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Archive for March, 2011

“Hipster Christianity”: Winter Retreat 2011

Every year, Axiom gets together with a bunch of other campus ministries for Winter Retreat, and, every year, it’s amazing!  Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it there in person this year, but, thankfully, there were plenty of Axiom-ites who were there to fellowship, worship, and soak up some awesome sermons.   And even more thankfully, some of the students who went were kind enough to share their thoughts and experiences (don’t worry, I asked the hard questions, i.e. there’s more than a typical “retreat review” awaiting you).  So, before I lose your attention, here’s what Axiom had to say about this year’s Winter Retreat.


“The Arcadian Way, the main street in Ephesus, was like the modern-day Strip in Las Vegas–it was the main hangout for partiers of all shapes and sizes.  Our speaker, Brian Mills, gave us a tour of the Arcadian Way from the docks to the bathhouses to the temple of Artemis and beyond.  The Christians in Ephesus were constantly surrounded by sin, so they thought they had two options–isolate themselves, or join in the revelry.  The good news is that we don’t have to be extreme, there’s a third way.  Christians can actually be involved in the world without taking part in sin, at least that’s what we learned on Winter Retreat.

The retreat this year was excellent.  Brian Mills did a wonderful job comparing our society to Ephesus and getting us to consider whether we should take part in “Hipster Christianity” or not.  The food (as always) was superb, and everyone enjoyed the games, which included an off-camp race to trade for bigger and better items, starting with a single rubber band.  What made this retreat different for me, though, was how people from different schools really got to know each other.  The people in my own small group bonded instantly, and we got to find out what students outside of the U of I were doing for God through personal questions, group discussions, and a Social Justice Workshop organized by Ben Woods.  Axiom even adopted Brian Glyshaw from ISU, our very own Tyler clone!  Overall, it was an experience that I want to have again.” – Sarah Stef


“The theme this year was all about “Hipster Christianity” and how we need to be ‘unhipped’ from society.  Now, being a hipster myself (HA!), one of the sessions that really spoke out to me was about putting too much value into what we wear and how we wear it.  Conviction. BUT my favorite session was Ben Woods’ talk on missions.  I recently have felt a calling towards service and just having an active faith from God, and just seeing some ways to get involved was awesome.

My favorite part of the retreat as a whole was how close Axiom, as a ministry, got. We stayed up late playing fast uno, made a lot of jokes, played “chicken” on some cinderblocks, tested the 1 inch thick ice to see if it would hold us (don’t worry no one fell in!), and really built community through our talks.  It was awesome not only talking to fellow Axiom-ites, but to other campus ministries as well.  I know Axiom and Encounter really connected and we were able to hang out with them quite a bit.  It was an awesome retreat!” – Tyler Yount


“This year’s Winter Retreat was my first Winter Retreat EVER, so I had no idea what to expect going into it; I just knew that while the Axiomites would be few, the Jesus Lovers (from other campuses) would be many!  It actually seemed to work out to our advantage that we were small, because we were more willing to spread out and get to know others, rather than stay together as a collective unit.  I got to meet so many new (and GREAT) people that were either in my small group, in our worship area, or in our UNO posse.  The games that were planned were “Minute-to-win-it”-esque, which were not only hilariously fun, but also a piece of cake due to Battle of the Sexes ’11 (props to our dudes).  But even the games couldn’t compare to the fellowship that happened over the weekend.  I truly feel like I’m not only deeper in my relationship with Christ from the weekend, but I’m definitely more strongly bonded to my fellow Axiomites as well! Oh…and I have to add that the food was AWESOME!

