My Son, We’re Waiting.

20150410 ROHDE Family IMG_0048editBW-ZF-10586-03350-1-001-058

My son. We are anxiously waiting your arrival. Any day now, you are supposed to leave the comforts of your mother’s womb and join us. If I’m honest with you, which I’ll try to always be, I’m terrified. I love your sister, I’m deeply in love with your mother and I’m excited to be your father, but raising a son terrifies me. Here are my promises to you:

  1. I will love you, no matter what. My mistakes will be many and I will lose my patience. My flaws are not a result of anything you have or haven’t done, but of my own shortcomings and insecurities. There is NOTHING you can do or say that will keep me from loving you.
  2. You can bring anything to me. I remember being embarrassed or ashamed of certain things I did as a boy and being nervous about talking with my dad. Your grandfather is an amazing man. He taught me much, but there were times I didn’t feel I could approach him. You’ll probably have those times too. Remember son, I love you.
  3. You will always be more important than my work. One of my greatest fears of being a pastor is raising pastor’s kids. This worried me when your mom was pregnant with your sister and it still worries me today. I will miss dinners to be at meetings, will sometimes be gone mornings for Bible studies and will spend plenty of time tucked away in an office studying. Our house will be open, we’ll have visitors and your space will feel invaded. People will call at odd hours and have equally odd expectations of me. I will do my best to set boundaries, but there are times I will fail. First I am your dad, secondly I am their pastor.
  4. I will teach you to love your sister (and your mom, but that will be much easier…). 20150410 ROHDE Family IMG_0116editBW-ZF-10586-03350-1-001-055Your sister is awesome, she will be weird (especially when she’s in middle school), and you won’t always get along. I too am a little brother. I love my sister, your aunt, but I’d be lying if I said it was always easy. There will be times where it seems that your mom and I treat her differently (which we will, the two of you are different people) and it won’t seem fair. She won’t always understand you and will be annoyed by your very existence. But I know your sister pretty well and, much like my sister, I’m guessing she’ll be protective and want nothing but the best for you. Outside of your mom (and eventually your spouse), she will be the most important woman in your life. Love her well.
  5. I will recognize that someone loves you more than I do. My mom told me that the most humbling thing about being a parent is recognizing that God loves your child more than you do. One of your sister’s first lessons to me was proving her grandmother was right. I know God loves you, that he thought of you before you were conceived and that he has plans for you. But I have trust issues (one of my many insecurities and part of the rationale behind your name) so it’s not always easy for me. I will be possessive and, at times, overly protective. I promise that I will do my best to acknowledge that you are God’s first and that my primary duty as your dad is to show you that you are loved by the Creator.
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Why I Read [actual] Books

I didn’t grow up a reader. Surfer magazine was the only written word worth while (I promise, it wasn’t just the pictures…). I didn’t pick up a book for fun until I was nineteen. You’d think I’d be thrilled to be alive in a time where most people communicate with encrypted text messages, emoticons, 140 character tweets and youtube clips.

In many ways I love the tools at our finger tips. Other times I find myself wishing I lived during grandma and grandpa’s day when you needed pen and paper to record your thoughts and a bookstore to get a book.

No one ever walks into an Apple Store, picks up an iPad and says, “I love the way this thing smells.” And you don’t sit in front of your computer screen thinking, “It just feels so great in my hands.” I don’t have the best sense of smell, but I love the smell of old books. And my posture would be much better if I didn’t sit in front of a computer most of the day.

Contrary to what many in my parent’s generation think, the developed world isn’t digressing into an illiterate age. Instead, the definition of literate has changed. My good friend Jondou suggests that proper English has changed as well…Language evolves, but that’s a post for another day, possibly a discussion for our new blog). To quote Marshall McLuhan, the medium is the message. We can’t ignore today’s media or the way in which it has changed our language.

But books, those things made out of paper and comprised of complete sentences, bring us back to the basics of language. If we never learn the basics, today’s valuable tools will lead us down a path of frustration into a world of dull dreams and incomplete thought.

