Red Lipstick, Prayers, and Prepositions

The source of my strength.
The source of my strength.

I listened to a podcast by a big-deal pastor that I generally really like, but this time I didn’t agree with him. Short story: he was getting ready to fly to some huge, extremely foreign continent and do his mission thing (definitely great stuff), when a woman in his congregation asked to pray for him. Sure. Pray, lady. Go for it. Only problem: she said “Lord, be with __________.” He went. He came back. And he made an example of that woman by telling everyone that she was stating the obvious. OF COURSE, GOD—the creator and master of the Universe—is with him. He (whose name must not be spoken) is with all of us at all times whether we acknowledge him or not. He is always present. SO be more specific. Don’t use “be with.” (Sarcastic)

Ok. Dear Lord, please protect Pastor ______from contracting the Ebola virus and dying while he is over there ministering to the hundreds and hundreds of folks suffering from the Ebola virus. OH, by the way, please heal all the infected people. In Jesus name, Amen.

I soooo beg to differ with the use of with! In Isaiah 41 (one of the best chapters to read whenever you are feeling fearful and overwhelmed—which for me is pretty much a weekly affair), God tells Isaiah to tell the folks, “Do not fear, for I am WITH you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.”

Here’s my beef with not using “with.” Sometimes I really don’t know what someone I care about is going through, but I know it’s something hard. When I pray, “Lord, please be with _________,” I am crying out to God to accompany that person—to be present during their suffering. And of course, He is. But what is wrong with praying, “be with”?

Addendum: I try to avoid the “vomit” prayers—you know—the ones you “throw up” to God without any real thought. I try to enter his presence first. Sounds mystical, huh? I guess it is. Our God is Spirit. What I mean is that I close out the world’s sounds and distractions, I get in a place where I can focus on the people I want to pray for—lots of times I have a list in my prayer journal. No TV. No iPad. No music (though music can be great, it distracts because I start singing). I like to have my Bible open to a favorite verse or chapter. No magic, here. Just faith, love, devotion, trust, obedience. And repentance. The stage is set.

Again. NO MAGIC. Discipline and faith. And then I pray. If I am praying for my sons, David and Eric, or my daughter, Katie, I may not know what is going on in their deepest places. So, I cry out to God to be with them. To be with David that he might know and trust God. To be with Eric that he might grow as a husband and father. To be with Katie that she won’t get too tired and worn out and stressed from her job. And sometimes it’s just a “Be With.” Please, please, be with—accompany them. Guide them.

“With” is a very important preposition because it diminishes loneliness.

Red Lipstick by MAC "Retro" modeled by 50+ chica
Red Lipstick by MAC “Retro” modeled by 50+ chica

And the red lipstick? Somedays I pray that my Father will be with me because I’m scared. I may be moving west, away from my daughter and parents and friends and colleagues. And I am finishing my MEd—Masters in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Adolescent Literacy. THESIS! DEFEND THE THESIS. Moving and writing massive thesis don’t go together in my brain. So some mornings, I need a little sass to go along with my “with” prayer; thus, the red lipstick.

No make-up. Hair frizzing all over the place. But when I slide on MAC’s “Retro” red lipstick, I feel like everything is going to be fine. As long as I can put the red lipstick actually on my lips and not the surrounding area, I’m ok.

Yes, that’s a very loose analogy. Prayer with lipstick. What can I say, it works for me. Red lipstick WITH Isaiah 41 WITH prayer=surviving another day.

red lipstick bravery

origin_199185257 Romans 8 always confounds me. 

Today I woke up and the pain hit me all over again—not emotional pain—physical pain. It is the physical pain that defeats me and makes me angry and frustrated.

*I consider that my present suffering are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in me. Romans 8:18. (I change the pronouns all the time to make it more personal).

It’s morning and I go to the Lord. Everyone’s morning God time is different, I’m sure. When I was teaching high school, my time with the Lord was a quick reading of My Utmost for His Highest while I dried my hair, and then listening to a good word from a favorite podcast while driving to school. During the twenty-minute drive I practiced developing a prayerful attitude. For me, a prayerful attitude means  calming myself and centering my mind on the truth and presence of God. That He was my creator God. A God that cared for me with all my idiosyncrasies and past, present and future failures. I centered my mind on the truth that I was NOT going to teach the kids by myself. I didn’t have the intelligence or quickness of mind it took to teach. I had to keep God in my pocket, so to speak, so I could reach down in that pocket and feel his hand grasp mine as reassurance of presence and love. Sometimes I have a stone cross in my pocket or a rock with “strength” engraved on it (given to me by a wonderful young woman).

*Many times, I don’t know what to pray anymore. I’m find I’m repeating myself. I have a list and it’s the same list. How and why? How and why, Lord? Help Lord! Please, Lord! And then I remember my access to the Spirit. Why do I forget that? His indwelling in me. Oh Holy Spirit—I pray—moans and groans too deeply implanted to be verbalized. The Spirit translates.He gets it. 

 And then comes verse 28. God works all the yucky, painful stuff for good—His good. His good in me. Shaping and forming me to be more like Jesus, but oh what a stiff, cold piece of clay I can be.

So today, in pain, I read these words and reflect and write. Looking at red and gold and brown trees reflecting the morning sun. Wishing I had another cup of coffee  and could sit a while longer until my hands quite shaking. And the pain passes.

Slowly, slowly it does. The shaking becomes a vibration. I run the dishwasher. I eat my oatmeal.  I take a shower, and even though I know I will be working on my computer today and may not even leave the house, I put on red lipstick. Red lipstick is brave. I will be brave in my hope today. I will be brave in my trust.

 “So what do you think? With God on our (my) side like this, how can we (I) lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us (me), embracing our (my) condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us (me)?” Romans 8:31-32 The Message Bible

A Poem by Wendell Berry—for my daughter-in-love, Renee

A Homecoming

One faith is bondage. Two

are free. In the trust

of old love, cultivation shows

a dark graceful wilderness

at its heart. Wild

in that wilderness, we roam

the distances of our faith,

safe beyond the bounds

of what we know. O love,

open. Show me

my country. Take me home.