Aside from the fellowship and funtivities, the message that came with the Winter Retreat was extremely important, especially for the U of I college campus.  The focus was on what “being in the world, but not of it” looks like.  The message was tailored to us in the form of “Hipster Christians”, where he spoke about how the latest fashions, trends, and attitudes fit into the Christian life.  It was great to learn that while the Lord does not want us to immerse ourselves in what the world is doing, He also does not call us to remove ourselves entirely as the Jews did with the Gentiles.  Learning what it is to be a Christian who doesn’t give in to sensual living was an awesome wealth of knowledge that was gained from the Winter Retreat. Be sure to go with me next year!” – Justin Pettit

Thanks so much to Sarah, Tyler, and JP for helping out!

Much love, guys!

Taylor

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Rewind. Pause. Push Play. Aaron says, “Hmm…?”

March 17, 2011

Rewind: We all have questions about prayer.  Whether you’ve been a Christian for 20 years or 20 days, prayer is one of those things that you never completely figure out.

How does it work, exactly?  Is God listening?  How can He hear all of us at once?  What does it sound like?  How much difference does it make?  How often should I pray?  What should I pray about?  What does it look like to truly pray without ceasing?

The Thursday before spring break, Aaron shared a few of the things that make him question how Christians approach prayer.  They’re pretty common things – you may even recognize some of your own habits.  Indeed, many of them are so prevalent and widely accepted that most of us would be surprised if they weren’t a part of our daily prayer lives.  However, they’re also things that probably ought to inspire a mental double-take.  At face value, they make sense and even seem to jive with biblical perceptions of God, but do they hold up under further scrutiny?  Does that question make you go, “Hmm…?”   Maybe it’s time you asked yourself a few questions…

Here are just a few of the things that make Aaron go, “Hmm…?” about prayer:

  • When someone forgets to pray before a meal and people FREAK OUT…

Now, there’s nothing wrong with praying before a meal, in fact, it’s highly encouraged (think 1 Thess. 5:18), and when we forget (which we often do), it’s good of our brothers and sisters to remind us, but why is that the only time we get riled up about prayer?  The bible tells us to “pray continually,” not just before we eat.  How come no one’s up in arms about when people forget to pray right after they wake up, or before they fall asleep?  Why are we, as Christians, so consumed by meal-time prayers, and yet so unconcerned with every-other-time-of-the-day prayers?  What does that have to say about how we approach prayer?  Is it just another hoop to jump through before we can chow down, or does giving thanks in prayer have a greater significance?

  • When no one writes down the prayer requests…

Even if your bible study is on the smaller side, say three or four people, it’s difficult to keep track of everyone’s specific prayer requests unless you write them down.  If you’re lucky, without the aid of pen and paper, you’ll probably remember enough about each person to give them a short shout out in the closing prayer, but chances are, in the week that follows you’ll have to resort to blanket prayers: God, You know what so-and-so is worried about, and You know what he/she needs most; please be with him/her. Thankfully, since our God is omniscient, that kind of prayer works – He really does know our worries/fears, and exactly what we need.  But, if you really believe that prayer matters, that it truly has the capacity to change our reality, don’t you want to be a little more specific?  If prayer is really supposed to be such a key part of our relationship with the Lord and with each other, shouldn’t we be making more of an effort?

  • When you say, “I’ll pray for you!” and then run away as fast as you can…

“Gee, Darren, thanks for spilling your guts and baring your soul.  It was touching, really, and I’m super happy that you trust me enough to confide in me!  I would love to pray for you… But not right now, because, right now, I have to go.  You know how it is, my DVR has been acting up lately, and I really don’t want to miss tonight’s Dancing with the Stars! Good luck with that heart-wrenching problem of yours – I’ll be praying, promise!”

Let’s be honest here, shall we?  You know as well as I do that the success rate of this scenario is close to zilch.  You mean well, we all do, but really, what’s the likelihood that you’ll go home and actually remember to pray for Darren? Mmhm, that’s what I thought…  Again, if prayer is really as important as the bible says it is, shouldn’t be waiting anxiously for the chance to talk to God, especially when it’s about something really important?  Why would we ever choose to put that off?

