The Real St. Patrick

When I was just a little kid in elementary school, the only thing I knew about St. Patrick was that there was a day when we had to wear green or we’d get pinched by our classmates. I always thought that was a bit unfair since my small wardrobe contained no green shades and I’m not Irish, anyway.

But in 7th grade European History class, I chose to write a paper on the real St. Patrick. Here’s what I found:

He’s not a saint with a capital S. The Roman Catholic church never canonized him.

He’s not Irish. He was born in Scotland to a middle class family. Both his father and grandfather were prominent in the Christian faith. But not Patrick.

At the age of about 16, he was taken captive by Irish pirates and sold to an Irish king.

The king sent him out as a slave to herd sheep. This was a lonely, often dangerous job with no shelter or food. Patrick had to fend for himself. To deal with his loneliness and fear, he remembered the Christian God that his father worshiped.

Patrick eventually converted to Christianity. In his early twenties, a message from God encouraged him to flee his master and Ireland and try to get back to his family.

Patrick escaped back to Britain. He studied the Christian faith in a monastery. Thirty years later, he felt a call to go back to Ireland and spread the gospel.

The Irish people of that time were pagan, war-like, and hostile. Patrick faced death many times.

Patrick was pretty savvy about evangelism. He targeted royalty and the rich, figuring that when they converted it would be easier to lead the lower classes to faith in Jesus.

There was an earlier evangelist named Palladius, but he wasn’t quite as successful as Patrick. Patrick eventually became the bishop of Armugh.

Patrick used the formerly pagan symbol—the shamrock—to teach the concept of the trinity.

There are many stories about Patrick and it’s difficult, almost sixteen hundred years later to sort out myth from reality. But the Irish have good reason to celebrate the life of this bold and passionate evangelist, Patrick.

“He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.'” (Mark 16:15 NIV Bible)

Panic Attacks

Years ago I suffered a bout of panic attacks.

I was under great stress and several very hard things had happened to me within a few months.

The attacks came on suddenly. One day, I thought I was handling all my stresses with godly strength. The next day, wham!

Of course, being a musician, the first attack had to happen when I was playing in church for about 500 people. I felt like someone had sneaked up behind me as I played and bludgeoned me with a sledgehammer of impending death.

Many Christians try to spiritualize panic and anxiety. And I suppose there is in any illness an aspect of spiritual illness. After all, we humans have all inherited Sin.

But, like the flu, or cancer, or diabetes, etc. our brains are just as susceptible to illness as our bodies.

The treatment for me during those challenging months of panic was threefold:

  1. Cling to Jesus like I’d never clung before.
  2. See a counselor
  3. Over-expose myself to the things that trigger a panic attack.

I started by stepping outside the house. Then walking down the street. Then getting in the car and driving somewhere…anywhere. Finally, stepping inside my church. Seems so simple. But for the sufferer of panic, it’s not.

After many months of talk therapy, prayer, and forcing myself to stand in front of an audience, the fear became manageable.

When I had my first panic attack, I thought, “What the Sam Hill is this?!!

Later, I had conversations with many women (far more women than men suffer with this condition) and discovered how common anxiety and panic attacks are.

After I recovered, the Lord began to put a thought in my head: why not write about your experience, using a fictionalized character and set her in a wilderness adventure?

Show how the character’s faith in the Lord helped her. How she used a particular kind of organized and supervised therapy in the wilderness to help her face her fear. Then, throw in a very frightening situation—being stalked by a dangerous and delusional man—and show how her therapy and her faith helps her conquer even that kind of fear.

I finished writing the novel. It semi-finaled in a national writer’s contest. A wonderful agent picked it up. It’s close to being published.

Now I wonder, how many women readers IMG_1687who’ve struggled with any kind of fear will be interested in this kind of suspense novel? Would you be interested?

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree, planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought, and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jer. 17:8 NIV Bible)

Look Back

I found a couple of my old prayer journals while I was reorganizing. They were dated from the mid-eighties. I was about to toss them in the trash, but then stopped at the last second.

I opened one of the journals and read some of my entries. Names of people I hadn’t thought of for years filled the journal’s lines. Amy, Nicole, Myra, Jess, etc. Some of the prayer requests were about health struggles. Some financial challenges. Some concerned problems in their marriages.

Also in this section of the journal was the name of my husband, and my children—tiny tots at this time. And last, my own personal requests.

I turned some more pages and found my favorite category: “Letters to God.”

Some of these entries expressed my yearning for a greater maturity in my faith. Some were about challenges with people where I worked and how I needed to grow in love for each of these co-workers. Some letters simply expressed my praise and thankfulness.

I remember feeling, way back then, that many of these prayer requests seemed to never be answered. Especially the ones for my loved ones. Why does God take such a long time to answer those prayer requests that are most near and dear?

