Why Pray? Answers to questions kids ask (and us grownups, too) Pt. 2

 "Why do we pray to God to take care of the children?"  Bobby asked, "I should think he would want to do it."... -Tell Me About Prayer, pg 47

Have you ever tucked your child into bed at night and somewhere in your hushed prayers, God brought  another picture to your mind, of a child with no one to tuck them in at night? No one to kiss their cheek and whisper an "I love you"?  Did it unsettle you as much as it does me?  Or maybe your little one asked to pray for all the kids that are cold and hungry and don't have a home to live in and in their voice you heard a sadness that echoed your own?  Were the words to these prayers hard to form past the lump in your throat?  And did your prayers seem like they were inconsequential compared to such incomparable darkness?  This story from the book Tell Me About Prayer by Mary Alice Jones has such a heartening (and quickening!) answer to those questions that can haunt us the most about the pain and desperate needs of this world. 

"Bobby and Mary and their mother and daddy were coming home from their church.  A visitor had been there.  He had told the people about some children who were hungry and cold and sick.  All the people at church had prayed that God would help the children.
  "Why do we pray to God to take care of the children?"  Bobby asked, "I should think he would want to do it."
   "That isn't really what we prayed for, son," his daddy said.  "Do you remember? We prayed that the children would know God was loving them.  We prayed that God would help us to want to share with them."
   Bobby remembered.  "But why do we have to take care of them?  Why doesn't God do it?" he wanted to know.
  "Would you like to live in a world where people did not love each other and help each other, Bobby? Where there were no kind people to help sick children be well?  Would it be a good world if nobody thought of anybody else?  But everybody thought only of what he wanted and of how to get his own way?"
  Bobby thought about that for a minute.  "And nobody took turns or gave presents or shared?  No, that would not be a good world," he decided.
  "God knew when he planned our world that people would not be happy unless they thought of each other and helped each other.  And so he planned it that way."
  "Tell me more about it."
  "He left some things for people to do for each other.  Mothers and fathers and teachers and doctors to help boys and girls to share with one another.  And people in all nations to help each other.  If people are selfish or mean, others suffer.  That is the way the world is made." 
  Bobby thought some more.  "And if we pray, does God make us remember to help other people?  Is that the way he takes care of them?"
  "That is not the only way God takes care of them, Bobby, but it is one important way.  When we pray for other people, God helps us to think of ways we can help them.  He helps doctors to think of ways to take care of children.  And he helps the people we pray for to be better because they feel that we love them and are praying for them."
   "I think God has helped us to know ways we can help take care of the children we heard about at church," Mother said.  "I know we could send them some cereal."
  "And I could send them one of my sweaters," Bobby said.
  "I could send them one of my sweaters, too," Mary said.
  "And I could take some money out of the bank and give it to the man to buy some milk for them," Daddy said.
  "But the man said there were so many children," Bobby remembered.  "I think we should ask God to help lots and lots of people to want to send them something."
  "And to help the children to know that he loves them always," Mother added.
  "And to help the children to know that we love them, too," Mary said.
  So they prayed for the children who were hungry and cold and sick.  And they made some prayers for other people who needed help, too."    Tell Me About Prayer, pgs 48-49

After my husband read this story to our children, their faces lit up as they offered to give their treasured possessions to someone who might be in need of them.  Astair said she would give her piggy bank, Boston wanted to give his baseballs (and teach them how to play), Legend offered to give them his pillow, and Thaddeus wanted to invent something for them that would make their life better.  It tears me up to think about it.  But I don't want it to be just another tear jerker.  Honestly, it has fanned a flame that's been burning in my soul for a long time.  The burning of a love that consumes every shadow of darkness, and won't be contained, can't be restrained, and although it sputters, it refuses to go out.

I remember that year my husband was preparing for a mission trip to Haiti.  We found the small half of an island on our globe and talked and prayed with our kids over daddy's upcoming trip.  We prayed that daddy would be the hands and feet and hugs of Jesus to little orphans so in need of love.  And my oldest, then six years old, had deep questions to ask about orphans and when we explained that orphans had no mommies and daddies, he stated so matter-of-factly, "Well, why don't we pray that daddy can bring them mommies and daddies?"   I'll never forget the look my husband and I shared over the top of a spinning globe that was blurring as our eyes spilled over it.  That prayer was so right.  

