Georgette Heyer, Confrontation, and Warriors

I just read a new book recently, “The Foundling” by Georgette Heyer. Regency Romance fluff. Except it wasn’t a romance. It was about a young man, a Duke, who was orphaned at birth, raised by his doting uncle and his staff and now, as a young man is finding his very protected, cosseted position rather suffocating. He wants to go out in the world and prove that he can actually take care of himself without the help of all of his faithful retinue. A coming of age type book. With a lot of humor. The main character is Gilly and he is a slight, short, gentle type, not very remarkable in his looks, but very kind. He is raised with an older cousin Gideon who is tall, handsome, muscular, in the Life Guards, fought in the war, and very fond of his little cousin. Gideon helps his cousin take off on an adventure, but later discovers the adventure got a bit too dangerous so he sets off to save the day. But when he arrives he discovers that his little cousin has already saved himself and has jumped head first into a whole new set of mishaps that he handily manages on his own. Several times Gideon is ready to jump in and help, but learns along with everyone else that his little cousin is very capable of taking care of himself and does not need the level of protection he’s used to offering. 

Ok. Sorry, long summary. There is a point. In the story Gideon was my favorite character. He was a protector. Capable. Everyone is safe when he’s around. I’ll come back to this in a second. 

Lately my foster parent life has been fraught with conflict. I have had to stand my ground in conversations with lawyers and angry persons and people who are just trying to stir up conflict because that’s the only world they know. I have had to be confrontational about wrongs done and I’ve had to deal with some really difficult topics. Y’all, that is not me. In the dictionary there is a picture of me next to the word nonconfrontational. I hate conflict of any kind. I hate people being angry. I hate awkwardness. And in one sense, this is good. I do not jump into fights, I diffuse them. I need peace at all times. And if I don’t have peace, I feel like I have done something wrong. But God has been showing me that a lot of times I avoid conflict and end up with unresolved problems that just fester under the surface and get worse. I don’t confront people, but maybe there are some things that need to be confronted. So that justice can happen, or maybe simply growth of character. I am having to learn that conflict is not my enemy. I am just at the baby steps of learning this, but it seems like God is throwing all kinds of situations my way so that I can get some practice. 

Back to Gideon. I have been wanting a Gideon to just show up in my life and slay the enemy. Run interference. Fix the problem. I am obviously too small and slight and weak to have to be handling this. 

This morning during our worship service I was still a ball of nerves from the latest confrontation and I was crying out to God for help. Protection. Why are you letting all these things come my way, why aren’t you keeping all this craziness far away from me? And while I was praying and singing I got a brief vision. It was me and I was all dressed up in shiny armor with a big shiny sword and I was battling some unseen enemy. And the thought that came to me was, you don’t need a warrior to protect you, you are the warrior and you are one protecting others. And I was looking at this person and thinking, that’s not me, I’m just a weakling, but then I could see that everything I was doing was being powered by the Holy Spirit, like a lightning bolt just resting on me, feeding me power. 

A little later I suddenly remembered this book “The Foundling”  again and I realized that I had missed the whole point of the book. The whole point was that Gilly had been trained and taught by his Uncle and all his various tutors and teachers and he was ready to go out and face the world. And when he did, he slayed all his enemies and proved himself Capable and Resourceful, ready to be his own person. He didn’t need Gideon to be his protector any more. 

I admit, I do not like the idea of myself being the warrior. Safety and protection are a big deal to me, but Ephesians 6:10-17 talks about putting on the full armor of God. Paul seems to be talking to everyone. Not just the men. Not just the strong people. Not just the pastors. Everyone. Everyone needs to put on the full armor of God and be ready to stand. 

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12

I appreciate the leadership of my husband in our home and the protection he gives to our family. I appreciate the leadership and spiritual protection that our pastors give to our local church body. But I was called to join the struggle too. Walk in that Holy Spirit power and fight. Fight with prayer. Fight with truth. Fight with confronting wrong and standing up even when it makes me uncomfortable and awkward and longing for someone else to just come in and take over for me. 

