Tuesday, 27 January 2015

PAPA Prayer and Letters from John to the Church

In chapter 2 of Dr. Larry Crabb's book The PAPA Prayer, we're given an introduction to what the PAPA prayer is and how it changes your prayer life.

We pray so many prayers, asking God for so many things (even good things like restored relationships or healing from sickness/disease), and they don't get answered so we wonder where God is and if He even cares. But could the problem be with how we're praying, not with what or to whom we're praying? Could it be that we're focussing on petitionary prayer, rather than relational? That we're just looking for God to give us what we want and need (or what we think we need) and are not looking for relationship with Him?

There are many good ways to pray and many people have published effective "formulas" of prayer but this (the PAPA prayer) is a fresh way to look at prayer. We can't manipulate God. "He's not open to input on how to best run my life" (p. 9). (I really liked that quote. God knows us better than we know ourselves and we need to let go of control of our lives and trust Him that He knows best how to run it. This prayer is "a way to relate to God that lets us hear Him speak" (p. 9). Isn't that beautiful? Doesn't that sound like the best way to speak? We can speak to God and hear His response, knowing it is Him responding to us? Don't you long for that too??  We can find union with God in this prayer. Here's another awesome quote from this chapter: "It's a way to know God so well that the deepest desire of His heart actually becomes the deepest desire of ours, and that frees us to ask God for what we really want with confidence that He'll move heaven and earth to grant our request, because what we want now matches what He wants" (p. 9).

Dr. Crabb gives us a brief outline (promising to go into more detail in future chapters) of what the PAPA prayer looks like. You have probably guessed, by my capitalization of the entire word PAPA, that it is an acronym! :) The letters represent the following:

"P - Present yourself to God without pretense...
A - Attend to how you're thinking of God...
P - Purge yourself of anything blocking your relationship with God. [Verbalize it to God.]...
A - Approach God as the 'first thing' in your life..." (p. 10).

It's, first and foremost, relational prayer. This kind of prayer needs to be at the very centre of our lives, above any other form of prayer. "Relational prayer must always come before petitionary prayer. Relate and then request. Enjoy God and then enjoy His provisions, whatever they are" (p. 10). Hmm, sounds like something similar to what John Piper would say in his talks on Christian hedonism - along the lines of the chief end of man being to glorify God and enjoy Him forever! :) We can only be fully satisfied if our souls rest in Him.

So, relational prayer has to come first but we can't make the mistake of having the goal of this prayer to have all our petitions answered. Then we're still coming at it the wrong way, with the wrong mindset/attitude. The goal of this prayer is, quite simply, intimate relationship with God, our Father. "Coming to God in this way creates space in me that the Spirit always fills. Always. I may not know its happening, but it is" (p. 11). This prayer leads to change in our attitudes, in how we see ourselves and others.

Now on to Letters from John to the church. So, this year I've been working on my goal to read through the Bible (because, as I mentioned in my first post in this series on relational prayer, part of relationship with God is spending time in His word, getting to know Him) and I've promised to include my thoughts on what I've read as well. Also, following the advise in the article I linked in that introductory post (and article from The Gospel Coalition), I am reading each book 20 times before moving on to the next book. I'm not reading the Bible in chronological order, not from the front to the back. Instead I'm starting with the shortest book and moving on from there so I will be ending with the longest book. The shortest book is the Third Letter of John followed by the Second Letter of John. So, those are the books I've read so far (and yes, I know it's almost the end of January and I've only, technically, read 2 pages of the Bible BUT, I'm reading each 20 times each and I'm taking my time so that I can think on what I've read, ponder the Word). :)

Thoughts on the Third Letter of John:

John calls himself "the Elder" and is writing this letter to a man named Gaius. We aren't told who this man is but we can assume he has an important role in his own church (possibly also an elder?). This letter encourages Gaius (and us) to walk in truth. We are to welcome strangers who are brothers and sister in Christ and also welcome those who we know who are brothers and sisters in Christ. Basically, be welcoming! :) He encourages Gaius (and the church) to not imitate evil and he defines evil as those who put themselves first, who don't acknowledge the authority of the elders, who don't welcome bothers/sisters in Christ and who prevent others from doing the same. He also includes a plea to support missionaries/ministers and this seems to be a plea for financial support, not just support through prayer!  In regards to walking in truth he says, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." I have often heard this verse quoted as parents speaking to their children (like if my parents said "I find great joy in hearing that Jennifer is walking in truth.") But, when read in the context of this book/chapter, it seems to refer, not so much to biological/adopted children as in a child/parent relationship, but seems to refer more to a minister/pastor relating to his congregation. And I imagine there could be no greater joy to a pastor than to see that the people under his care are walking in truth!  In this letter (verse 7), there is a reference to "the Gentiles" and I wonder, who are the gentiles in this context? are they simply non-Jews (as the term traditionally refers to) or does it mean unbelievers?  Something to think about...