And I remember our conversation afterwards... the one in which we prayed we would always be willing to be the answer to the prayers we pray for someone else.  

I remember that prayer and my heart wants to beat down every excuse I've erected since then...every opportunity to be the answer God wanted to use, that I might have missed, or I put off until tomorrow.

And love isn't something I can put off until tomorrow....when prayer becomes not just words we say, but a way we love.

"My brothers and sisters, if a person claims to have faith but does nothing, that faith is worth nothing.  Faith like that cannot save anyone.  Suppose a brother or sister in Christ comes to you in need of clothes or something to eat.  And you say to them, "God be with you!  I hope you stay warm and get plenty to eat," but you don't give them the things they need.  If you don't help them, your words are worthless.  It is the same with faith.  If it is just faith and nothing more--if it doesn't do anything--it is dead." -James 2:14-17


P.S. Thank you to all who entered the giveaway! The winner was Jamie H. and was notified by e-mail :)


Why Pray? Answers to questions kids ask (and us grown ups too)... Pt. 1


"I'm not going to pray anymore," Bobby announced.  
His mother looked at him.  "Aren't you, son?"
"Just look at that rain," Bobby went on. "I asked God to send a nice day today for the school trip.  I asked him two nights,  And he didn't."
"Is that why you pray, Bobby?  To tell God what He should do?"
Bobby thought a minute.  Then he looked uncomfortable.  "That doesn't sound right, does it?  That I should tell God what to do?"
"Not if you trust God, son.  This is a very great world.  There is a great deal about it that we have not learned to understand.  We might make some bad mistakes if God let us tell Him what to do....Right this minute I know some people are glad it is raining.  I think they are saying, 'Thank God for the rain', because their fields need rain to make the grain grow."....
"You can always talk with God about whatever you want to talk with him about, Bobby.  But I think it is not good to tell God what to do, and be angry when he does not do it.  I think it is better to ask God to help us know what he wants us to do with what we have."  
-Tell Me About Prayer by Mary Alice Jones

When a children's book can comfort, convict, and inspire and answer those questions the harbored child in your heart asks, and you can't put it down, but re-read every single page...you know it's a good one.  There are those books that are written once in a century whose words never grow old, they are timeless tomes of wisdom.  They are not written in wordy, flowery, exhaustive sentences, but in simple profound truth that has more power to change lives than one thousand theological expositions.  Tell Me About Prayer by Mary Alice Jones is just such a book.  (an interesting side note:  Mary wrote this book in 1949 and she spent most of her life educating children about God, she also received her Ph.D. from Yale and became the first woman teacher at Yale Divinity School).

It was Sunday night.  I heard the steady cadence of my husband's voice reading to the kids upstairs and I wondered at how still they had become.  Usually we read and a circus troop of acrobats perform.  But this night was different.  Afterwards, my husband came downstairs, excited to share with me the treasure he had found nearly forgotten on a bookshelf.  And I was all eyes and ears, not remembering the last time he was excited about a book.  I'm the one that gets all giddy over written words.  I was surprised to find my name written on the first page, in my Grandma Ruby's script.  How had I missed this gift?

We both read the story again, and then a third time, savoring the deep of it, wondering at the wisdom of it, thankful for the way it spelled out the questions every child's heart wonders and then gave a carefully considered and heavily weighted answer.  This is gold for every parent, every sunday school teacher, every person whose questions still nag at their heart or who have wondered how to give an answer to those who seek.  Because sometimes we honestly don't know.  There are things about God that are too deep for our shallow minds.  And I love how the author, Mary, reaffirms this.  It's not our lack of knowing the answer that makes the question burdensome, but rather our lack of understanding the character of God.

HE is the answer.  He has not hidden WHO HE IS from us.  He has displayed his character for us throughout Scripture.  There is much about the world and the way God governs it that we may never understand, but God invites us to know HIM intimately.  And prayer is one of the ways we do that.

"Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:12-14  

"My heart has heard you say, 'Come and talk with me.'  And my heart responds, 'Lord, I am coming.'"  Psalm 27:8

Something beautiful happens when we pray, when we seek God, when we respond to his eager invitation.  It becomes an honest conversation in which God reveals to us not only His own heart, but ours as well.

"One day Bobby was reading a paper his teacher at church had sent him.  He read, "God knows what you have need of before you ask him."
"Is that true, Mother?"  Bobby wanted to know.
"Yes, I think that is true, Bobby."
"Then why do we say our prayers?  Why should we tell him when he knows already?"
"Let me ask you another question, Bobby.  Do Mother and Daddy know what food is good for you to eat, and do they plan it for you?"
Bobby nodded his head.  His mother went on.
"But what would happen if you didn't eat the good good?"
"I would not grow.  I would be hungry."
"It is something like that with praying, son.  God plans for us to have the things that are best for us and to live the way that is best for us.  But if we do not know what he plans for us, we often get into trouble.  Or we do not get something good that God would like for us to have.   Or we do not do something good that God would like for us to do.  So we need to talk things over with God."
"Like with you and Daddy?"  Bobby asked.
"Something like that, Bobby.  God is very great.  We do not understand all about his plans for us.  But if we talk things over with him, he can help us understand."
"How does he?  How does he help us know?"
"Some good ideas which we had never thought of, we will think of.  Some good ways of doing things that we had never tried, we will decide to try.  Some good plans which we had never made, we will make."
"I thought praying was telling God about things," Bobby said.  "Is it letting God tell us about things?"
"I think God wants us to tell him everything we want to tell him, Bobby.  But sometimes we are so busy telling God things that we do not stop to listen.  He wants us to listen, too.  There is so much we need to know."...
And so Bobby and his mother prayed a listening prayer.
-Tell Me About Prayer by Mary Alice Jones, pages 53-54

And it really is that simple.  Talking to God and listening for what He would tell us as well.  Waiting on Him.  Just being with Him.  And most of all, trusting Him.  Trusting that He hears and that He cares.  That he has a plan for us to partner with Him.

And then you can ask your kids (or yourself) these questions and let God be the answer....

Are you lonely?
Are you doubting?
Are you angry?
Are you scared?
Do you need understanding?
Or maybe just a little light for tomorrow?

You can pray and "talk things over" with God.
He'll listen.  He always does.
And you might be surprised by what He'll show you when you take the time to listen, too...


Valentine's Day Giveaway!!!

V  A  L  E  N  T  I  N  E '  S     G  I  V  E  A  W  A  Y  !

Just as a way to say "thank you" to all my dear friends who have faithfully read my ramblings here and stuck with me through my sporadic blogging adventures!  I am so thankful for every single one of you, friends near and far, many that have known me since childhood and others I have never seen but still love and know just as dearly.  You have blessed me with your words, with your e-mails, with your friendship, and I pray this day you will know that you are loved.

I'm excited to introduce three shops to you that are close to my heart.  The women behind these shops inspire me daily and I know you will be just as blessed by their creative and genuine hearts as I have been.  At the end of this post will be the entry form and you can receive multiple entries for each direction you follow.  I'll announce the winner next FRIDAY!  xo

My dearest friend, Erin Stargel, is giving away a $125 custom video editing package from her new esty shop Leigh Star Editing!  I am so excited about this gift!  Just think of all the photos and videos of your little ones that you have laying around and have always wanted to make a video of!  Or maybe you're like me and your wedding video was less than stellar (so dark we could hardly make out our faces!) and you would love to re-create a keepsake video for the two of you.   Erin has also created meaningful timeline videos for loved ones that have passed away, for graduates, and for birthdays.    Erin has been editing videos professionally for Sonburst Communications for many years.  She decided to work from home when her sweet daughter Grace Ann was born over a year ago and her newest little baby girl Ella Mae was born in January.  Erin is close to my heart.  We were roommates in college and while I was always on the phone talking to Joel (now my husband) she was hard at work on her multimedia degree.  She's been a source of encouragement and support and just real, genuine friendship to me for so many years.