Onion Zucchini Blueberry Muffins

The other day I made blueberry muffins for breakfast. Not really as a treat, but more because I was out of cereal and bagels and I didn’t feel like making oatmeal. I started getting everything out and was almost instantly surrounded by children all wanting to “help”.

Ok.

Fine.

My three youngest hovered around me, fetching milk and eggs, holding the measuring cup while I poured stuff into it. Everyone wanted to stir. An argument broke out on who was going to lick the spoon. Usually, I dump a can of pumpkin into my muffins, but I suddenly remembered that I had a ziploc bag of shredded zucchini in the fridge that would go great in muffins. I grabbed the ziploc bag out of the fridge and started dumping it into the batter. 

There was an instant outcry.

What are you doing??? What is that?? Why are you putting it into the muffins!

And then a cry went out to all the other kids, MOM’S PUTTING WEIRD STUFF IN THE MUFFINS!! And then more kids gathered around to see what on earth mom was doing. 

Relax guys. It’s like zucchini bread. Remember zucchini bread?? It’s good. You like it. You won’t even taste it in the muffins.

Good grief. 

Ok, so that is what was coming out of my mouth. But in my head I was having a freak-out meltdown. Because, as I was dumping that zucchini in the batter I had got a strong whiff of onions. And I suddenly remembered that when I had been grating that zucchini in my food processor, the night before, I had been grating it in order to add it to soup. And I had also been processing onions. And I hadn’t bothered scraping out the food processor in between veggies, cause it was all going into the soup. Except I ended up with too much zucchini, so I just stuck the leftover into a ziploc, all mixed up with onions. And now I had just dumped zucchini/onions into my blueberry muffin batter. And I was now having to defend my choice loudly to my children. 

I always put some cinnamon sugar on top of the muffin batter before I bake it. 

Let me tell you, I heaped on the sugar this time. (Maybe if it’s super sweet, no one will taste onions??). 

I stuck those things in the oven and then went and collapsed in my room. Away from children. Feeling depressed. What a way to start the day. 

Mess up breakfast. 

Cause let me tell you, these kids were already feeling suspicious about the zucchini. They were already on hard-alert, ready to find anything wrong that they could. And now there was actually something wrong to find. 

The timer finally went off and I pulled my beautiful onion zucchini blueberry muffins out of the oven. They looked delicious. I sent off a heartfelt prayer. Lord, you are a miracle worker and your miracles don’t have to be big and extravagant. Could you please, just let these muffins taste fine and not taste like onions??? 

And prayers were answered. They tasted great. The kids loved them. They went back for thirds. 

And now you are probably feeling very hesitant to eat anything I make. And all I can say about that is, you’re probably right to be cautious. 

Follow me for more creative ways to mess up when cooking. 

The Sufferings of Christ

It’s been a long, painful week. Stuff happened. As it seems want to do. 

I live in my imagination a lot, and what I imagined at the beginning of the week was myself, a gunshot wound to my chest, bleeding all over, entering into the throne room of God and just collapsing on the floor in front of him. No words to say. Just, here I am. Here’s what shape I’m in.  And while I was laying there imagining this, the phrase that came to my mind was, “Enter into the sufferings of Christ”. 

I’ve been thinking about that phrase all week. My imaginary hole in my chest has been bound, wrapped up in bandages. Healing medicine poured over it. I’m still walking slowly and carefully, feeling very fragile, but I’m whole. And I keep circling back. What does that mean? Why do I have to enter into the sufferings of Christ? What is the point? 

My prayer over the years has been, make me more like you Jesus. More of you, less of me. I admit, when I say that, what I mean is, I want to be more loving, more patient, more kind, more selfless, etc. I was not thinking of these verses from Isaiah 53, verse 3 and 4:

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.

Familiar with pain. Took up our pain. Bore our suffering. 

No, I was definitely not thinking about that when I said I wanted to be more like Jesus. 

My husband and I have done some soul searching this week. Questioning some of our choices. If a choice leads to pain and suffering then it has to be wrong, right? But I keep coming back to the fact that we made these choices because we felt it was an obedience to God and what the Bible teaches. And it still led to suffering. And that kind of hurts the brain.  