Thoughts on the Second Letter of John:

This letter is again written from "the elder" but, instead of being written to one particular person, it is written "to the elect lady and her children". This tells me it is written to a specific church and the members of that congregation. He describes this church as one "whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth, because of the truth that abides in us..." What does this mean? If you love God, you will love the church. In fact, you must love the church because it is His church and He dwells in us and in His church.  John says to the church, "... love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments; ..." Interesting! Love/loving each other, is not so much how we relate to each other as it is how we relate to God! Love is, as defined in this verse, obedience to God and this is also, apparently how we show love to each other! But then, part of that love also has to include holding each other accountable to "walk according to his commandments." Then when someone holds us accountable, we can't respond with a "how dare you judge me and think yourself better than me" but we need to respond with an understanding that the person genuinely loves us and cares for us and is calling us to live in the manner according to our confession that we are children of God!  I also wonder about these verses: "Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works." Now, what does that refer to? It almost sounds like the Amish practice of shunning. BUT, when I look at who this letter is addressed to (the church), perhaps it means more that we, as a church, are not to welcome or greet (or allow to preach in our churches), false teachers, teachers who speak words that are contrary to the word of God? I'd love to hear others thoughts on this! :)

I also find that I get frustrated with John in these two letters. Both of them end in a similar manner: "Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. ..." and then he goes on to say he'd rather talk to them in person. Why does he leave his letters so seemingly incomplete like this? What was so important that it had to be communicated face-to-face rather than in letter? I'd like to know more of what he taught the churches in this matter of love, deceiver/antichrist (2nd letter) and also what he spoke of in his third letter (walking in truth, welcoming, etc.).

You can view my other posts on this series on The PAPA Prayer here.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

The PAPA Prayer - Safe in the Arms of my Papa

So, part one of Dr. Larry Crabb's book consists of the first 10 chapters and is called "Getting Ready to Pray the PAPA Prayer." We find quite a good discussion on different kinds of prayers and how we view prayer/the purpose of prayer. Chapter one is titled "Your Dream of the Perfect Papa Can Come True."  Here follows my notes and thoughts.

We all want a 'papa' - a relationship, that safe feeling we have with someone we trust implicitly. You know that big strong man who wraps you in his arms and makes you fee so safe that nothing can harm you (even if you haven't experienced it, you've likely dreamed of it) - that's what we all want and long for. Dr. Crabb tells us, through a personal story, that the term 'papa', instead of 'father' or 'dad', "close[es] a gap between two persons". (p. 4). Although, personally, I would argue that 'Dad' also accomplishes that when compared to 'Father'. And I think it also depends on the relationship you have with your Dad. But I can totally see his point - using the term 'papa' is more childlike and puts you in a more vulnerable and intimate relationship with the one you are addressing.

Whether our biological or earthly dad was good and godly and safe ... or not, we all long for a 'papa'. "We yearn for a strong man we can count on to be there for us, to want us, to look after us, to delight in us; someone we want to get close to, a lion of a man who invites us to draw near to him and rest in his powerful but gentle love". (p. 5)  Here's the bombshell: we have one - GOD! :) But, for some reason, we back away from that kind of intimate relationship with Him. What are we afraid of?!

I remember a time, especially as a child but also well into high school and college years, when I felt more of that type of relationship with God. I'd have dreams and these dreams mostly were coloured in blue (I think this is why blue is one of my most favourite colours). In these dreams, even when I was grown and out of the house, I felt like a little girl, peaking around the corner waiting to catch her Daddy's (Papa's?) eyes. I knew that Daddy was God and there was always a figure there that I knew was this God I saw as a Daddy (though I never saw clearly what that figure looked like other than He was big, strong and comfort flowed from Him like you could not even imagine). And, in those dreams, when that little girl caught His eye, she ran gleefully to Him, a smile covering her face, a giggle at her lips, and she (I) threw herself in His arms. And the rest of the dream was just the two of us sitting and talking. I think this is what the PAPA prayer could be like. And this is the relationship I long to return to with Him - one where I can just sit and talk and feel safe. :)

The other posts in this series can be found here.