The last year I’ve read a lot of what Michael Hyatt has been writing. I’d recommend his stuff to anyone. As a the former CEO of Thomas Nelson, he get’s the whole book thing. He writes,

Contrary to what is often reported in the mainstream media, books are not dead. They are still valuable today. But we must contend for their existence against all other forms of media. Books do for people what movies, television, magazines, newspapers, blogs, and social media will never do—fundamentally alter their worldview and inspire them to greatness.

We need to allow books to inspire us and alter our worldview. Sometimes I read for an escape. Others,  I read to be challenged. Simply put, I can’t afford to stop. None of us can. But too many of us have. This year I’ve been doing something I haven’t done since high school; I’m keeping a reading log/journal.

Why do you read? And what are you reading?

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Waiting for Lent in the Shadow of Christmas

Easter comes crazy early in 2013; March 31. And with an early Easter comes an even earlier lenten season (Ash Wednesday is February 13). Ten days ago I picked up and began reading N.T. Wright’s Lent for Everybody, Luke. Our church is thinking of using it this year as a study. After a few pages I looked up and saw Christmas decorations scattered all over the floor. The Christmas tree was still lit.

I was waiting for Lent in the shadow of Christmas.

Wright’s writing has always challenged me. His ability to draw out deep theological questions while not shying away from a firm conviction is fantastic. I only read bits and pieces of Rob Bell’s Love Wins and only glanced over Francis Chan’s Erasing Hell, but both those guys, while being phenomenal (and sometimes divisive) communicators, seem to be N.T. Wright light (read Surprised by Hope to see what I mean).

This little book is a great. He gets to the point of Lent on the first day.

..come with your hopes and longings, your awareness of the ways in which the world is still out of joint. You might begin, today, by thinking about some situations, whether in your own life or far away, where the world is not yet right. Hold them before God in prayer and patience. And then look for the signs of hope around you, the first stirrings of God’s new life. And give thanks to God for the way in which he is at work in the world today.

  • The world is out of whack – We’re reminded of this daily. We’re all hurt and we all, intentionally or unintentionally, hurt others. (read Romans 3:9-20 for a morning dose of total depravity).
  • But God is still at work – All too often we forget this. Our sinfulness keeps us from seeing what God is up to in the middle of our broken world. God remains perfectly good. And we’re in need of his perfect grace.
  • Prayer and Patience – Ultimately, this is what the season of lent is about. We wait. We pray. We give thanks. How are you doing these things?

I love the season the Church will be entering into in a month. It’s rare that we get to celebrate Jesus’ birth, mourn his death and return to celebrating in the resurrection in such a short amount of time (just over three months). Lent always teaches me something. I’m looking forward to what this year will bring.

Posted in Huntington Beach, Ministry, St. Peter's, Theology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Unfiltered Ministry: Give Me Jesus

It’s always refreshing to talk without a filter.

Vasco & Davidson in Dana Point.

Last week two of my friends were in town visiting from Malawi. These two guys, Vasco and Davidson, were instrumental in getting Hailey and me to spend a year in their country. They also both went out of their way to help us to feel comfortable while away from family and all that was familiar. Having them in our home was both an honor and inspiring. In more ways in one, they reminded me to get back to what is important.

Vasco has always challenged me to think about ministry, culture and the church in a new way. While he and Davidson were here, we spent plenty of time talking about how things were in Malawi and how the church is doing here in the U.S. They were on a whirlwind of a tour that started in Michigan, stopped at a conference in Colorado and ended in California. While in Orange County I introduced them to some folks at St. Peter’s, had a few meetings with others who had gone on trips to Malawi and took them to see Saddleback and Mariners. They laughed at the monster church campuses. There isn’t a building in the entire country of Malawi that would fit as many people as the sanctuaries (auditoriums/arenas?) of those two places. They saw plenty of the American Church.