Enter into the sufferings of Christ. In doing this, does this mean that I am becoming more like Jesus? Not only sharing in his joy and love but in his pain and suffering?

When I hit my crisis it wasn’t long before I turned to one of my friends for help and comfort. And yes, she’s a close friend so I would have turned to her first anyway, but it was so much more meaningful because I knew she had been in a similar situation to mine. She could empathize and give good counsel. She had already suffered through this and could meet me exactly where I was at. And she was kind of a physical Jesus to me in my sufferings. Only possible because she had suffered herself. Does suffering make us more able to be the hands and feet of Jesus? 

Through all of this, I can testify. God is faithful. He heals the brokenhearted. He breathes hope on my soul. When I am at my lowest, I find his presence the strongest. The Holy Spirit has been faithful to whisper scripture in my ear that has kept me from falling into anger or judgement. 

Funnily enough, God was gracious enough to allow me to get Covid this week. Yeah, who needs covid? But, because of that I have been able to cancel a multitude of appointments, completely clear my schedule and just have time to rest and process. I’m still getting better, but my husband only had to take one day off to take care of the kids and household before I had enough energy to cover the basics again. 

Enter into the sufferings of Christ. I’m still figuring out what this means, but what I do know is that it is a journey that makes me more like Him. And that is what I want. 

His Terms, Not Ours

Today I’ve been thinking about living life with Jesus on his terms, not mine. I’ve been thinking about the fact that there is no flexibility or compromise when it comes to the Christian walk.

There is a common myth that all roads lead to heaven. All gods are the same god, just called different names, or a good God will take me as I am, no religious affiliation necessary. But Jesus said very differently. 

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

No compromise. His terms, not ours. 

In the Lord’s prayer we are taught, by Jesus, to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” 

God’s will. Not ours. 

I think, as an adult, one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with is watching God not handle things the way I think they should be handled. Even after I pray and lay out to God a perfect way for dealing with a situation and what I think would be a perfect outcome, he keeps not taking my advice and doing it his way instead. Where’s the compromise??? Surely it should be done my way sometimes? But instead I have the whisper of what Jesus prayed in the garden, “Not my will but yours be done…”

Scriptures says, 

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12:1

We offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God, and this is what is pleasing to him. This does not evoke pictures of two businessmen sitting at a conference table hashing out a deal. In fact, it reminds me of when I was a kid and my parents made some pronouncement that my brother and I didn’t like and we said, but This is a Democracy! We have rights! And the answer was, actually, no, this is not a democracy, it is an autocracy. 

Many different places in the Bible God is described as a potter, we his creation. Isaiah 45:9 asks, “ ‘Does the clay say to the Potter, what are you making?’ ” 

As Americans we have little experience with authority and submission. Our society is based on equality. No one is better than the next person. We all make decisions as a group. We have leaders but their job is to do the will of the people, not their own will. It is a sign of weakness to not “be your own person” who is in complete control of your own life and who makes all important decisions for yourself. And then we become Christians and we get confronted with this verse, 

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9:23

It doesn’t sound like a very balanced power system. It sounds like sacrifice. Submission. Servanthood. Complete Faith. Trust. 

So un-American. So medieval. So repressed. 

But maybe, instead of making this amazing sacrifice of self-autonomy and status, what we are actually doing is leaving the pretend world. The world where God doesn’t exist and we self-created out of the atmosphere and we rule our own destiny. Maybe what we are doing is getting our eyes opened to true reality. The reality that God does exist and has always existed. The reality that God created us. The reality that without him we are nothing. The reality that our destiny and our eternal existence depends completely on him and his mercy and grace. And in this very real world, God is God and we are his creation. Potter-clay. Master-servant. Father-son. And we are called to live life out on his terms, not our own. And when we do, that is when we have peace, joy, love. A life that is truly worth living. 

What Can We Do?

This week I rolled out of bed when my alarm went off, grabbed my phone, scrolled through email, Facebook and the news (my version of a shot of caffeine for jerking myself awake). And then read that Ukraine had been invaded by Russia. I woke my husband up to tell him the news. And then sat there feeling numb. 