  • When we just keep saying just

Just be with us, Lord.  Just love on us.  Just bless us.  Just keep us safe.  Just be in this place.  Just guide us.  We just want to praise You.  We just want to thank You.  We just love You so much.  Just teach us to be more like You so that we can just shine Your light on those who just don’t know Your love.  Just let us be Your hands and feet in this world, which is just so broken, and just so stuck, and just so in need of You.  Also, please just give us a slightly larger vocabulary, because, for some weird reason, we just seem unable to stop saying “just”.  We treat it just like a magic word.  It’s as if we think that if we just say just enough times, You really will answer our prayers.  Instead, maybe we should just stop saying just, and just trust that You’ll hear us whenever we call.

We all do these things.  Some of us may even do all of these things.  Most of us do a few of these things and a few other things too.  But do these habits really speak the truth about prayer?  Last Thursday, Aaron asked over and over again if the way we approach prayer is in line with what the New Testament teaches?  Do our behaviors proudly proclaim the magnificent glory and beauty of our God, or do they reduce His presence and limit His power?  Are we OK with our answers, or are we, like Aaron, left saying, “hmm…?’

Pause: So what does the bible say about prayer?  Here are a few verses for you to consider.

“Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God.  God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.” Ecclesiastes 5:2

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others.  Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full… when you pray do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”  Matthew 6:5, 7-8

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” John 15:7

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Push Play: Prayer is complex – that’s the reason why we’re spending so much time talking about it this month – and because it’s so complex, it’s tempting to find a formula or a pattern that we’re comfortable with and sit in it.

Do you ever find yourself praying the same things over and over again each night?  I know I do…  It’s not that I’m being disingenuous; everything I pray about is important to me, and I really am praying because I want to spend time with God, not just because I feel like I should.  But if prayer is about cultivating a relationship with my Creator and Savior, shouldn’t it be more of a conversation than a speech?  I mean, think about it: if you and your best friend had the exact same conversation each and every day, I would venture to guess you wouldn’t stay best friends for long.  Oh my goodness, can you imagine just how boring that would be?!

I don’t know about you, but I never want to be bored in my relationship with Jesus.  Even if it means abandoning what I’ve grown accustomed to, I want to delve deeper into God each time I pray; I want to invite Him to sit beside me, and whisper His wisdom and comfort into my heart.  What about you?

Much Love,

Taylor


Rewind. Pause. Push Play. Aaron asks, “How do you view prayer?”

March 10, 2011

Rewind: You’ve just finished yet another inspiring and intellectual Lifegroup (bible study), and you’re feeling renewed, encouraged, and ready to take what you’ve learned and apply it to your life!   But, before you all head home to recommence homework or studying (or procrastinating), your leader asks for prayer requests.  You sit patiently, listening to Sam, Megan, and Tom talk about their weeks – maybe even writing their requests down, and after everyone’s gotten a chance to talk, you start to pray…  And that’s when you realize that no one else in your group prays like you!  Sam is pretty formal about it, almost like he’s following an outline, and Megan is really passionate –her words almost seem like poetry.  Meanwhile, Tom is uber casual, using words like uber to talk about how awesome God is, and you’re somewhere in between those three – you strive for balance in everything you do.

So why is it that you each pray in different ways?  Last night, Aaron attempted to answer some of these questions by exploring a few different styles of prayer, and explaining that the way you pray says a lot about how you view providence, or the way that God works in our world.

