Friday, March 30, 2007

Saying Grace, Part 2

“Not yet, Henry—we haven’t prayed yet!” This seems to be an everyday occurrence. It’s hard to convince a 4 ½ year old boy to take time out of his arrow shooting, worm digging, and Lego building for a meal, so when he does finally sit down, he’s ready to eat right now, and usually goes for something before we pray.

Like any good two and a half year old, Harmony chimed in, “Why?”

Hmm…good question, Harmony. I answered, “Because we have to say thank you to God before we eat, because we trust that what He’s given us is great!”

I don’t know if that answer had any impact on my kids—Henry went for a gulp of juice to wash down the cracker before we prayed. But it did impact me. I’ve been very challenged in understanding prayer. Last Wednesday our small group discussed Mark 10:22-24:

“Have faith in God," Jesus answered. "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

This was a very challenging passage for me—I had just asked for the mountain of my potential miscarriage to be thrown into the sea, for the fetuses to be given God’s heart, for God’s hand to knit them correctly in my womb…and it didn’t happen.

I still don’t have answers for all the whys associated with the miscarriage, but my conversation with Henry helped me grasp believing before you’ve received it—we give thanks for our dinner before we have eaten it because we know that God is a good and gracious Father, who will give us bread and not stones to eat. I need to be thankful that God will provide for my needs, even if it’s not in the way that I want. Paul echoes this sentiment in Philippians 4:6: but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Lord, help me to trust you—trust you enough to give thanks before the prayer is answered…or not answered.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Saying Grace, Part 1

Come Lord Jesus,
Be our guest,
Let these gifts,
To us be blessed,

I grew up in a Lutheran household, and this was the prayer we said before every meal. What I’ve never understood is why the prayer before the meal is called grace.

But one thing I’ve learned from saying grace all these years is that what should follow grace is eating of the meal. How strange would it be if I asked to be excused immediately after saying grace?

But sometimes I see that happen in the church. We ask for grace, but when we get it, we don’t allow it to transform our lives, to live by faith and not by sight. I think it’s a great loss—by overemphasizing grace and de-emphasizing works, it’s like asking to be excused before the meal is served.

I wanna stay for dessert, Lord. Show me how to receive grace and let it empower me to be your hands and feet to those around me.

Monday, March 26, 2007

A broken clay pot

That’s me today. I think I cried during the whole church service—and of course, I was out of tissues. But God has not abandoned or forsaken me.

Last night I was searching for a Bible verse to put in a baby shower gift—the verse for all new parents: “I tell you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.” I knew it was in Corinthians or Thessalonians somewhere, but couldn’t quite remember exactly where. So I started flipping through those chapters, and this verse caught my eye:

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:20

That’s been me for the last month. On February 23, we went in for a routine ultrasound to determine a due date for my pregnancy. We were surprised to discover that not only were there two, but that they measured much smaller than we expected—6 weeks instead of 9 or 10 weeks, and no heart beat (which isn’t surprising in fetuses that young—it usually shows up between 6 and 7 weeks). Those dates meant that I had a positive home pregnancy test before I was pregnant. Well, with God all things are possible, so we prayed for a miracle, and scheduled another ultrasound for 9 days later. At the second US, there was no change…the fetuses hadn’t grown, the placenta was mis-shapen, and there was evidence of bleeding between the placenta and uterus. A classic missed miscarriage.

The doctor gave us two options—expectant management, where we waited for my body to expel everything on its own, or a D&C to remove it surgically. We opted for expectant management. But what that meant was that I knew I was carrying around two dead babies—I felt like a graveyard. My womb is not supposed to be for death! After 2.5 weeks, still nothing had happened, so we scheduled a D&C.

But now I know what it feels like to “carry around death”. While I know that passage refers to death to self, I have a physical, tangible object lesson of what carrying around death feels like.

I’m not sure how this reveals Christ, but I am trying to use this experience as an opportunity to testify of his goodness and glory, especially to my biochemistry students. Although it was very hard, I told my students what was going on. I began class by showing a chromosome undergoing recombination, an essential part of forming sperm and eggs. I talked about the miracle of birth, and that it’s amazing that this biochemistry ever works…and that sometimes it doesn’t. I know my voice was shaking, but somehow I made it through, and managed to compose myself to give a lecture on the topic for the day. I’m definitely just a clay pot, formed by the master Potter, but I hope, somehow, in my interaction with those students, I’ve encouraged them to contemplate the miracle of life and the Creator that made them.

God, I feel really broken right now—shine your light through all my cracks, so that you may be revealed through me.