Sunday, December 3, 2023

Switching Your Prayer Life from ASAP to ALAT


Good Sunday morning.

It is the Lord's day, and wow - I've been waiting for this day to get here.  I love Sundays.

I love going to church and seeing familiar faces.  Friends and family.  I love seeing who the Lord has moved and motivated to attend service that week.  I love our Pastor Brian.  I love our worship leader Trace.  I love everything about our small, but quickly growing, church.

This is the first time since I asked Jesus into my heart, on July 2, 1989, that I have had family in church with me.  What a blessing!  I never, in 10,000 years, thought this would happen.

You see, I was born and raised in a big, Italian family.  EVERYONE was Catholic.  That's just how it was (and largely still is).  I was the first one, as my paternal Grandmother said to me one day, " leave the church." 

It was a big deal to her when I started attending Rehoboth Baptist Church with several of my friends in the 1980s.  At that time, I was going through a rough time in life.  I lived with my Mom, was dating a boy I loved, and was not living a lifestyle I should have been.

My boyfriend was struggling with finding (or getting or keeping) a job and was on the outs with his Dad.  My Mom had graciously said he could move in with us - in my room.  (Yes, "with" us.) When Pete and I broke up, it was devastating.

I called my best friend, who was attending Rehoboth at the time, and asked if I could go to church with her that following Sunday.  (Because I knew, even at that unsaved point in my life, only one thing could save me.)

She was so excited, and she immediately shouted, "Yes!" over the phone.

My girlfriend had been raised in a Christian home by two extremely loving and Christian parents, but she also was not walking or living a Christian lifestyle.  She may not have been walking with the Lord at the time, but she KNEW Christ and was working her way back into church.

How was I supposed to know that making that one phone call would forver change my life?

I attended Rehoboth on a Sunday morning and was immediately welcomed, immersed in, and falling in love with their large and loving culture.  I did not go off to college, so to me - I always felt like the Rehoboth years and the large community of young adults it contained were my "college years."

It was a HUGE church at the time, one of the two biggest in the Atlanta area.  It had a large Singles group.  So big, it was broken down into age groups.

I jumped right in.  I loved it. We were at church Tuesday nights (for visitation), Wednesday nights (for supper and Bible study), Friday and Saturday nights (not "at" church, but for fun outings with the Singles group), and of course, twice on Sundays (morning worship service and laid back Sunday night church for more teachings).

I think I learned more in those 20 years at Rehoboth than I have at any other time in my life.  At Rehoboth, we were so lucky and blessed to sit under lead Pastor Dr. Richard Lee.  Because Dr. Lee was very well connected and known in the religious community, he was able to bring in many gifted and knowledgeable teachers - special guest preachers that came periodically, as well as hired staff members.  We were surrounded by some of God's wisest men and women.  It was a tremendous time to be in church!

Dr. Ed Hinson was on our staff for many years.  I remember looking at one of my (now) prayer partners one Sunday night when he was going to preach and saying, "We are so lucky to have Dr. Hinson on staff."  We knew what we had in our grasp, and we always knew he wouldn't stay with us long.  God had greater and bigger plans for Dr. Hinson.

Of course, in the end (and as we suspected), Dr. Hinson didn't stay very long.  Liberty University came calling, and Dr. Hinson was quickly snapped up by Dr. Farwell.  God had much bigger plans for Dr. Hinson. (If you want to see an amazing Celebration of Life, Google Dr. Hinson's funeral service.  What an amazing life this man led!)

Those were the golden years of church for me.  I met my ex-husband there.  My children were dedicated there.  And my deepest inner circle of friends were founded there.

But - my family never accepted my time there or my switch from Catholicism to Protestant.  My Mom was always good, and she even hosted our Singles group at her home one time.

But my paternal Grandmother was furious and always let it be known.  ("If you love that church so much, I'm going to leave all your inheritance to it!") Of course she didn't, but that was her attempt to get me to leave.

My Father once told me I was in a cult.  Of course, he couldn't get out of Philadelphia and the Catholic church fast enough once he was married and living his own life - and rarely attended or took our family.  He didn't even really know what a cult was...

So for me to NOW have family attending church with me is a huge blessing.  It may have taken 30+ years, but every Sunday, I count my blessings my brother and his family attend the same church.

I love Sundays.  Family, friends, faith.  (I think I may need a t-shirt that says that...)

I want to apologize and make up for yesterday's post.  This blog is not very popular I know, and it really does not reach many people; therefore, I tend to use it as a (superficial) journal.

Yesterday was hard.  But I knew it would be.  In this busy season of celebrating Jesus' birth, yesterday was going to be the lone day I had this week to start decorating for Christmas.  

