A Prayer for Texas

I woke up this morning in middle Tennessee to thunderclaps and lightning bolts. It’s the start of the week, time to get moving, time to go to work, time to be productive, and the absolutely last thing I wanted to do was leave my bed.

I felt the Lord immediately press upon my heart to pray. Pray for all the people in Texas affected by Hurricane Harvey. All these people who have zero control over the weather, the flooding, what happens to their homes. It’s so tempting for me to think, Ugh what a rainy and dreary day. Or to worry that my Labor Day weekend travel plans will be disrupted.

Well, God woke me up from that temptation right away. I watched video after video last night, and I couldn’t get the images of the storm, the water, and those helpless people out of my head. Looking at that, all I can do is thank God for my dry, clean apartment. For electricity. For food and running water. For a life that’s pretty darn untouched.

And so I prayed.

“God, help these people. Help every single person touched by this hurricane. Keep them safe. Spare their lives. Provide security and relief, Father.

Give them a way out if they need it, God. I hate seeing these images and videos of such destruction. Utter devastation. Our brothers and sisters are hurting.

But God this storm is yet another indication that we live in a broken world. This earth is not our home. Lord, you sent your son Jesus Christ—who was perfect in every way—to walk this place, to die the death we deserve, and to rise so that we might have eternal life if we believe.

I pray that this storm would draw people to You. I pray they would seek Your face. Redeem and restore them, God. Give them hope when it feels like there is none. I pray as they pick up the pieces of their lives, as they rebuild after the storm, that they build on You as the foundation.

The winds and rain come, but God, You weather every storm.

You give hope to the hopeless. You are unshakeable, immovable, everlasting.

I pray we unite as a country to help our brothers and sisters in Texas. Give us hearts to serve, to donate, to mobilize. Give us the will to pray with total trust in you, to cry out to You.

Comfort the hurting, Lord. Strengthen them and renew them in Your powerful and mighty name! You alone can do it. You will do it. You are doing a new thing. And we know that nothing is impossible with You, God.

Come swiftly, Lord.

Bring healing, hope, redemption, love.

It’s in your precious and holy name I pray.

Amen.

 

If you're looking for a way to contribute to Hurricane Harvey relief, please consider making a donation to or serving with the North American Mission Board. One hundred percent of every dollar given goes directly to aid efforts. Be part of Christ's love in action. And please continue to pray.


If you want to talk more about Jesus Christ and faith and what-the-heck-is-all-this-stuffshoot me a message. I love meeting new people, whether virtually or in person, and gabbing about life. 

And if you'd like to know more of my story, you can read my testimony here.

Truly, He makes beautiful things.

The Moment My Eyes Were Opened

She had dark black bruises around both eyes. Her hair hung limply around her face. Her clothes were the indistinguishable black of every other New Yorker. She sat at the foot of the subway steps, with her back against the wall. Her son lie with his head down in her lap. I never saw his face. He was either asleep, or perhaps too tired or sick to sit up. In fact, if you walked by them fast enough, you would not have even known he was there. He was a small lump that could have passed for a rumpled-up blanket. Until you saw his shoes. His little sneakers gave him away.

It was this woman’s eyes that struck me. Those espresso-colored eyes with their awful bruises underneath. They glanced up at me with a look of utter exhaustion, as if even the slow movement of her eyeballs up toward me was painful. She didn’t have to speak to methis look said more than her words ever could. She was despondent, hurt, defeated.

I stepped to her side, out of the continual flow of foot traffic up and down the subway stairs. I reached into my purse to pull out my wallet. I handed her a $5 bill and for a split second, her eyes lit up with the recognition that someone saw her. Someone stopped.

“God bless you. God bless you. God bless you,” she said to me.

I touched her hand. I nodded and gave her a small smile as I fought back tears.

I stepped away and walked up the stairs, ascending into a gorgeous fall evening in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in all of the city. No sooner did my feet hit the sidewalk before the tears came. Hot, wet crocodile tears streaming down my face.

I wept. I wept for this woman. For her son. For all the broken, the lost, the hungry. And for a few blocks, I couldn’t stop.

Streams of people continued all around me. I am sure someone saw me crying, but I let the tears flow freely. I realized I normally wouldn’t have even seen this woman, but on this night, she was put in my path. On this night, I had gotten off the subway at a different stop than my usual. I had planned to walk the rest of the way home while talking on the phone to my best friend.

As I began walking and dialed my friend’s number, the tears were still coming. I had a hard time catching my breath as I explained to her what had happened.

It’s okay; they’re good tears. Well, no, they’re really not good, but I’m okay. I’m sad.

There’s such brokenness in this world, Em. People are hurting. It is so hard, and I don’t know what to do.

A five-dollar bill created such a look of relief in this woman’s face. With five dollars, she and her son could each ride the subway one way. Or they could go to the McDonald’s down the street and buy two McDoubles, two sodas, and Chicken McNuggets off the Dollar Menu. But that’s it. Transportation or food. One or the other.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
— Galatians 6:2

And yet she looked at me like I had given her the world.

Please hear me: This post is not my way of urging you to donate money, or to donate more money. This is not me patting myself on the back for helping this woman. This is me confessing how little I do to help. I don’t stop for each homeless person. I don’t volunteer at a shelter. I don’t often pray for them. I didn’t even understand the importance of tithing until recently. I am a good person, but I know I can do better. We can all do better.

