flash flood prayers

Dear, Father
I just-
Lord, be with-
Oh, I just lift up-
There is so much-
Lord, you know-
There is just so much-
I don’t know-
Help me to-
God, please-
You are good.

This morning, my prayers got jumbled in a bunch of starts like water rushing a roadblock – just a massive surge leaving no time to consider convenient direction or map a course that makes sense.

Sometimes my soul wells up like that.
Sometimes my prayers swell in a most inconvenient and nonsensical way.
Sometimes my prayers sound like a flash flood.

And those times I rest in the knowledge that God hears my heart. God sees the needs I can’t express. God knew before the flash flood hit my morning news bulletin that the world needs Him.

He knows better than anyone knows the depth of that need.
God sent His Son to stand in the unfathomable depth of that need so now there is hope for flash flood mornings.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

carried away

With news like this morning, the world suddenly sees what ripples underneath the culture’s glossy veneer. It’s horrible. It makes us sick. It’s ugly.

The world is not okay.

No amount of money or brick walls or achievements of institutions will suffice to mend it.

The world is not okay.

It’s painful to peek through the blinds and view the world outside ourselves – outside the way we’ve arranged our lives to make things comfortable and proper. It hurts because what we see outside our windows is ugly. When we pull back the curtains, it’s horror we see when people can walk into a school and kill our little children. And how startling, once the drapes have been drawn, our own reflection in the window as we look out.

The world is not okay and it’s not just the horrors in the news.
It’s the horrors that don’t make the news, too.

Oh, friends. Be encouraged before you get carried away with fear and doubt and pain and sadness. Ask the Lord to teach you to know the number of your days (Psalm 39:4) and then ask Him to be the strength to keep your heart grounded in His Word and His promises.

Teach me to know my number of days
hold on, my heart, from gettin’ carried away

The world is not okay.

But what better reason to introduce a Savior?

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

a steady boat | a raging sea

O, goodness.

When life is like a fistful of jacks, jostling around in a child’s sweaty palm and waiting to be thrown to the carpet – when life is like that, you get desperate for something steady. My first inclination is to pray for the jostling to come to a gentle stop because the obvious antidote to jostling is the opposite, no?

I recently scrawled this prayer,

Thank you, God, for your provision that steadies the seas so you are glorified in my sailing.

And then, I thought about my prayer. I tried to cut through my poetic tendencies to find out what my heart was saying (sometimes my pen gets carried away and wants the words to read like a song). I thought about my prayer of thanksgiving for steady seas, paused, then added,

Thank you, too, for “steady enough” to sail through the thickest of storms looming on the horizon. 

If I only thank the Lord for steadying the seas, then I would be silent while I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I was offering God thanksgiving that depended on His actions (and my judgment of them) and not on His character. God is always able to steady the seas, but sometimes He instead steadies the boat. When we pray desperately for Him to stand up and lift His hands to silence the storm, sometimes He simply readies the boat to weather the waves.

I am thankful He provides and protects, but if my thanksgiving is dependent on the existence of storms, I will end up feeling abandoned. His provision and protection are simply part of His character – He will never not be Provider and Protector.

We can always describe the Lord as being steadfast – His love never ceases. During the storms? He is steadfast. During the stillness? He is steadfast.

For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
(Psalm 100:5 ESV)

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

We must always remember that it is appropriate to be thankful for who God is even when we are hoping for His character to provide or protect in a specific way. The raging storm is not evidence of His carelessness.

God is always able to steady the seas, but sometimes instead he readies the boat to weather the storm.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

an unexpected ampersand

I never thought Judi would be an ampersand.

A storyteller? Yes. An entertainer? Most definitely. An anecdote worth re-telling? Certainly.

But an ampersand? No. I thought she would just be a lady that led me into giggles in our prayer class on Tuesday nights. I thought she would just be the woman who sat by Barbara and said “what the hell” when she was telling the story about her class reunion. I thought she would be someone who sat across the circle and always raised her hand to add a comment about the topic or lean in with an “Mmmhmm” more frequently than the rest of us.

I have an affection towards ampersands (that little piece of font beauty that looks like & means “and“). They illustrate all the additions that are woven through the 28-year-old story of my life. I’ve collected quite a pile of ampersands and sometimes I try to just pick one up and marvel at the way I never expected to hold it.

I never thought Judi would be an ampersand.

But, then she took my hand and asked me to sit down next to her when prayer class had ended. She told me about the replacement windows she bought and the contractor she paid and the voicemails she left and the time she went to his house and “yoo-hoooed” inside his front door because a year later the windows still sat in her garage. She told me about his questionable health and stories and that a neighbor saw his truck at Lowe’s. She told me about calls to the lumberyard and the manufacturer and that the replacement windows still sat in her garage with winter approaching. She told me about the lawyer’s advice, the neighbors’ advice, and the carpenters’ advice. She told me all this without breathing much, but often asking, “What should I do?”

I fumbled and mumbled and blank-stared because I had no idea. I had absolutely no idea what to say or how to advise this sweet old woman about her windows. I found myself post-prayer class on a Tuesday night literally feeling like the only good piece of advice I could give this woman was to pray.