As we visited and shared stories I was reminded of why I enjoyed ministry so much in Malawi… Jesus. I was able to focus on Jesus for an entire year.

Here, I find myself getting caught in all the other parts of the church. There’s programs, politics, finances, denominational stuff, congregational expectations, buildings, growth plans, etc. All filters that all too often sift out what (or who) is important. I am not saying those things are entirely unimportant, but they can’t be the thing. And we, or I, often allow them to be.

Ella meets her Malawian uncles.

As we talked, Vasco and Davidson laughed. All that stuff exists in the Malawian church. And, really, I knew it to be true (I once moderated a 7 hour session meeting on a Saturday morning while only understanding half of what was said…makes meetings here seem like a breeze). But, because of my position and the cultural barrier, it was impossible to be immersed in what, all too often, become gigantic distractions. I could focus on loving God and loving people. Christ was essential and it felt like the rest sat in a blurry background.

One of my favorite hymns is Give Me Jesus. It was made popular by Jeremy Camp and a few other contemporary musicians but it has been around for a long long time. At the end of each verse is this line, “you can have all this world, but give me Jesus.” My personal prayer is that I’d learn to live this song.

Posted in Church, Malawi, Ministry, Theology | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

The New Normal

NOTE: I wrote this blog two days before Ella was born and never posted it. Still catching up. 

Hailey and I know our lives are about to change forever. We planned for it.

Crib, clothes and more. Friends & family are the best!

Our friends who are parents have told us to go to the movies (we’ve been to the theater more in the last 6 weeks than we had the entire previous year), go out to dinner, get plenty of sleep and spend time talking—do whatever we can to get time alone, just the two of us.

The advice has been wonderful. But, at the same time, we’ve been married for seven years and  were also gifted with 10 months together where almost every night was spent alone with one another-without a tv, consistently working Internet and the other distractions most of us consider necessities. It’s odd to be at this stage and feel…well, ready (even if there is some uneasiness at the same time).

We’ve spent the better part of the past few months acquiring furniture, clothing and all the modern amenities people have told us we just have to have. And we’re extremely grateful for what we have received. Most of what we have is hand-me-downs or gifts. We wouldn’t be able to have this kid without the generous support of our friends and family.

In Malawi I learned that it really does take a village to raise a kid. Most children have multiple fathers and mothers (here we’d call them uncles and aunts) and each is equally important in the upbringing of a child. Our village has come through.

No carseats, only chitenjes…

As our home fills with baby stuff, I can’t help but think about the children we grew to know a year ago. When my daughter is born, she won’t be the first child I’ve named (in Malawi the parents do not name the child, the uncle does). Mothers rode in the car I drove and I didn’t worry once about whether or not the chitenje  around their chest carrying their newborn would pass Child Safety Seat Laws. I saw women unabashedly breastfeed without a hooter hider and (eventually) thought nothing of it. And I saw children thrive without Baby Einstein, pacifiers or diapers that always fit.

Two completely different worlds with different definitions of need. Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck in the middle–but maybe that’s a good thing.

Hailey and I are cherishing our last few nights as a family of two, but we’re also dreaming about the sleepless ones ahead. I’m positive we’ll miss the times we had alone, the feeling of being rested, and the ability to go out whenever we want. But I also know the “new normal” will provide all kinds of new experiences, stories and life lessons. And I can’t wait.

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Ella’s Birth Story

NOTE: I have 3-4 posts that I’ve started in the last 2 months and haven’t had time to finish. A newborn daughter will do that. Over the next week or two, I will be posting them. I wrote most of this post on July 18, 2012. 

Today was supposed to be our daughter’s due date. Instead it was Ella Marie’s two-week birthday (and check up with the doc).

Last night Hailey and I sat up talking about how different her birth could have been. Instead of a cooing and growling baby, anticipation and anxiety could have been the culprits keeping us awake. The timing couldn’t     have been better.

On July 3rd, I got home from a long day at work. Around 7:00 Hailey sent a text asking if I would be coming home anytime soon. I thought nothing of it and called her to ask about dinner and if it was okay if I stopped to get gas. She said sure.

