that person a chance?  Why not see if this person can be in the statistical group of graduates, as they are called, who never go back to drugs?  Why not?

Here is the web site to learn more of Teen Challenge: http://teenchallengeusa.com/

 

The Devastating Destroyer

The earthquake in Japan has burdened my heart and filled me with sorrow.  Watching the tsunami waters carry off entire towns is sickening… but I can’t quit watching.  I feel I owe them the courtesy and honor of watching their plight, as one goes to the funeral home to honor the loved one of a friend.  The constant worry and threat of possible explosions in the nuclear plant worries me for them.  I will decide in the near future how I will help them.  Monetarily, I’m sure, however small my portion may be.

But what does all this have to do with my writing about James this week?  It has to do with empathy.  I understand the feeling of being powerless to stop a raging, devastating destroyer.  How brave those people were who took videos as the water surged at their feet, tearing their homes and businesses apart, their very life being destroyed as they stood watching.

That’s the way it was to watch schizophrenia take my son.  Powerless.  Even as I took him from doctor to doctor, from hospital to hospital, he slipped under the murky, dark water of this devastating illness.

James and Jarred.  Those two names will forever be etched deep in my heart where sorrow lives.  Two good-hearted men whose lives were stolen by the devastating destroyer schizophrenia.

An acquaintance said when their daughter was diagnosed with schizophrenia that they told the doctor they thought she was on drugs.  The doctor sadly said, “I only wish she were.”  Although using drugs is something one with a mental illness does to try to self-medicate, it is not the cause of schizophrenia.

And my James understood this better than I ever could.  When I was at my wit’s end trying to understand the behaviors of my son, James would explain it to me.  “He can’t tell what’s real and what’s not real.”  Schizophrenia doesn’t take away one’s intelligence; it alters his/her perception of the world.

Jarred’s world was altered from a safe, loving environment to one filled with monsters and hell birds and zombies; a life filled with fear.  A life stolen and destroyed.