Now what? What does this mean for all the people in Ukraine? What does this mean for Russia? What does this mean for our country and the whole world? 

War. The ugliest word in human language. 

I have been trying to keep up with the news. I’ve been praying a lot. I’m starting to see ads pop up asking for money donations to help the coming refugees who are fleeing the war. And my cynicism pokes through. How many of these sites are legitimate? Who do I trust? Yes, I can send a little bit of money, but who do I send it to? 

I’ve seen videos of protests, people singing the Ukrainian national anthem. Most of this is taking place in Europe. Understandably. And I’m starting to see a bit of the guilt-throwing starting to happen. All you happy people sitting by, doing nothing, while others are suffering. Shame on you. 

And I wonder, what can we do? I have lost all hope that my government is interested in hearing my opinion. And I feel like I am just helplessly sitting by, waiting for the people with power to figure out what to do. 

I wish there was a checklist. This is the human response required when war breaks out in the world. 

  1. Do x
  2. Do y
  3. Do z

And then we would all know what we are supposed to be doing and we could go about doing it. But it doesn’t exist. And so we each have to figure out what we are required to do. The people in Ukraine have a totally different set of tasks they have to do as compared to people in the nieghboring countries, as compared to people in Russia, as compared to people in authority, as compared to people far away with no authority. 

And so, as with all things, we each have to figure out for ourselves, what we can do to help. And pray for those who have more power or opportunities to help. 

If I had the power to stop this war, I would. If I was close at hand and had any opportunity to help those in need, I would. As it is, I have a little money I can send to help refugees. I can pray. And I can continue to keep my eyes and ears open to see if there is anything else I can do. 

Sweet Peace, where dost thou dwell? I humbly crave,

Let me once know.

I sought thee in a secret cave,

And ask’d, if Peace were there,

A hollow wind did seem to answer, No:

Go seek elsewhere …

George Herbert “Peace”

Walking a Hard Road

We’ve got a meeting at the end of this week to discuss the reunification of our foster daughter with her birth family. 

There are a lot of emotions going on right now. On the one hand, this morning as we drove to school, I prayed for each of our family members and for our foster daughter’s family as well. Which we have been doing for two years. And I had the thought, Why are you surprised that prayers are being answered? Except, if I’m being honest, those prayers were more for the benefit of my foster daughter than because I had any faith. Anger and unforgiveness has kind of made me only able to make a blanket prayer, God be with them. But at the same time, I’m proud of her birth family. It’s been a long hard road and they’ve worked hard to overcome some really big obstacles. 

When I’m dealing with some big tantrums and crazy behavior, I find myself thinking, Well, at least this will no longer be my responsibility. But then sweet moments happen and I think, what is our family going to look like without this child smack in the middle always stirring things up? And I worry about my other kids’ grief that they will have to process. 

And I wonder, how on earth are we going to come up with a smooth transition that will produce the least amount of trauma? How much assistance do I offer to make this easier for my daughter? How much assistance will hinder her bonding back with her family? How do I make sure she knows, beyond all doubt, that I will always love her and I am always going to be her mom, and I’ll always be here for her if she needs me? How do I step back from primary caregiver to friend of the family? 

I don’t know. 

I have no regrets. But I hate this. 

I’m sitting here in my living room while I write this and I looked out the window and saw a bunch of birds swooping through the early morning gray sky. This verse came to mind. 

Matthew 10:29-31  Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

This is what I have to cling to in faith. That Jesus loves my foster daughter even more than I do and he has his hand on her life. My job is to say yes to whatever love and care God needs me to offer this child, but I also have to let go when he says it’s time to let go. Though maybe not a complete release, just a loosening of my hold. 

I try to look forward into the future, and fear shows me all the things that could go wrong. But faith requires me to stay in the moment. Right now what am I required to do? I’m required to give her birth family another chance. And I’m required to walk with them through this process. I don’t know how it’s going to turn out, but I know what I have to do today. 

All prayers are appreciated as we walk this road. 

No More Christianese, Please

Lately I have really been struggling with “Christianese” . These are the set platitudes that Christians murmur to each other all the time, catch phrases that we say without giving much thought to the meaning. “God has really blessed you!” “I’m believing God for a miracle!” “You just need to press in and pray!” 