For example, some people pray, God, we know that whatever happens happens, and neither You nor Ican do much to change it right now, but please, Lord, give us guidance to deal with our struggles, and remind us that eventually, Your goodness will triumph. This kind of prayer seems to say that God takes a more hands-off approach when it comes to your life.  It praises God for his goodness and his omniscience, but it also resigns Him to the role of a quiet, wise, comforting observer who will someday rescue His people, but is not currently an active participant…

Others may pray, God, we know that sin separates us from You and that sometimes what happens to us and what you want are not the same thing; sometimes evil wins the battles here on earth, but You will win the war.  We come to You now because we know that You’ve told us to pray.  Even though there is no guarantee, You said you would stand up for us, and we know You are fully capable of acting if You choose. This kind of prayer recognizes God’s sovereignty and goodness, but also acknowledges our sinfulness and how that separates us from Him, both of which are good and true.  But, if you notice, it also seems to challenge, rather than ask, Him to do what He has said He would do and implies that, sometimes, God is incapable…

Still others pray something along the lines of, Lord, we know You have predetermined everything that will happen here, and that You are thus totally and utterly in control.  We humbly approach You with our petitions because we want to share our lives with You.  Even if we don’t understand Your plan right now, we know that You intended this to happen, and since You are good, that means this too must be good in some way, and that it plays a role in bringing You all glory and honor. This prayer recognizes and praises God for his omniscience, omnipotence, and righteousness.  However, it also seems to minimize our role in God’s plan, saying that prayer is important because it creates a relationship with God, but it doesn’t really change anything…

The main thing Aaron said last night is that the way you pray is directly influenced by how you view God.  Is He someone who sits back and watches?  Do His good efforts get thwarted by our sinful ways?  Is He a personal, loving God, who has a predetermined, unchanging plan for the world?  Is it possible that the way you view God, that which you know to be true about who He is and what He does, and the way you pray to Him don’t line up right now?

Aaron challenged each of us to take some time over the next week or so to look through scripture and reaffirm, or perhaps change, our view of providence, because the more we explore God’s word, the more we find ourselves immersed in all that God is and all that God does.  Prayer is, above all, a form of communion with our Lord and Savior, and it has been designed to satisfy that longing for fulfillment and connection that resides in each of our hearts.

Pause: Check out some of these prayers.  What do they say about who God is and what He does in our lives?

“And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: “O LORD, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, You alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth.  You have made heaven and earth.  Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open Your eyes, O LORD, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God. … Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that You alone, O LORD, are God.”” 2 Kings 19:15-16, 19

“Going a little farther, He fell with His face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as You will.”… He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may Your will be done.”” Matthew 26:39, 42

“…they raised their voices together in prayer to God.  “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “You made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.  You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of Your servant, our father David… Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed.  They did what Your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.  Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable Your servants to speak Your word with great boldness.  Stretch out Your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.”” Acts 4:24-35, 27-30

Push Play: Prayer can be intimidating, especially in a group setting.  I know that the first time I was asked to pray, out loud, for our Lifegoup my freshman year, I was terrified.  Praying had always been something that I did in the quiet of my own heart, and I’m relatively certain that, other than saying grace before meals with my family, I had never once prayed aloud before coming to college.  I remember stumbling and stuttering through my first spoken prayer feeling more concerned with what my group members were thinking than what God was thinking.  I also remember that I was painfully aware of how other people prayed from that point on; I was constantly trying to figure out the “right” way to pray.

It took a long time, and a lot of practice (which my friends and family were more than happy to provide), for me to get to a point where I was comfortable praying in front of people, but it took even longer for me to realize why it was that I had been so uncomfortable before.  The fact is that God desires to hear from us and to walk closely with us, and that the more we seek His wisdom and understanding through scripture, the more confident we become in that relationship, and thus, the more confident we are in our prayer life.

Now, that isn’t to say that everyone should pray the same way; I think that our differences speak to the magnificent diversity and creativity of our God.  Nor do I mean to say that you have to be comfortable praying out loud to somehow prove your confidence in God’s providence; I realize that some people may never volunteer to pray for a group, and that’s perfectly fine with me.  Rather, I just want to encourage you to take Aaron’s challenge to heart and compare God’s word with your prayer life.  And, if in the process you find the two don’t match up the way they should, don’t be afraid to try something new, even if it is outside of your comfort zone, because, a lot of times, that’s where God is.