I got home and she was making dinner. It was a normal night…or so I thought. Hailey paused every few minutes while cutting vegetables and said she was feeling a little pain and tightness. Then she’d turn back to the veggies.

My wife is a rock star.

She didn’t tell me over the phone because she didn’t want me to worry and she assumed it was just Braxton Hicks contractions. We sat down on the couch, started dinner and within the hour she was arching her back in pain and had set her food down. She called a friend and then the doctor (who told her that she had probably just pushed herself too hard for the day and that she should drink some water and relax). Doctors know best, so I went back to my spaghetti.

While she was on the phone I went upstairs for less than five minutes. I came down and, through tears, she blurted, “DON’T YOU LEAVE ME!” All sorts of craziness ran through my head.

I knew she wanted to have the baby naturally and that our birth plan included the phrase “drug free.” Early in her pregnancy I would try to talk her down off her hippy pedestal. I’d recite my defense, there’s a reason for birth interventions and I wanted to be realistic about what might happen.

She’d always argue and I’d eventually concede (at some point I learned that arguing with a pregnant woman was a bad idea, but it took me entirely too long to get there…sorry dear). And now her practice contractions were causing her to scream at me and cry? Drug free my booty. There was no way she was having our kid without any medication.

By 9:00 she was hanging on my shoulders and wincing in pain. It was never consistent, so we weren’t too sure what to think. I was annoyed. I wanted to go to sleep. I had been up since 5:00 AM and these fake labor pains were keeping us awake. I said, “we’re either going to the hospital or I’m going to bed.” (Yes, I realize this whole interaction makes me look and sound like a complete jerk…). She wanted to go to the hospital.

I went upstairs and got ready to leave, came back down and then instead of getting in the car we decided we’d stay awhile longer. We couldn’t make up our mind. I had read somewhere that a bath helped with Braxton Hicks, so we agreed it would be a good next step. I went upstairs, started the water and then Hailey came up, but she didn’t get in the bath at all. She was already wet. Her water broke when she set foot in the bathroom.

The water breaking was a huge relief. Hailey’s pain supposedly worsened but I never knew. She was uncomfortable, but at least she knew that the baby was really coming right then, that night.

She sat on an exercise ball and I ran all over the house while tears flew down my face. We called the hospital and the doc had already called them saying we would be in later that night. Our parents were on their way. This was really it. The baby was coming.

I figured we’d be in for a long night. All our birth classes had told us to prepare for a marathon. Many of our friends have had kids; we had heard the stories. But none of them prepared me for what happened.

We got to the hospital just before 11:00 PM. Ella was born at 12:48 AM. All my thoughts and our disagreements about birth plans didn’t matter. There wasn’t time for them to. Nor was there time for drugs.

Hailey originally wanted me to be in the delivery room alone with her. She knew I was terrified so she asked our friend Amy, who is a nurse, to join me. Amy was in Indiana and wouldn’t have made it up from San Diego anyway, it was that fast.

Early in her pregnancy I told Hailey that I didn’t want to actually watch our daughter being born. I’d focus on her, coach her through the pain and keep my eyes above the imaginary curtain (the one that hides all the blood and other birth goo…). But I had to watch. Birth is unlike anything else I’d seen.

I cut the umbilical chord (twice), watched the doc clean up my beautiful and crazy tough wife and, after the initial skin to skin time with mom, stood in awe as my daughter squirmed and screamed under the lights of the warmer.

Ella was less than an hour old. I wandered over to Hailey and, as usual, the filter that is supposed to work between my brain and mouth didn’t. I brushed back her hair and said, “You were made for this. That was easy, when do we try for number two?”

To read Hailey’s perspective on Ella’s birth, click here.