But, sitting on my bed, reading through the journal, through the perspective of thirty years, I saw that almost every one of my prayers had been met. These specific requests usually required an attitude adjustment in me. About my friends, goals, my husband, my children.

Attitude adjustments take time. The Lord rarely zaps us with instant emotional healing. He uses hardship, coupled with time to teach us to submit to His wonderful ways, to lead us to greater dependence on His strength, to produce wisdom and patience.

But He does answer prayers.

If you’re like me and you tend to forget the Lord’s faithfulness to answer prayers, keep a prayer journal. You’ll be amazed as you read older journal entries IMG_2383when you see His footprints all over your life.

It’s great to look forward, to press onward toward your goals.

But every once in a while, it’s also good to look back and see how far the Lord has brought you.

“Then I thought, ‘To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High.’ I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all Your works and consider all Your mighty deeds.” (Psalm 77: 10-12 NIV Bible)

 

 

What’s The Use of Praying?

The other night—Saturday— I woke up and, with my eyes still closed, saw a professional photograph of a man in our church that I’d only recently met. Somehow, I got a strong impression that I needed to pray for him. I found out a few days later that the man I prayed for was preparing to start a new job, one he had prayed and waited for for several months. He started his new job on the Monday following my Saturday night prayers. On Wednesday, several people asked him how the new job was going, and said that everything was going well and he loved his new job.

This has happened to me thousands of  times. But still I wonder, what difference does it make? (Which is kind of weird, considering that I’ve seen many answers to prayer.)

But what I mean is, if God is sovereign—and I believe He is—then why pray? Won’t He just do what He has planned from before creation?

I’ve read many books on prayer. Many of them provide excellent insights into why we pray and how we should pray.

But the mystery in my mind persists. How do we influence God by our prayers?

Jesus told us to pray. We feel impelled to pray. God answers prayer.

Oh, I know that our sonship calls for us to draw near to God through prayer. And I’ve never experienced anything greater or sweeter than communing with Him in the midst of some of my hardest challenges.

But when it comes to intercessory prayer…

Somehow—and I can’t even picture this—our redeemed relationship with God through Jesus Christ, makes us partners with Christ. How this is even possible makes me tremble.

I think many of us Christians have no idea the privileges God has granted us through Christ, even in this fallen world. DenaThat God would even hear our prayers, let alone, call us to pray, is nothing short of amazing.

When God wakes me up in the middle of the night to pray for someone, I begin to realize that my prayers are somehow partnering with the prayers of our Savior!

I have struggled all my life to put aside old and damaging voices that tell me I am not significant. Why should my prayers matter?

My prayers matter because of Jesus. Only because He loves me and desires me to walk alongside Him, praying for the things that advance his heavenly Kingdom.

When we pray alongside Jesus, we glorify Him.

That is as much as I can figure.

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16 NIV Bible)

 

God’s A Weird Parent

When I was very young, my parents sheltered me and exposed me, little by little, to the outside world. They registered me for school, swimming lessons, music lessons. All for the purpose of enriching me and teaching me about the great big world around me.

Eventually, Dad and Mom nervously handed over the car keys to me and watched me drive away to my first real job.

A parent’s goal is to bring children up to a confident state of independence.

Not so with the Lord. His goal for His children is to bring them to a state of humble dependence.

Weird. As children of God, we, in a sense, regress to the level of a small child:

trusting, completely confident in our Father’s ability to navigate the world and to keep us safe. Confident that we will be fed, clothed, protected, loved.

But we begin the life of a Child of God, struggling each day to submit to Someone else’s leadership. Not confident that our Father can and will supply all our needs through Christ Jesus. Wondering about our future. Sometimes very afraid. Sometimes worshipful. Sometimes angry and perplexed about the way things have turned out. Sometimes downright rebellious. Sometimes tearfully repentant.

Little by little we learn, through experience, through prayer, and from meditating on our Father’s words that He can be relied on, that He is intimately acquainted with us and desires our best.

But the things he allows into our lives are often painful, frightening, frustrating. Why God, Why? I thought a parent was supposed to shelter us from all harm.

And I thought we were supposed to grow up and depend only on ourselves.?? This learning to submit and be dependent seems so counter-intuitive, especially in a society where freedom has reached the level of lawlessness.

But the life of the child of God is marked by dependence on God. That is when His power works through us. Not the other way around.

Jesus said that the work of the disciple is to believe that He, the Redeemer, came in the flesh as the perfect God/man.( John 6:20)

Notice Jesus didn’t say that the work of the disciple  is to somehow muster our own human love, faith, trust, strength and then go out and do what we imagine is God’s work.

No,

A true leader
we must learn childlike dependence

again. The work of the disciple is to depend on the Holy Spirit to lead, and allow Him to work through us.

Weird.

But wonderful.

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves, then to God.” James 4:6,7 NIV Bible)

 

 

 

 

 

Seeking the Creator in nature and the arts

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