Much Love,

Taylor


Battle of the Sexes: It was a Three-peat, folks!

On Friday, February 26th at approximately 7pm, an epic battle was waged for year-long bragging rights and an incredibly odd looking trophy.   The war was masterfully planned, bravely fought, and ingeniously won… unless you’re a girl, like me, in which case it was bitterly lost.   That’s right, for the third year in a row, the Axiom men, the Fonzies*, if you will, took home the gold! … Well, they kept the wooden bird(?) statue that looks more like the topper of a totem pole than a real trophy.  And, yes, I do indeed know that I’m being a bit petty in my commentary, but like I said, the battle was bitterly lost; besides, read the title of this post, and take note of the occasional exclamation point associated with the men’s victory – I’m trying here, I really am… ish.

For those of you who were unable to be a part of this legendary event, below you will find evidence of the greatness that comes from pitting otherwise friendly, generous, and kind men and women against one another… I only wish I could offer you sound clips of the chants, the cheers, and the beautiful renditions of broadway songs that accompanied the competition (although you may in fact be able to hear some of them on Axiom’s YouTube channel).   And for those of you lucky individuals who witnessed the magical three-peat victory (see guys, I really am trying!), I hope you too enjoy this walk down memory lane.**

*If you don’t get the Fonzie reference, I apologize, and I also encourage you to ask someone about the Fonzie/Sheila sermon series from a while back.

**Next year will be a different story.  The girls will come back with a vengeance, boys, and we will beat you.  Enjoy your victory while it lasts.

Picture this: it’s the first event of the night.  We’ve just gotten back from dinner where the majority of us not only enjoyed delicious food, but also consumed some sort of caffeinated beverage.  Combine that with the jittery energy of wanting to CRUSH your opponent, and the excitement of spending a night doing foolish things in front of your friends and a minister with a video camera.  Now, enter the first challenge: hold this popsicle stick/tongue depressor in your mouth and stack five die on the end of it; you must hold this shaky tower of cubes for 3 seconds to come away victorious…  yeah, it was intense.

Now, I’ll admit from here on out, the exact order of the events evades me, but that’s not really the important part anyway…

For this competition, you were made to stand next to your rival with a pedometer strapped to your forehead.  At the signal, your one and only goal was to bang your head up and down faster, and thus “walk” farther, than your opponent for a full 60 seconds.  I participated in one round of this event, and those 60 seconds felt like a lifetime!  By the end of it, everyone who played was super dizzy, and just about ready to fall over, but it was hilarious and awesome – just check out the fantastic hair action here!

  


Also, as a note, not every event is pictured… there were a lot more battles than what this post leads you to believe.

I’m sure at one point or another, you’ve played the keep-the-balloon-off-the-ground game.  But, I would venture to guess that you had only one balloon to keep track of, or if there were multiple balloons, there were also multiple players.  At this year’s Battle, however, the balloon-to-person ratio was 3:1.  If I remember correctly, you only had to keep the balloons (not filled with helium, btw) off the ground for 60 seconds, but once again, 60 seconds is a long time when the fate of your gender depends on your performance… note the concentration on their faces.

  Axiom-ites are really, really cool… who else would agree to be filmed while doing stuff like this???

You’ve probably never tried this… or maybe you have; I guess I shouldn’t make assumptions… Anyway, for this challenge, you had to stack five chocolate-creme-filled snack cakes on our forehead with one hand, and balance them for three seconds.  You were given one minute to complete the task, which was a good amount of time, but imagine leaning back and keeping perfectly still for a full 60 seconds; it’s like a prolonged wall-sit… only more upright, and with food on your face!

 

 

  

You are correct, sir/madam; in the picture below, that is indeed Rebekah, Battle of the Sexes 2011 emcee, dressed in an alligator suit.  You simply cannot doubt our dedication. 

