Smelly, sweaty prayers

In our house, one of my favorite things to spot is this giant bag sitting in front of my washing machine. It’s black and red and huge! I lean down and slowly unzip the zipper and wait for the smell. What wafts up at me?

Sweaty, smelly, little boy scent.

I’ll admit it. I’m a sucker for that smell. I’ll wash those gross hockey sweat infested clothes for years on end, if he’ll let me. To me that scent represents so much more than just a gross boy who needs a shower. It smells like hard work, determination, commitment, and doing something with your whole heart, something he loves, and in which he finds unadulterated joy.

Now, I’m not sports obsessed. Nor am I a laundry slave to my 10-year-old. 🙂 But here’s the connection-

I think that God is a little like me opening the sweaty smelly laundry bag, when we offer our prayers up to Him. Lately God has gotten not just my prayers, but my blotchy, red face, heart’s cry prayers. He’s gotten my bottom of the pit, arms raised, seeking rescue prayers. He’s gotten my broken heart, life crashing down around me prayers. He’s gotten my frightened small voice in the middle of the night prayers.

It gives me comfort to know that, to Him, these prayers are a beautiful thing, like incense rising before Him…the sweet, sweaty smell of my precious, difficult, sojourning life on this planet. He collects my tears in an bottle. He calls my struggle “good”, when I can not. Then He turns it into something better than good.

What sweaty work have you been doing? What determined struggle do you see in your own life? From parenting wee ones and big ones, slogging through the work of grief, finding two more dollars to be able to make the utility bills, caregiving for a beloved aged member of the congregation, serving in a role that you don’t love, to loving those who seem unlovable. That’s all sweaty work.

And He loves our sweaty prayers.

May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.     

Psalm 141:2

As for my sweaty, smelly, precious hockey player. He’s equally embarrassed and loves it when I pray over him before each hockey game. 🙂

On being a PK…

This August we were driving “down south” to visit my husband’s sister and her family for a much needed family vacation. The drive was lengthy and we had already gone through all our books on CD so we cranked up the volume on some local Christian radio. Between every song advertisements for a special conference came up over and over again. We heard them for the whole week we were there, and I tell you, I could recite them by heart. This conference was important for someone. Near the end of the week it struck me that the conference wasn’t for adults, but was for pastor’s kids still in the home. I turned to my daughter (age 12) and blurted, “Wow, a whole conference just for pastor’s kids! Is that really necessary?”
 
My sweet daughter was oddly quiet. I looked back at her from my seat next to my husband.
“Do you think of yourself as a pastor’s kid?” 
 
In my mind, Macee was just like any other kid. Bright, fun, beginning to get past the grouchy stage of early adolescence…beautiful. Child of God. Redeemed, transformed, made new. The only thing different between her and another child of God, in my thoughts, was that she was tall for her age and had a special gift for loving on any person, of any age, at any time. 
 
But that doesn’t answer the question does it, for Macee. “Do you think of yourself as a pastor’s kid?” From the backseat came the small answer,
“Everyday, Mom. Everyday.”
 
As I sat back and contemplated her response and my apparent lack of understanding of the life of a PK, I recalled a different conversation in our house three years prior. My daughter, broken hearted, needing a friend, feeling unloved and unworthy came to me in tears,
“People just think we’re weird, Mom. Everyone thinks we’re different.”
 
At the time I thought that conversation was just about us. Just about our family’s zest for individuality and zeal for uniqueness. At that moment I realized, it’s not about me, it’s not about our family, it’s about the church and that weird place we put church work families. “What?!” you say, “What place? I don’t put anyone in a place?” But you see, we do. 
 

Colossians 3:21 encourages Fathers to avoid provoking their children. But how many kids in churches do we raise the bar for because of who their parent is, expecting more from them?

This verse is fitting for the church, because really, that is where my child, under no choice of his or her own, is growing up.
Church, don’t provoke your children.
Just as you love your pastor, love his children. Don’t raise the bar for them. Don’t expect more of them. Don’t assume you know them, until you spend time getting to know them individually. They are each beautiful and precious, and unique. Their love for Jesus comes not just from the home they’re raised in, but the church that raises them.
Don’t love them for who you think they should be, love them for who they are.
Colossians also promises what will come when we set the bar too high for our pastor’s children (whether in our own home or in church)
…discouragement. Almost every single translation uses this same word- discouragement. 
 
What does the discouragement of a PK look like? It’s different for every child, obviously, but I think that it’s the cracks, the fissures of faith that begin innocently that are most concerning. The PK who simply can not sit in a pew contentedly for the ants in their pants, and is scolded by more than their mother. The PK who is frustrated with being the acolyte for the 84th Sunday in a row because they are the only ones who show up. The PK who is afraid to tell someone they struggle with their body image, because it’s just more stress for mom or dad, who is helping everyone else. The PK who hears the words people say about their Dad and has no where to go with them. 
 
How do we create churches who love and uplift their PKs? Love and uplift them…as individuals! Celebrate their unique gifts and do not give them more than there fair share, simply because they show up. Notice who they are, not in relation to who is their parent, but in relation to who God made them to be. This is how our children learn that the church is a place to grow and be loved and desire to stay there and flourish. 
 
May we take a step back and be an encouragement rather than a discouragement. I take numerous steps and build all kinds of boundaries to protect my children from the life of growing up PK; to help them love Jesus and love the church, not because I do, but because they have the Spirit of the Living God inside them. Foolishly I thought I could do this alone. My daughter reminded me I could not. I need the church to do this with me, to see with me how precious she is as herself, and herself alone. 
 

*No Macees were harmed in the writing of this blog post. All Macees were asked permission to share their stories with the world at large. 🙂

God of even this…A God Who Sees

This last week has been pretty miserable. Like anyone in crisis, I feel like most of what I do is wait. Wait for an answer, wait for help, wait for things to get better…and…nothing.

Well, not nothing, but struggle can feel like a void of unchanging hopelessness. I know some of you have been there. I also know that some of you are standing on the other side. Some of you have shared your stories with me, of God working, of moving from hopeless to hopeful, of trust in God and Jesus’s time, healing the deep places of your heart. Our stories keep one another going on this journey, bringing the truth of light at the end of a tunnel and the reality of the other side.

Here, the middle of hopelessness, we meet Hagar. She seems like a pawn in someone else’s game. She is sent away with a skin of water and a loaf of bread. She sits away from the bush, unwilling to watch her son die. Here is hopelessness at its best.

But El Roi answers.

“The God who sees…”

He sees her pain. He sees her struggle. He sees her hunger. He sees her aching heart. I need to know that. I need to know that God sees me.

And so He shows me.

I had a friend cry with me yesterday. Cry. Audibly.

I have rarely felt so loved.

I had a friend tell me that he finally understood what Paul meant when he said he was suffering for another person. He felt my pain, our pain, as his own.

My sisters have told me countless times that they would lift my burden if there was any possible way they could.

I am not just given a loaf of bread and a skin of water, but meals come, food is served, and sometimes I don’t even know where it came from.

There are prayers said, sometimes in the wee hours of night, on our behalf.

This is one reason why God created the Church. This is the visible Church lifting up our arms, when we ourselves can not. This is the visible Church, wrapping their arms around me and letting me cry. This is the visible Church seeing through the compassionate lens of a Savior who came to redeem our crisises and heal our broken hearts.

This is a God who sees me, through you.

He sees each of us. It is His name. And He can not deny who He is. Whatever our pain, whatever our joy, whatever our struggle.

El Roi…He sees me. He sees my husband, my kids, my people. He sees, and that is my Hope each day.

He sees.