I am “blessed” because my husband recovered quickly from Covid. What about those who lost their husbands to covid? Are they Not blessed? I am “believing God for a miracle”. And then the miracle doesn’t show up. Must be because you didn’t believe enough? I see that you are really struggling in this area, you just need to press in and pray! And if you continue to struggle in this area it means that you have a bad prayer life and you just really aren’t a very spiritual person. 

I have this image of tapestry in my mind. And, this is not an original image to me, I’ve read many illustrations about seeing life as a tapestry. But here we are staring at the bottom side of the tapestry and everything is backwards and messy looking. We can’t see the other side where the beautiful picture is being made. And I feel like we have everything backwards. 

What if someone being miraculously healed, saved from the brink of death, is actually not the great prize we see it as. Think about a Christian who knows they are going to one day be walking face to face with Jesus, living in paradise. They’re at death’s door, and they are miraculously saved. It almost seems like a big let down. Oh great. I was hoping that my work on earth was finished and I could finally go get my reward, but instead now I have to wait even longer and do even more work. 

We pray for people to be saved from trials, but scripture tells us over and over again that it is during trials and tribulations that our faith grows, our maturity grows. We are refined, the dross is burned away. We are sanctified. But, in our upside down view of things, we see those trials as lack of blessing, lack of prayer, lack of faith. 

Can I just say, “Christianese” can be really offensive. When I am bowed down to the ground with depression, barely able to move and someone suggests to me that I just need to get into the word and pray more…that is not helpful. How about, I see that you are really struggling and I imagine prayer and Bible reading are really difficult right now. I just want you to know that I am standing in the gap for you and lifting you up in prayer. Here, I’ve written out this Bible verse for you, I hope it comforts you. Is there anything in the physical realm I can do to help you? Do you need help getting hooked up with a counselor or a therapist? Can I check in with you regularly so you know you are not alone? 

When my loved one is at death’s door, please don’t tell me that you believe God is going to heal them. What if he doesn’t? Is God still good if my loved one dies? Am I still loved and cherished if they die? Does their death signal a lack of blessing or protection? How about, I am praying night and day that God’s will be done in your loved one’s life and in your life. I am praying that you both have fresh revelation of how loved you are and how secure you are in God’s hands. Can I read Psalm 139 aloud to you? So we can be reminded how deeply and intimately God cares about every detail of your life? I am praying strength and peace for you! What can I do physically to help you? Meals? Help to get to appointments? Financial assistance? 

When I am going through trials and tribulations please don’t act like I have somehow fallen out of favor with God because I am going through these things. “I just need to pray more so that God will forgive me for whatever I did wrong and put me back on the Nice and Easy path that I crave.” How about some encouragement along the lines of, God must have some really important plans for your life because I can see how he is strengthening your faith, maturing you and refining you into an even stronger person than you were before. I can see how you are growing through these trials. I am praying for supernatural strength for you and praying that God will use these things to draw you even closer to him. How can I help you physically? Is there anything tangible I can do to ease your burden and let you know that you aren’t alone while you go through this hard situation? 

I know that every platitude that has been told me has been done in love and good intentions. I’m not mad when people say things that were meant to be helpful, but just aren’t. I see their heart, I know they care about me. But, we can do better guys. Let’s really think about what we say before we say it. 

Giving Testimony in the Messiness

A friend recently exhorted in his writing that we should give our testimony often. And it’s funny, because I had something good happen, and I thought, I should give testimony about that! But, then that something good twisted and ended up not being so great. And my desire to share kind of faded away. Because it didn’t turn out all smooth and neat the way I was hoping. It’s still messy. Still incomplete. Still a work in progress. But there is so much to give testimony about, especially in the messiness! 

Once again, it’s been a rough week. At one point in time, I felt like I had walked to the very edge of the abyss and was looking down at the sure promise of great sorrow and anguish. And I had no words to pray. I found my mind just repeating over and over again, Mercy Lord. Have Mercy. And the analytical side of my brain chimed in, “Why are you saying that over and over again?” and the parable that Jesus told about the widow who nagged the Judge for justice came to mind. I will nag and nag and nag until I get justice simply because the judge is tired of my nagging. Except it wasn’t justice I wanted. Just mercy. 