Posted in birth, family, Fatherhood | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Countdown to Fatherhood: One Month

Thanks for the photos Mikey. www.prinephotography.com

Fatherhood. Over the last 8 months I’ve debated how much or how little I should write about becoming a dad. Hailey and I have read books, attended classes and spent a lot of time talking about the whats, hows and whys of our impending (and exciting) life change. We can’t wait to have this little girl.

BUT, I haven’t spent much time processing on paper. And I figured now—a month away from Kid Rohde’s due date—and the day after Father’s Day, was as good of a time as any to write down a few thoughts:

 

  1. Birthing Class—When I was in middle school, during sex ed, my teacher made me stand on top of the table and scream “penis” and “vagina” at the top of my lungs until I could do it without laughing. I was that kid. I’d like to think I’ve grown up, but I also felt like that dad in birthing class. I found myself laughing when no one else was, shaking my head at questions common sense should have answered and making faces when the videos got a little too graphic for post meal education. I look forward to being a dad, but I’m terrified of the whole birthing process—and I’m not even the one pushing the child through my body.
  2. Doctor’s Appointments—I wish my 8th grade teacher could see me now, walking into an OBGYN office like it’s normal. This has been one of my favorite parts of our pregnancy (which is weird to say, our pregnancy…I know I had something to do with it and I may even have a belly like I’m with child, but let’s be honest, men don’t get pregnant). Going to the doc’s office to ask questions, see how much Hailey’s stomach has grown and hear our daughter’s heartbeat has been unreal. I wouldn’t miss an appointment for anything. This is happening. That thing moving around, throwing off my wife’s hormones and stomping around on her bladder isn’t an alien or a thing at all, its not even an IT—she’s a little girl—our little girl.
  3. Fear—Every 5-6 hours I have a freak out moment. They wake me up in the middle of the night. “Can I really do this?” “Am I ready to be a dad?” I’ve always loved kids—I spent much of my career in family ministry because of it—but I could always send those kids back home after a few hours. What happens when home is your own house?  I’ve been told that the greatest test of trusting God is knowing that He loves your child more than you can or ever will. Conceptually and theologically, I get it. Practically, I say bull. I want to control every aspect of this kid’s life—from her actual birth to when she eats, sleeps, poops or begins to date (thirty sounds about right…). But I don’t get to. And that is frightening.
  4. “That’s Just Your Theory”—I’m convinced there are more theories about birthing practices and infant care than there are actual babies alive in the world today. With every birth, comes a new method—maybe we will paten the Rohde Method, it will pay for our daughter’s college tuition. Everywhere we turn someone mentions new approaches to feeding, ways of avoiding sicknesses and how we should create the perfect atmosphere for healthy development. At first we were like sponges soaking up as much as we could. Now we’re like the old grimy thing that has sat by your sink for 8 months. We can’t soak up anymore. We’ll try our best, but I can’t guarantee bits of old food won’t be spread all over the counter while we listen.

Thirty-One Days…

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Midwest Trip: Not Just a Check-list


Munster's Finest

Two goals down and one in site. Last weekend I trekked to Indiana with my dad for the Indy 500 and a Cubs/Padres game. Every time I visit the Midwest I think of what could have been. I’m thankful my parents moved to San Diego, but as I’ve gotten older my family’s ‘roots’ have grown increasingly important (more on that later). Here are the highlights of the trip:

Three Floyd’s BreweryThere is a world-class craft brewery blocks from where my mom grew up. I knew it was in the same town (Munster), but had no idea how close it was. Dad and I visited twice and everything we tried was excellent. My mom and sister don’t know this yet, but when they go back in a few weeks they’ll be bringing back a couple of bottles…

The Indy 500. The first goal knocked off my list.  It was great to be there with my dad. He was in his element and I got to peak into another piece of his childhood. He lit up during the pre-race festivities (which started the day before with a parade and museum visit)  and didn’t wipe the smile off his face till the race ended.

Dad got giddy when the Purdue band led out the Indy 500 parade.