Owl Taggie Blanket

So, I'm about a month from my due date with our third child and have been postponing making something for this little one because I just couldn't decide what I really wanted to make. I knit a blanket and booties for my first born:

I did a modge podge collage type picture for my second born:

So this time I wanted to do something different again, though I was also considering knitting something again. But, knitting takes time and time has been running out and, honestly, with a 4 year old and a 2 year old running around and only a month to my due date, I wasn't going to have enough time to knit something! :) I also considered sewing something ... but what? I bought myself some fat quarters in November and coordinating ribbons thinking a taggie blanket would be fun to try but I kept on putting it off. Also, I wanted it to crinkle and the best (and cheapest) suggestion that I could find for crinkle material was oven roasting bags and I had a horrible time trying to find those! :) Finally I did, but, still, everything just sat around. Finally, this past weekend, I decided I just had to sit down and get it done! I wanted to do an owl theme and I couldn't find a template I liked (or that was free) online so I decided to make one myself. I drew one out that I thought looked quite like an owl but I was told it looked like a cat! Yikes! I hate cats! :) So I hummed and hawed and finally adapted my template. I was just going to do the blanket in the shape of the owl with no features but, since people thought it looked like a cat, I decided I need to add some features. So I drew out patterns for wings, beak and eyes. This made the project much more challenge (as it required a lot more planning and sewing) but also much more rewarding! I drew everything free hand and purposefully didn't make it symmetrical. I know, it will annoy many (and I'm surprised it didn't annoy me - being a Type A, perfectionist, slightly OCD gal). :) 

This little "tutorial" (for lack of a better word) would work for any pattern you decide on, I'm sure.

So, first I drew the pattern on the fabric but did NOT cut it out. (I also drew about 1/4" out for a seam allowance.) Then I cut rick rack to size, pinned it in place and sewed it as a distinctive "feather" pattern on the belly. On the coordinating fabrics, I drew the other parts of the pattern - the wings, beak/head part leading to beak (you know what I mean) and eyes, cut those out, ironed a hem on the sides of the pieces where it wouldn't be overlapping the seam allowance on the main owl pattern and pinned them into place. On the eyes, I hand-sewed buttons for eyeballs before pinning them to the main owl pattern.  I then sewed around the hemmed sides of all the owl parts. next I cut my ribbons to size, folded them over and pinned them into place. You want the end of the ribbons (the cut ends) to be between the outside and inside lines, as close to the outside line as possible. At this point, I sewed along the inner pattern line I drew. This, of course, allowed me to sew the ribbons into place but also gave me a nice outline of the entire owl shape. You will see why this is important in the next photo. :) This is the front of the blanket and is all in flannel.

OK, once all that work was done (and trust me when I say that was the hardest and most tedious part of this project), I was able to layer the other fabrics. so, with right sides facing, add your coordinating fabric for the back. Place the back fabric on top of the front and your oven roasting bag (for the crinkle) on top of that. FYI, oven roasting bags (at least the ones I found) are almost the exact same size as a fat quarter! Yay! :) (For the back, I just used a basic cotton fabric.) Then flip them over so You can pin along the outline of your pattern. I went a bit crazy with the pins, I know, but better safe than sorry right?! :) Once all the fabrics are pinned together, sew JUST inside the previous outline you sewed. This will reinforce the ribbons nicely as well. Leave a 3-4 inch opening in a convenient location so that you can flip it all right side out. :) Now, at this point is when you will cut out the pattern. Cut about a quarter inch away from where you sewed. You will also want to cut notches of some sort in the "nooks and crannies" and rounded parts to make it lay nicer/more flat when you turn it right side out. Give yourself a bit of extra fabric at the portion you left open.