You can view her work under the product description in her etsy store and here is a link to one of her latest videos:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLjPxayV99Q&feature=youtu.be

Don't you love when you get cards in the mail?  I just received a letter from a friend the other day and I couldn't stop smiling.  There's something so personal about snail mail, in reading the scrawling script of a friend you miss and knowing they poured their heart into something you could hold in your hands.  This is exactly how I feel about Aneta Nina's sweet little stationery shop Give With Joy.  She makes adorable cards that will inspire you to sit down and write a note to that friend who's been on your heart.

Her shop in her words:
"When  I was young, I would sprint to the mailbox in hopes that someone sent me a letter or a package. I usually came inside with bills for my mom - she loved getting mail :). Yet, that never hindered me from running back to the mailbox with the same hope each day.
Fast forward to today, well, you will find me hoarding the mail key from my husband so I can be the first to check the mail. I love receiving and giving gifts in the smallest form. Who doesn't feel loved and overwhelmed with joy when they get a little "hello" card on a Wednesday! 
That's why I started 'give with JOY'. I wanted to bring joy into many homes and inspire you to do the same. Let's give someone a reason to smile when they open their mail. "
Aneta Nina is also offering 15% off everything in her store to my readers.  Just visit her shop and enter JOYE14 at the checkout!

Have you heard about No. 41??  This ministry is on my heart daily.  I love the hearts of the women behind it.  They inspire me to dream big, love bigger, and that with God anything is possible and we can change the world.  This is love in action.  I really can't describe it any better than what Tara wrote on the No. 41 blog:

"In December 2010, after a two-week mission trip, I followed my little broken heart back to Rwanda, begging God to use me in any way He saw fit. I didn’t have a plan, but I trusted that He did.

In June 2011, I moved into the Noel Orphanage, home to 500+ children ranging in age from a few weeks to their late 20’s. While I got my feet on the ground, I loved on babies, played countless games of soccer, and taught English. By December of that year, I had a list and a plan. So many things I saw going on around me bothered me, but I decided to zero in on two, the oldest girls and the local school lunch program (or lack thereof).

At the time, there were, roughly, 100 young adults over the age of 18 living in the Noel Orphanage. With no family and limited resources, the prospect of university or becoming gainfully employed was low. Along with that, confidence was low, dreams were small, and hope was almost non-existent. It was important, not only to provide a means of sustainable employment doing a culturally relevant trade for these girls, but also to remind them that they were created for a great purpose, by an even greater God. We all have been given gifts and talents and, once realized, we should spend those helping others. That is where the feeding program came in.

In our village there are three secondary schools, grades 7-12, and these students go to school all day, most without eating. The schools, generally, offer a 20-minute break for lunch where children who live close enough or have money, may go home to go to the market to eat. Most do not.

No.41 started on a whim and a prayer in March 2012, with 16 girls from Noel. The girls would be earing a fair wage sewing bags and selling them, mostly in the US, with 100% of the profits going to feed students at local schools. The idea was: FOR ONE child. FOR ONE meal. FOR ONE year. For just $75, a young woman earns a sustainable income and a child receives a hot, healthy lunch everyday at school. By the end of April, No.41 employed 32 girls, with a fairly substantial waiting list, and by February 2013, the No.41 girls were feeding 870 students and 36 teachers, from their own community, every day.

All that has transpired at No.41 is beyond my wildest dreams. We have had ten girls move themselves out of the orphanage and we now have 19 enrolled in university. We have career fairs and business trainings, Bible study and English class. I never believed this couldn’t happen, but I never imagined it would happen like this. No.41 is a testament to all that God wants to do in you and through you, if you’ll just say, yes."

Pretty incredible, right.  God can do amazing things with a willing heart and eager hands.

The winner gets to choose one item from their shop.  And I love every single item listed.  So go show them some love and support!

H A P P Y   V A L E N T I N E ' S   D A Y  !


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