Wrigley. List item #2. My grandpa (mom’s dad) was a big Cubs fan; I vaguely remember driving by Wrigley when I was a kid, but I had never been inside the ballpark. The Padres are terrible and the Cubs equally miserable, but Wrigley is unreal. The two worst teams in the NL playing and the place still sells out. We picked up the train about an hour outside of Chicago and it was full of fans decked out in Cubs gear. Real Fans. We went with our good family friend’s, Chris and Rusty, and sat in the shade about 25 rows behind home plate (thankfully in the shade). I’ve now been to Wrigley, Fenway, old Yankee stadium, Double Day Field, Angels Stadium, Dodger’s Stadium, AT&T (or whatever the Giants stadium is called) and Petco. Wrigley is definitely in my top three. There was only one downside to the entire experience, the face-to-face troughs in the men’s  bathrooms. It’s awkward enough standing right next to another guy while using an open communal bucket toilet, but there is something completly wrong about looking into someone else’s eyes while doing so. I know Wrigley has always been known for it’s adherence to tradition (there isn’t a jumbotron, very few advertisments and half the fans flipped when they got lights in 1988), but sometimes change is a good thing.

View from our seats

Meeting Uncle Clint/The Tuck Family. When I went to Indiana three years ago, I visited my grandfather Kiff’s grave (he died before I was born) and tried to see some of my dad’s old stomping grounds. I’ve always known a lot about my mom’s side of the family, but less about my dad’s. My dad has a twin who I had never met. I’m not going to get into details here, but spending time with my uncle helped to piece together quite a few things. We also visited my dad’s childhood next door neighbors, who still live in the same house. Mr. Tuck turns 100 this July. He fought in the Battle of the Buldge in WWII; I can’t imagine the stories he could share. Mrs. Tuck told all sorts of tales about my dad and the kids in the neighborhood. They talked about the time my dad had fallen behind the house, hit his head and needed stiches, about “hoop tennis” (a game I think they made up, but one that the Tuck’s still had the homemade equipment for in the garage) and the rides Mr. Tuck would give up and down the street with the kids hanging off the open tailgate.

I love my dad, but we are so incredibly different. He talks a ton, but rarely about his childhood.  This trip wasn’t just about checking things of a list, it was about exploring, digging into and learning about my dad’s (and our family’s) story.

Here’s a few more photos:

Radios & Cars: Pretty much sums up my dad.

Outside of Wrigley

"What does a mama bear on the pill have in common with the World Series? No cubs."

Posted in family, Indiana, sports, Travel | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Birthday Reflection: 31 (2012)

Last Friday I turned 31. I spent some of the day reflecting on where I had been in the last year and where Hailey and I seem to be going in the not-so-distant future. When I turned 30 I wrote this and gave myself six goals to accomplish by the time I turn 35.

One year down, four to go. Let’s see how I’m doing.

  1. Become a Father—Check. In two months my daughter should take her first breath. Hailey has been a champ during pregnancy. It’s kinda funny how people keep reminding us that we are in for a big change. And it’s not so much the words spoken that make me laugh, but the tone that is used (like Hailey hasn’t been slowly growing a person inside her for the last 7+ months, but all of a sudden has a belly that hiccups, punches and kicks). It’s as if we haven’t been thinking, planning, praying and hoping for this for years. We know it will be different. We know we won’t sleep. The new normal is coming fast and I’m terrified. Terrified and excited all at the same time.
  2. Get back to (and maintain) a healthy weight—Still have work to do. Last year I wrote, “I’ve been told that a healthy weight is within 5-10 lbs of what you weighed when you graduated high school-I need to drop 20 lbs.” I came back from Malawi as heavy as I had been in a long time, started riding and going to the gym routinely, and dropped 10 lbs pretty quick. I still sit 20 lbs heavier than what I weighed 13 years ago.
  3. Publish a Book—Ha, had a lot of thoughts but WAY LESS time to write than I did last year. Still a goal, but seems as far fetched as #6 below.
  4. Go to a game at Wrigley Field—Check (well, almost). My pops and I are heading out to the mid-west next weekend. The Padres are in town the same weekend as the Indy 500.
  5. Go to the Indy 500 with my dad—Check (almost again). See above. Dad’s turning 60 in

    birthday bike ride

    June this year. Having a bit of an eary celebration by returning to his roots.