Once I walked away from this woman, I immediately regretted not doing something more. Why didn’t I offer to take her to a women’s shelter, or take her to eat a real meal? I didn’t even tell her I would pray for her, or that she has a Father who loves her very much. Because when I looked in her eyes, all I could do was cry. Seeing my fellow human being in such a state really shook me.

It's so easy for me to complain about my life. I grumble about not feeling fulfilled in my career. I worry about my future and my finances. I stress about my social life and freelance work and finding time to fit it all in. Meanwhile the crestfallen and hopeless are literally lying at my feet.

It hurts to see a person in such brokenness because we are not meant to live like that. We weren’t designed for suffering. But we live in a fallen world, and suffering thrives.

He raises up the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them He has set the world.
— 1 Samuel 2:8

My hope rests in the new earth, a time when suffering will be no more, when peace and joy will reign throughout. I am so very grateful to our God who provides that and who has adopted us into His kingdom.

But while I’m still here, on this earth and in New York City, what can I do?

There are almost 60,000 homeless people in NYC alone. It’s overwhelming. I pray that the Lord would open my eyes to one person who I can help. To put one person in front of me. One person who I can have a relationship with, who I can pray for, and who I can extend more than a $5 bill.

Maybe this woman is my person.

In that moment, my eyes were opened. If I see her again, I will talk to her. I will let her know that she is not alone. I will do what I can to get her and her son to safety. Most importantly, I will pray. Whether I see her again or not, she is still out there, still wounded and hurting.

Father, protect her and her son. I pray that you provide food for them to eat and a safe, warm place to rest their heads. I pray they would know you and find hope in you. And Father, I ask that you cultivate a heart of gratitude in me. Help me respond to the plight of others around me in however you enable me to do so. Help me to take action. Make us a city of doers, Lord. A city that believes in spreading kindness and humanity toward our fellow neighbors. Give us your strength to fight for our brothers and sisters, God. Make us more like Your Son, and help us remember His love and His mercy knows no bounds. Thy will be done. I pray all these things through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Faith Beyond Understanding

I'm an avid journaler. My favorite way to start the day is with a cup of coffee and my pen in hand. I write my thoughts, my feelings, my experiences, and my conversations with The Lord. I'm on my fourth journal this year. When I write, I write.

Writing has been such a refuge for me. It allows me to come to a better understanding of who I am in Christ, and it helps me to communicate with Him. It is also a way for me to see how He answers my prayers when I begin to doubt. And, let me tell you, I’m all too quick to doubt God and his provision.

It's much easier for me to trust God when my life feels like it's in order. When things are going according to the way I envision them and the way I want them, then I praise God and trust that He wants what is best for me. When I'm facing challenges or trials, I tend to ask God why: Why do I have to deal with this, why are you doing this, and how can this possibly be for my good?

In looking back on my journals, though, I can often see how things that hurt or disappointed me in the moment are actually for good. Take, for example, this prayer that I wrote down in May:

"Father, I ask that you remove my desire to control. Help me to surrender. You've helped me in that before, but there are still things I am holding tightly that I surrender to you: my job, my apartment, my finances, my relationship. Father, I ask for continued fruit of patience in my life. I desire you above all else—let that sentiment saturate my daily existence!

I pray you keep protecting me and my heart, and this relationship. Let us into each other's messes and grant us the wisdom to support one another through it. I pray for trust and showing our true, broken selves to each other, Lord. And knowing that we find perfection in you."

I asked God to specifically reveal any brokenness in my relationship with my boyfriend.

And a mere three days after I prayed that, we broke up.

God definitely let us into each other's messes. He definitely revealed brokenness. I believe He protected me, too.

The Lord is working for our good. And ultimately He’s working to bring glory to His name here on earth. He's making everything fit into His plan. Not our plan. His.

Nothing is a surprise to God. He knows me and my life more intimately than anyone else. He sees the whole picture, from beginning to end, while I see just a tiny frame. I take a snapshot and then think I know the whole story. I don't. None of us do.

But as a wise friend told me: God wants our faith more than our understanding.

I mean, there it is. We walk by faith, not by sight, right?

It’s not about me.

It’s not about what I want.

It’s not about what I think I need.

It’s not about my time or my place or my feelings.

It's about God.

It's all about God.

God is doing what it takes to bring His purpose to pass. Sometimes I doubt Him because I don’t know what that purpose is. I can’t quite hear Him. I just want my life to look like a scene from the Old Testament. I want God’s voice to ring so loudly in my ears that it hurts. I want to see a burning bush on the side of the street. I want Him to part the Hudson River. I want A SIGN, and I want to know exactly what to do and why things are happening as they are.

The Lord is giving us subtle signs of His answers all the timesometimes that answer is a resounding no. We have to be ready to accept that the answers can (and probably will) look very different than the ones we imagined. We have to trust He has a reason for that. I was watching Friday Night Lights this weekend and one of the characters says to her son, “When God closes a door, he opens a window.” Pretty solid truth for a one-hour NBC drama.

With God, truly all things are possible. He replies to our prayers in the smallest ways every single day. Through the conversations we engage in. Through the people we pass by on the streets. Through each decision we makeor don’t.

Faith means that we won’t always understand His reply, and still we believe. Yes, I can look back on my journals and see how certain prayers have been answered in sweet, unexpected ways. There are plenty of other instances, though, when I look back and I don’t recognize God’s goodness. I don’t understand.

I am beginning to see God’s grace in that. Even when I don’t get it, even when I feel more distant than ever, I can confidently say that He hears us. He hears us, He listens, and He knows.