Finally, all those times you sat in lecture, bored to tears, with nothing to entertain you but a trusty number two pencil with a surprisingly bouncy eraser on one end, pay off!  Boo-yeah!  The goal was this: bounce a pencil into each of the three glasses in 60 seconds.   Thankfully, each competitor was allowed a pencil wrangler so that he/she didn’t have to frantically pick up the failed pencils on his/her own, but even so, this was not an easy task!  Also, the action in this battle was so intense and fast paced that we didn’t get a clear shot of the boys until after they’d won this round…

 

By the way, that kind of intense celebration followed each and every round of each and every competition for both the men and the women.  We take this VERY seriously.

In the red cup is a collection of m’ms (or maybe they were jelly beans, I’m not sure).  The objective was to transport 10 of the colorful candies into the clear cup using only the straw (which you could not touch with anything other than your mouth).  Before you freak out, we all used different straws, no worries.  Also, this proved to be the most challenging event by far!  I think we only had one person complete it in the alloted time; something about the surface area to suction ratio and stuff…

   

Just so you know, the girls were ahead for at least the first half of the night… Men, never forget that we almost had you!

This was the final game of the night: how fast can you empty a box of tissues using only one hand.  Once again, you were alloted a helper – a tissue box holder – but while that prevented the box from moving around, it certainly did not stop discarded tissues from obscuring your vision and preventing you from getting a hold of the next one.  Each picture from this event looks almost exactly the same, so I’m only gonna give you one, but take a moment to appreciate the looks on the faces of the crowd (even though they’re a little hard to see… all for one, and one for all!  (Unless you’re on the other team, then you’re on your own.)

 

 

 At the end of round three, it looked like it had snowed in the annex, which was ironic considering the absurd amount of snow on the ground outside at the time… remember the blizzard (and the snow day)… yeah, that was the same week.

And then the battle was over, and the war was won… by the men!  Yay (if you could only hear the sarcasm in my voice)!!  But, seriously, the guys took home yet another victory, solidifying their role as the current all-time champions of Axiom’s Battle of the Sexes!  That’s right, they have won every. single. time.  Ladies, I honestly don’t know what happened; we were so close for so long, and we had the energy, the strategy, and the desire!  Next year… next year… next year is our year.  And for those of you who have read through this post, laughed at my commentary, and yet feel as though I may be letting my bitterness get the best of me, take a good look at this picture.  They talk smack too.

Battle of the Sexes 2011 may have been a three-peat, but it was certainly not an easy battle, nor was it a shut out.  Fonzies, one day the Shelias will rise up, and you too will taste the bitterness of defeat!  But, until then, I sincerely hope you enjoy yet another year of victory, the memory of which will warm your hearts next year (when the girls dominate).

Much love,

Taylor


Rewind. Pause. Push Play. Aaron says, “If we’re the widow, God is NOT the judge…”

March 3, 2011

Rewind: Something goes wrong, so you turn to God, and you start praying.  Or maybe nothing goes wrong, per say, you just need some guidance; so you turn to God, and you start praying.  Then you pray a little more.  Then you ask your friends to pray for you.  And you all pray a little more.  You pray and you pray and you pray, but you just can’t seem to get an answer… You throw up your hands and ask God where He is.  What has He been doing this whole time?  When’s He gonna step in and help out?

We’ve all been there.  We’ve all asked ourselves, at one point or another, “What’s the use?  What’s the point?  What difference do my prayers even make?”  Last night, Aaron told us that people have been asking those questions for centuries, and, guess what, Jesus gave us an answer:

“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.  He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men.  And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’  For some time he refused.  But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’”  And the Lord [still Jesus speaking here] said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says.  And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?  Will he keep putting them off?  I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.”” Luke 18:2-8

This is yet another example of what Aaron talked about a few weeks ago: Jesus really loved teaching in stories; they force people to pay attention, to think about what Jesus is saying, and to rely on God’s wisdom to achieve understanding.  This story in particular is key to a foundational understanding of prayer, so let’s take a moment and break it down.