  6. Cycle across a country—hahahahahaha. Still a dream. First I’ll have to get to the point
    where I’m riding multiple times a week again. Baby steps, right? In fact, looking at these goals has convinced me it’s time for a birthday ride…

Three out of six in just over a year isn’t bad, but I’ve got a ton of work to do (on top of being a pastor, learning to be a dad, etc…it should be easy right?).

 

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Holy Week & The Easter Prayer

Prayer at Chamatao C.C.A.P.

I have to be honest. When Hailey and I agreed to go to Malawi last year I prayed a prayer that my mind knew was wrong but my heart rationalized as okay. You know the type—one of those childish conditional prayers. They’re what we pray when we’re in trouble, in need of something in a hurry or (as it was in our case) about to make a big life decision; Lord if I do this for you, then you’ll do something for me.  Or maybe it’s, God if you do this for me, than I promise I’ll…

I prayed, “Lord. If Hailey and I go to Malawi for a year, you’ll need to give me a job and my wife needs to be pregnant soon after we get home. That’s my price. Deal?” It was as if going to Malawi was a giant sacrifice, a price I’d pay to get what I wanted.

It’s a prayer that our consumerist society teaches as valid. But it’s terrible theology. God honoring the cravings of my heart today [I have a job and Hailey is pregnant] is not some sort of reward for an “offering” I made last year. It has more to do with surrendering my will to His.

The idea that God’s providence can and should be changed because of something we do or a demand we make shrinks faith down to a controllable bargaining tool. Scripture tells us that, while showing an abundance of grace, God punishes those who fall away from his will and changes the understanding of success for those who learn to live under it. We don’t teach it enough, but consequences for actions are rampant in the Bible—just because the punishment doesn’t completely fit the crime [grace] doesn’t mean there isn’t significant damage and pain when we fall away from God’s plan.

I had a professor in college that messed up my understanding of prayer. He believed that the only valid prayer was for the revelation of God’s will. Praying anything else would belittle God’s role as God and our role as humans.  In praying thy will be done, we seek to align with what God’s desires are for our individual and corporate lives. God’s heart for the world remains primary and our own longings secondary. It helps to give us a “big picture” prayer mentality.

Jesus’ words in the Garden of Gethsemane are the perfect example of this prayer.

My father, if there is any other way. Get me out of this. But please, not what I want. What you want.

This prayer is extremely difficult when we long for something or someone, and God doesn’t answer the prayer the way we would have hoped.

In many ways, Dr. McCant was a crazy old man—the most unorthodox Nazarene I’ve met (he also made bold statements like, “if my Rabbi isn’t going to heaven then neither am I!”). He had one of those brilliant minds that didn’t always equate to brilliant teaching. I often walked out of his class confused, with less understanding than I had when I arrived (then again, maybe that was his whole point?). At the very least, a year in his class taught me to think before I pray.

Thanking God for providing is different than boasting to Him about what we have earned, praying for victory is completely different than praying for our enemies, and saying “God is good” has little to do with our current life circumstance (it’s a statement of God’s Sovereignty, His good and perfect plan. One we often can’t see or explain). My “Malawian sacrifice” taught me these things. God didn’t need me there; I needed to be there. I needed the lesson in obedience.

It’s Holy Week. Followers of Christ should be in deep prayer. As you reflect on what happened during this week years ago, I’d hope you’d do so focused on a will that’s not your own. Sometime, before easter egg hunts and caserole consumption ask yourself these questions. What’s on your agenda that needs to be set aside in order to get inline with what God is doing in the world? How does your story need to be altered so you can play a bigger part in His? And, are you trying to pray your will into God’s plan or are you praying His will would become yours?

 

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