And God was merciful. In small measures. 

The situation is not resolved. I don’t have a tidy neat package where I can point and say, Look, a miracle! Isn’t God good! 

Instead I have the testimony that I am alive and moving. My children are alive and moving. Hope still reigns. I am still determinedly putting one foot in front of the other. The world is still turning. Night and Day are still happening. There is beauty in each day, along with sorrow. God’s word is still true. His promises still stand. 

And so I stand in the Assembly and give my testimony of God’s goodness to me today. My eternity is secure. I am not alone. And each day I move an inch or two closer to knowing more about God and his goodness. 

What is Your Calling?

Today is cleaning day, and shopping day, and laundry day, and remodel the upstairs bathroom day. It’s busy. I am pacing myself. Or at least that’s what I told my husband when he walked into our room and caught me reading a book. Pacing! Honest! 

I have found in this marathon called life, I have to go slow and steady. So, I had already cooked breakfast for the family, cleared the table, taken two daughters with me and done a week’s worth of grocery shopping, came home, unloaded the car, supervised groceries being put away, checked to make sure that the kids’ bedrooms got cleaned…it was time for a break. And eventually, I put the book down, supervised lunch, got that cleaned up, set everyone to work on cleaning their “zones” (everyone gets a room or area that they have to clean), checked progress on that, and now, it’s time for a break again. 

This kind of leads into what I’ve been thinking about. How should we let the chaos in our country affect our everyday lives? 

I’ve been observing on social media the different ways that people have been responding to the recent chaos. Some people have completely withdrawn. Deleted their accounts, either to set up in a new place or be done with it once and for all. Some people are ignoring the situation completely, posting fun memes and things designed to uplift the soul. (I appreciate these posts!) Some people are sharing intelligent articles or essays that explain their positions in well thought-out prose. And some people are just very angry and it leaks out in everything that they say and post. 

In the last couple years, I have made it a point to tell my kids that it’s ok to be angry. Being angry is normal. Sometimes things happen that deserve our anger. But, you have to be careful what you do with your anger. You need to find a safe way to vent your anger that doesn’t hurt other people. Mockery, derision, name-calling, screaming, hurting…these are not appropriate ways to deal with your anger. Or at least, that’s what I tell my kids. I sometimes kind of want to tell other people that too. 

All of us are different. We all have different callings on our lives. I think this is a really good time to have an understanding of what God has called you to do. Are you a protector, an educator, a prophet, a nurturer, a peacemaker? A politician? We all have our callings. Me? My day job is a homemaker. I am a peacemaker by nature. I seem to have an inclination towards interceding through prayer. I try to encourage people through my blog. I keep an eye on what’s happening on the political scene. I write letters to my representatives about issues that are important to me. 

I have come to the conclusion that the things that are happening in Washington DC are not in my sphere of influence. While I continue to pray for our country, LORD! Your kingdom come! Your will be done! I have not felt led to join a political party or try to convince other people to join my way of thinking. I have not been put in a position to affect the federal government in any way except through prayer and my vote, and an occasional letter to my Senator or Representative. That’s me. Everyone is different. 

My sphere of influence includes my family of eleven children. My husband. My home. The social workers and various therapists and lawyers I have met on our fostering journey. The teachers and staff at my kids’ schools. My church family. My blogging audience. My social media friends. This is the circle God has put me in. This particular circle does not need to hear my views on Trump and Biden. They need to hear that I love them, respect them, care for them. They need to hear that Jesus is always the answer. They need to hear that I am present in their lives and that I hope that I can help them in some way. 

This is my calling. 

So, how do I let the chaos in government affect my life? More time in prayer, and then focus on doing my calling to the best of my ability. It’s all I can do. 

Is Prayer Enough?

Have you all ever read Isaiah 58? The other day, I was moving things around in my dining room, and a Bible that had been on a side table was set on the dining room table. I went to eat breakfast and there was the Bible, lying open right where I usually sit and eat. How nice. I sat down and looked to see where it was open. Isaiah 58. I started reading. And it kind of felt like I was suddenly sitting in the Principal’s office being read the riot act. 