Now, the reason I believe you do all this sewing before you cut out the pattern from the fabric (and roasting bag), is to ensure the roasting bag doesn't tear as you cut and sew. :) Also, all your pieces are more uniform this way and you KNOW the front, middle and back are going to match perfectly (for those of us who can't always cut the right size each time. :) )

Once you're done the above sewing and cutting, you can flip your blanket right side out. I used a pencil to push out the points of the ears and anything else that needed help turning right side out. Pencils are our friends! :) Finally, fold in the fabric at your opening to make a nice hem (this is why extra fabric comes in handy, instead of just a 1/4 inch. It's easier to fold it in neatly). Then topstitch that closed and around the entire pattern. This, once again, reinforces the ribbons (those suckers are definitely not going to be falling out!) and makes the entire blanket look more uniform. :) 

My 4 year old loved all the ribbons and said that they looked like feet and feathers (yay, goal accomplished!) but she didn't like the eyes. Her reason? "Owls don't have button eyes!!" lol But apparently they have fabric and ribbon everything else! :)

The front of my creation - Owl Taggie Blanket. :)

This is, obviously, the back of the blanket. :)
I'm pretty pleased with this project! And, I must say, I LOVE the oven roasting bag as crinkle fabric. It's a much nicer sound than other crinkle blankets I've seen and it isn't so hard either so the blanket is much more pliable than others I've seen.  I highly recommend oven roasting bags as the crinkle "fabric" of choice for any crinkle blanket or toy for babies! :)

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

My Prayer Adventure - An Invitation

"But if God is so good as you represent Him, and if He knows all that we need, and better far than we do ourselves, why should it be necessary to ask Him for anything?

I answer, What if He knows Prayer to be the thing we need first and most? What if the main object in God's idea of prayer be the supplying of our great, our endless need - the need of Himself? Hunger may drive the runaway child home, and he may or may not be fed at once, but he needs his mother more than his dinner. Communion with God is the one need of the soul beyond all other need: prayer is the beginning of that communion, and some need is the motive of that prayer. So begins a communion, a talking with God, a coming-to-one with Him, which is the sole end of prayer." ~George MacDonald

So, I thought I would share my notes/summary on the chapters of Larry Crabb's book, The PAPA Prayer. My notes include my thoughts and this method works with my personality so it's what I'm going with. No point in trying to be someone I'm not, right? :)

The book starts in such a welcoming manner that puts you at ease. First he shares 3 personal stories and then he gives an invitations ... an invitation to pray The PAPA Prayer.  This is for those "who want to know God so well that His life actually becomes theirs." (p. xvii)

He begins his invitation with 9 questions about your prayer life and relationship with God. If you answer honestly, you will probably feel at least slightly uncomfortable and your answers will be very telling. Please, if you pick up this book to read, answer the questions honestly! :)

These are the questions he asks:

"1. Ever ask for something from God that you didn't receive?
2.  Ever pray for guidance, especially in a difficult relationship, that never came?
3.  Ever really need to hear God's voice and then try to believe you did, even though you weren't sure?
4. Do you sometimes feel that God is turning a deaf ear to your most desperate prayer requests?
5. Have you ever prayer for comfort yet ended up feeling more empty and alone after you prayed?
6. Has praying for strength to overcome temptation ever left you feeling just as weak and the temptation just as strong, or even stronger?
7. Do you know God well enough to enjoy His company, the same way you enjoy being with a family member or close friend?
8. Do you want to know God better and enjoy Him more than you know and enjoy anyone else?
9. Do you connect with God in such a way that enables you to hear His voice and to know He's right there with you?" (p. xvii - xviii)

To be honest, not all my answers to these questions were the ones I wanted to give, but they were honest answers. Numbers 7 and 9 really hit hard because I remember a time when it was like that with God and me ... but something happened apparently that changed that. I want that back! :)

Dr. Crabb talks in this invitation about the rush of life and how, through that busyness, you try to include some sort of relationship with God but you really don't have energy "to worry about the quality of your relationship with God." (p. xviii) Our priorities are mixed up and we begin to see God as some sort of glorified Santa Claus or vending machine in the sky.  But, he says, because you've picked up this book, you realize there should be something more, something deeper. And there's a voice deep inside trying to get out, crying for a relationship with God. And, at least for me, as I've mentioned on more than a few occasions now, this is both exciting/thrilling and terrifying! As I write this, a Piano Guys CD is playing on my stereo and the song currently playing is the perfect soundtrack to that mix of emotions. :) Listen for yourselves to see/hear what I mean:

Here's one more quote from the invitation to pray that so well echoes what is on my heart!

"What I want most is Him. I want to know Him, trust Him, hear His voice, and experience His power to live the way He tells me to, whether things go my way or not." (p. xix)

Do you want to know Him intimately, in this so complete way, to be completely vulnerable with Him and, at the same time, so empowered by Him? Pick up The PAPA Prayer and journey along with me! :)

The other posts I have written, and will write, in this series can be found at the launch page, here.