I prayed ahead of time for Saturday.  I knew it would be hard, so I wanted the Lord to prepare and protect me from Satan's attempts at taking me down.

My normal "hard" hours are somewhere between Noon and early evening.  The mornings are fairly easy, as are the nights (although, lying down to bed always makes me slightly weepy, as I ask God each night for the same thing -- "Good night David Michael ***.  I love you, and I miss you.  God, you know where David is right this moment.  You know what he is doing.  You know his innermost thoughts.  Please watch over him, let him know I love him, and bring healing to his heart.").

As the afternoon grew closer, and I knew I had to start decorating for Christmas, I could feel the sadness creeping in.  As I told my brother last night, "The 'at-home' days are the hardest because that is when I miss David the most."

People can give you advice and peer into your relationships from the outside, but only the people in the relationships know what happened and what emotions and tender moments existed between you.

For me, the "at-home" days are the hardest because everywhere I look, I see David.  The projects he did, transforming a house into a home.  Decorating for Christmas each year together.  Rainy days spent on the couches watching tv or cuddling with furry family members together.  So many memories of just being in a home I thought we were going to live in, create one life in together, and from which we would serve our families and God together.

Even when (looking back) I think of the hard times - times when we weren't kind to each other or might have felt alone or separate, I still felt like one with him.  It never crossed my mind we might reach a point of becoming two.

And for those reasons, the at-home days are just the hardest.  Because memories of love and commitment resonate within these walls.

I read something this morning that touched me.  It said, "Staying power means we fully believe God planted a seed in our heart, and we aren’t going to give up until we see what it grows into. In his book Draw the Circle, Mark Batterson says, “Too often we pray ASAP prayers — as soon as possible. We need to start praying ALAT prayers — as long as it takes.”

I've been on my knees a lot these past nine weeks.  And, to be honest, my prayers are a huge mixture of ASAP and ALAT.  I do argue with God, but I am also cognizant of who He is and staying within His will.  

I guess just reading ALAT out loud seemed to impress the idea upon me a little bit more though.

This morning's reading went on to say: "...pray[ing] ALAT prayers flips the script in our culture obsessed with instant gratification. It provides an empowering stance as we take an active and prayerful posture in our waiting journey."

I love that.  Waiting is not a passive activity.  God asks for it to be active.

"The Hebrew word that Isaiah uses for 'wait' is Qavah. It means 'to wait, look for, hope, or expect.' This doesn’t sound like an idle position. It is waiting on the Lord that brings renewed strength. This Qavah means we wait for Him, look for Him, hope in Him, and expect His goodness."

Who knew waiting could be an active activity?

"Establishing our focus and fulfillment in Him, rather than an outcome or a timeline, is what mounts us up with wings like eagles. When we fix the eyes of our soul on our Creator, we run without growing weary, walk without growing faint. This is training ground for our soul. When we make this shift, waiting no longer becomes necessary drudgery; it becomes a lifestyle of confident expectation in Him."

So, I have to apologize to myself and anyone that read yesterday's post.  I am not always (or much) negative, but yesterday was just hard.  I am thankful for a God that pulls us through the negative and hard times to give us a new day with a new dawn.  A new positive view, and another Sunday to gather together and worship.

I have no idea what the OUTCOME will be to my season of waiting.  I pray every day that God will press upon David to kneel at a family altar, ask God for forgiveness for his sins, and then ask Jesus into his heart.  I pray there is a day I can witness David being baptized.

I pray every day that eyes will be open to current situations that are going to require divine intervention, love, and support.  I pray for hearts to open and understanding to be granted.  I pray for a family's healing.  A family's salvation.  I pray that with the invitation and acceptance of Jesus into people's hearts and homes that grace can be extended and forgiveness granted, not withheld.

I pray that love spreads and grows.  Because that's what Jesus does.

Today is going to be a better day.  Christmas decorations are on their way, and of course, it is Sunday.  So - what more can a girl ask for?

Just remember this - we are going to have valley days.  Days when we are missing the people we love so tremendously that our Spirit grieves with us.  Days when the memories are just going to be too much and will overwhelm you.

But - then the dawn of a new day will come.  God may feel a million miles away at times, but Scripture tells us He is not.  He is always close, always near.

Stay strong; do not falter.  No matter how sad or broken you may feel in a day.  God is not a god of sadness or despair.  He is in the business of change, healing, hope, and rebirth!

"Lord, give me staying power. When I feel like I want to run back to what’s comfortable and familiar, give me the strength I need so that I can remain in your plan. Help me to look for and expect your goodness and my transformation as I seek you. Amen"

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