Aaron explained that, because this is a parable – a fictitious story used to relay a moral truth – every element in the story is important; Jesus chose to center the story around a widow and a judge.

At this time in Israel, widows had no way of supporting themselves; a woman wasn’t really permitted to work, so once her husband was gone, she was at the mercy of her community for even the most basic of needs (think about it: no cash means no rent check and no grocery money).  Hence God’s soft spot for widows and orphans; without the love and kindness of other people, they would be left destitute and helpless – a combination which often results in hopelessness.  Meanwhile, the law in Israel stated that judges must fear God (do what is right), and defend the oppressed (have compassion for mankind).  Therefore, when the widow approached the judge to ask for help, probably because her home was being taken away, she expected to receive help, because that was his job.  Rather than extending grace and a helping hand, however, the judge is said to have continually ignored her pleas.

Finally, the widow wears him down.  Picture it: she’s spent weeks asking this stone-cold man to do his job and answer her – to defend her cause – but to no avail.  Just as she is about to throw up her hands and give up, he, albeit grudgingly, agrees to help (but only because she’s been so annoying).

In this story, we are the widow.  We can sympathize with her because we too are in desperate need of help.  We live in a broken world filled to the brim with problems that threaten to consume us.  We all know what it is to beg and plead for help, and feel as though our petitions are falling on deaf ears.  But, if the widow in the story is us, then who is the judge?  Well, one thing is for sure, God is NOT the judge in this story.

Unlike the judge, God does not brush off our prayers.  He not only hears us when we call out to Him, but He values our prayers, and He wants to answer them.  It all comes down to the fact that God wants to be in relationship with us; He wants to be the one we choose to rely on.  So, keep on praying, even when it feels like God is taking His sweet time answering you, because you’re prayers do matter to God.

Like Aaron said, when we’re standing there with our arms outstretched, crying out for the God of the universe to step in and defend, guide, and comfort us, our Father has compassion for us, because He too has had outstretched arms.

Pause: Have you prayed to God lately?  Is there something you’ve been wanting to pray about, but afraid that God doesn’t have time to listen to you?  You should pray.  Right now.

“Hear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.  Guard my life, for I am devoted to You.  You are my God; save Your servant who trusts in You.  Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to You all day long.  Bring joy to Your servant, for to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

“You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you.  Hear my prayer, O LORD; listen to my cry for mercy.  In the day of my trouble I will call to You, for You will answer me” Psalm 86:1-7

““Have faith in God,” Jesus answered.  “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”” Mark 11:22-24

Push Play: I’ve always thought of myself as a relatively patient person; it takes a lot to really ruffle my feathers, ya know?  On the other hand, I’m a planner; I really enjoy knowing what’s going on now, and what’s going to happen next.  For the most part, wanting a plan isn’t too much of a problem because activities usually come with a schedule of some sort, and even a vague outline is enough for me.  The real issue comes when the plan I’m looking for isn’t something as simple as delegating a task, or figuring out when I need to be somewhere.  It’s when I’m waiting for God to show me His plan for my life – what I’m supposed to be doing, who I’m supposed to be with, where I’m gonna end up – that I feel my patience wearing thin, because, really, I just want to know.  But that isn’t always how God works; I believe that sometimes He chooses not to answer us, or at least He chooses not to answer us in a way or a time frame that we expect.  Don’t get me wrong, I believe that God always answers our prayers, I really do.  I just don’t think we always notice or understand.  And that’s ok.

I don’t know about you, but I’m really glad my God is not a God who is easy to predict or understand.  I’m overjoyed that the Lord is surprising and complex; that He’s more than big enough to cover everything in His love, His grace, His mercy, and His eternally-minded plan.  And if that means I need to have a little more patience, well, I’ll just have to keep praying that He’ll grow that in me.

Much love,

Taylor