I will summarize. Basically, God says, I’m not interested in your fasting and praying if it’s not accompanied by acts of mercy and justice towards the people around you. 

I’ve been thinking about this a lot concerning our country. Before the upcoming election, and even throughout this momentous year, I have heard a lot of Christians, from all denominations and political stances, calling for prayer for our nation. I have often heard people quote, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, I will heal their land..” and then we are all called to pray for our country. Except that the verse they are quoting actually says, 

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

We seem to forget about that “turn from their wicked ways” part. Isaiah 58 gets pretty detailed about what God thinks of as “wicked ways”. 

Isaiah 58:6 -7

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

to loose the chains of injustice

    and untie the cords of the yoke,

to set the oppressed free

    and break every yoke? 

Is it not to share your food with the hungry

    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—

when you see the naked, to clothe them,

    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

I don’t believe it’s an either/or kind of thing. We’re not supposed to choose between fasting and prayer or social justice. One without the other is empty. I am not trying to put a yoke of condemnation on our shoulders. In this world where we are overwhelmed by all our responsibilities, being told that you should be out feeding the poor and lobbying for social justice, well that just feels heavy and impossible. But, saying, it’s too much, I can’t do it, is also a cop-out. 

Each of us has talents, gifts, and resources. We can use those to help those around us. We can send that extra spending money to a homeless shelter. If we have time to volunteer, there are endless possibilities. We can write letters. We can call our local government offices. We can serve people in our community through one-on-one relationships or through supporting others who have time for that one-on-one. For those moms with young children who are in the trenches and barely hanging on, you can befriend someone at your church who is new. Maybe reach out to another young mom who desperately needs fellowship and encouragement. For those who are housebound, you could write letters to people in prison, start researching the issues in your community, email people with influence. There is SO MUCH we can do! 

We all desire the grace of God on our country. But I am going to say that prayer is not enough. If we want to see changes in our country then we need to follow Jesus’ command to love your neighbor as yourself. God’s heart is for the homeless to be fed and sheltered, for the worker to earn a living wage, for people to be treated with love and respect. 

We are saved by grace through faith. Not by works, but when we have faith and grace, it should compel us to do works. 

James 2:14-17

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?  If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?  Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

I would like to suggest that while we are praying for our country, we also add to that prayer: God show me what I can do to help the homeless, the oppressed, those who are under a yoke. Show me specifically something I can do to help. 

In Jesus Name Amen. 

Here is Isaiah 58 if you are interested in reading the whole thing:

“Shout it aloud, do not hold back.

    Raise your voice like a trumpet.

Declare to my people their rebellion

    and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.

For day after day they seek me out;

    they seem eager to know my ways,

as if they were a nation that does what is right

    and has not forsaken the commands of its God.

They ask me for just decisions

    and seem eager for God to come near them.

‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,

    ‘and you have not seen it?

Why have we humbled ourselves,

    and you have not noticed?’

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please

    and exploit all your workers.

Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,

    and in striking each other with wicked fists.

You cannot fast as you do today

    and expect your voice to be heard on high.

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,

    only a day for people to humble themselves?

Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed

    and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?

Is that what you call a fast,

    a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

to loose the chains of injustice

    and untie the cords of the yoke,

to set the oppressed free

    and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry

    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—

when you see the naked, to clothe them,

    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn,

    and your healing will quickly appear;

then your righteousness[a] will go before you,

    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;

    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,

    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

10 

and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry

    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,

then your light will rise in the darkness,

    and your night will become like the noonday.

11 

The Lord will guide you always;

    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land

    and will strengthen your frame.

You will be like a well-watered garden,

    like a spring whose waters never fail.

12 

Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins

    and will raise up the age-old foundations;

you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,

    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

13 

“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath

    and from doing as you please on my holy day,

if you call the Sabbath a delight

    and the Lord’s holy day honorable,

and if you honor it by not going your own way

    and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,

14 

then you will find your joy in the Lord,

    and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land

    and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”

For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.