So, we did. We prayed last Tuesday that this man would return her call. We prayed that her windows would get installed. We prayed with the desperation of helplessness and then we kept praying.

This week, Judi came in with celebratory animal crackers to pass around, proclaiming, “Praise God, it works!” She walked up to me and said, “He returned my call! That’s our prayer answered!”

It took me a second, but when it sunk in I jumped up and squealed. Literally, I squealed.

The Lord answered our prayers for Judi’s windows and printed a bold, beautiful ampersand on my heart with her story.

I think I’ll need that giant carrying case – these ampersands are getting out of control.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

how does He love me? let me count the ways

Too much. Too full. Too wonderful. Too magnificent.

I don’t know where to put it all – the love, that is. It’s like I’m a bucket sitting under a faucet on full blast that someone forgot about. Except there is no mistake – no forgetfulness or neglect. The water running over all my edges is every bit intentional.

Maybe I can give a glimpse… a little slice of the millions of miracles that burst like the morning in my life. There is power in naming blessings, even if our attempts to name miracles make them sound like they are less than miraculous. May God be glorified by my grateful heart today.

You might read these and think, “I see a few things there I might call miraculous, but even those are stretches. I can explain most of these away with reason (or lack thereof) or chance.” To you I boldly say: “Friend, everything can always have a different ending. Always. These endings are miraculous because they happened when they didn’t have to. Join me in my gratitude or don’t, but let me know if your heart feels lighter if you choose the latter.”

I’ll start from last Thursday, just because this list must have a beginning and an end. But, I’d like to try to count the ways.

  • Praying with high school girls on the streets of Ames and sharing my heart for the harvest party on Saturday to be a time of love, community, fellowship, and blessing… and praying against the weather the meteorologist predicted because a fall party really must happen on a cool evening with the leaves dancing in a gentle breeze. (Miracle – ever thought that praying for miracles is a miracle?)
  • An impromptu gathering of friends to laugh and share and make decorations for said harvest party… which ended up also being a sleepover.
  • Sharing pumpkin apple pancakes with a beautiful friend while listening to her heart to love youth and grow in ministry… and praying again against Saturday’s weather, claiming clear skies with severe boldness. Miracle.
  • A volunteer on Friday with a heart of gold willing to share in all the tasks at work that drain energy from my veins. Nothing short of a miracle.
  • An afternoon of errands and baking and listening to the weatherman… and praying again against Saturday’s weather (tornadoes predicted and severe storms likely).
  • Despite numerous adjustments and a desperate lack of mathematical skills (one should not only multiply ingredients when changing a recipe, but also take into account the cooking method and container), chili for 40 was set to simmer in the crockpot and another pot safely stowed in the fridge.
  • A clumsy maneuvering around several kitchen mishaps (spilled liquid Crisco, sketchy ingredient substitutions and clumpy powdered sugar) still resulted in delicious desserts.
  • A phone call from across the world that came at the precise moment of baking, preparing, decorating, planning exhaustion when I needed just that kind of diversion.
  • The safe 2:00 am arrival of my Honduran sister and the hours of catching up that followed until we resigned ourselves to sleep at 4:30 am out of sheer willpower. Seriously, a miracle.
  • Baking pumpkin muffins early Saturday morning and filling the kitchen with the flavor of fall right before laughing every minute of a mile run for charity with a dear and silly friend who didn’t mind a threatening sky.
  • Sitting snuggled together in a wet stadium with family (new and old and adopted), cheering on our favorite team in our favorite colors at the 50 yard line. Miracle.
  • When we left the game, Alejandra and I had absolutely no idea where we parked in the residential area by the stadium. Not an idea. At the point of exasperation, we prayed. When we looked up, my car Eddie was looking back at me. Miracle.
  • Opening a trail of gifts from my Honduran sister that told the most beautiful story of friendship. Every card I opened had so much meaning and so much laughter. If you had told me 5 years ago that this former student would now be a close friend, I would have given you the crazy eye. Miracle.
  • Though the morning was full of rain, the afternoon cleared and cooled enough to hang lights outside and accomplish all our pre-party planning without any funnel clouds in the sky. Miracle.
  • Mulled spiced wine happened and it was just as delicious as I imagined. Seriously, that one is a miracle.
  • Invitations to +-25 people which read, “bring friends and a fall-inspired dish” draws the most beautiful and diverse crowd with the most delicious and surprising spread. The combination of people present at the harvest party last night will never happen again, but it was exactly the right and best group of friends and strangers. Miracle.
  • A sister who set up a photobooth to capture memories and laughter and stories like only a sister knows how. She knows exactly the kind of gift that makes the most sense to the person on the receiving end. Her creativity and thoughtfulness comes out in all sorts of joyful ways and blesses others like candy at a parade. Miracle.
  • Conversations with friends (new and old) that were just as delightful as the absolutely amazing spread of food. Moving in and out of conversations was a dance I’ll to any day. Miracle.
  • Flowers, coffee, and some of the best hugs I’ve had in a long time. Impromptu songs, piano playing, games, and the kind of laughter that makes strangers walk in wanting to be a part of whatever is happening (because that happened, too!). Miracle.
  • A gift that somehow appeared from around the world wrapped in all kinds of thoughtfulness, a card in the mail with sweet, sweet words of encouragement and love, hearing the voices of friends from different places and my niece say, “Happy Birthday.” Miracle.
  • Laughter is a category all its own. I could marvel at laughter all day if you’d let me. What a mysterious and wonderful thing it is to laugh. Miracle.
  • When the last person walked outside, the raindrops finally fell. But no tornados, no severe weather, no tropical catastrophes made a mess of the harvest party. Miracle.
  • Sunday morning coffee before college Sunday school class, where we thought about how Jesus stepped toward brokenness and evil and sin in order to speak Truth amidst confusion. Miracle.
  • A sermon that spoke to my heart – learning about friendship with God through the life of Jesus and understanding how that gives us a boldness that is out of this world. Miracle.
  • Sweet, uninterrupted conversation with one of my favorite miracles – hearing her heart and desire to seek the kingdom first and trust that “all else will be added.” Miracle.

Miracles, all of these.

My heart is full to overflowing with blessings and I know the Giver of all these gifts. I know the Maker of everything good before it was made.

How does He love me? Let me count the ways. Let me tell you all the benefits of having such a friend.

But, it might take forever. Just FYI.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

why a scrunched up nose is never becoming

Awhile back my brother said something that got under my skin. I mean, really got good and messy – hit a nerve I think because I flared up real defensive like.

He said he hoped I wasn’t becoming a cynic.

I scoffed and stuttered and scrunched up my nose in protest. Cynic? Me? The one who thinks optimistically about how many plans can be overlapped in one day and about how many grocery bags can be carried at once and that if you sing a song loud enough or dance a jig brave enough the whole world will notice? Me?

I didn’t take it very well.

He brought it up because I wasn’t really a fan of the newest social justice movement to hit social media. I wasn’t against it, necessarily, but I wasn’t throwing money in their direction either. The way I described it to my brother Sam was like this, “There are a lot of good things going on out there – a lot of people doing good. I just choose to support other causes.”

Recently, while reading “A Praying Life” by Paul Miller, I decided it was about the shape of my eyes and the scrunch of my nose when I look at the world. I would never describe myself as a cynic, but there are times when I look at the world like nothing is possible. Like we’re “headed to hell in a handbasket” and “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” – all the older folk, that is, who sit in the diners with 50 cent bottomless coffees and talk about how “everything’s gone to pot.”

Maybe that’s when having an old soul is unfortunate – when you feel like you’ve seen enough of life to know that people don’t follow through and good causes are corrupt and you can’t even trust your own resolve.

That’s when I realized the danger of furrowed eyebrows and a scrunched up nose. There’s no wonder in that facial expression; no joy in the possibility of ANYTHING being possible. The danger of furrowed eyebrows and a scrunched up nose is what we don’t want to grow up into. Because we never want to grow out of wide-eyed wonder. Never. Well, I don’t at least. I always want to breathe hope in with deep, lung-filling breaths.

I want to live like everything is possible – like one person really can move a mountain by faith or bring a rainstorm with prayer or heal a paralytic with petitions. I want to believe that God could paint the sky in new colors tonight and that tomorrow I could wake up and not need my glasses (I always squint like spiderman to see if I’m cured).

I want to live like everything is possible because a scrunched up nose is never becoming. It’s  not attractive to throw water on the fire in people’s bellies and I think that’s sometimes what I do with my scrunched up nose.

Today was gloriously opposite a scrunched up nose. Today FILLED to overflowing with possibility and I’m still drinking it in as my fingers stiffen with the cool, autumn air on the back porch. Today, my eyes were wide with the wonder of Creation singing the praise of its Creator while I breathed in deep so I could sing along.

I sent my brother a text the other day to thank him for calling me out. It probably seemed strange that it took me so long, but I’m thankful even if I am slow in learning.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy


Thanks, Amanda, for delighting my ears with this brilliance!

when the beat becomes the rhythm

I’m not sure what that means,

when the beat becomes the rhythm

but it seems like what’s happening to my prayers. I think I was trying to tackle 4/4 time –  to wrestle my prayer life into a disciplined and acceptable metronome pace. I’m not sure, but I think something beautiful is happening.

My prayers are sounding desperate.
My prayers are starting with, “Oh, I don’t know…” and “Oh, help me trust You…”
My prayers are getting frequent.

Have you ever found yourself bobbing your head to a song, without wanting to or meaning to bob your head at all?

Maybe there’s no disciplining or wrestling ourselves into the right kind of prayer life.

What if we’re drawn into the rhythm of prayer by the beat of our desperate hearts? What if, when we finally get good and helpless, prayer is the song we bob our hearts to in those moments of anxiety or months of indecision?

What if the beat becomes the rhythm?

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

I’m reading A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller right now with a small group and loving the journey. I definitely encourage you to check it out.