Tag: prayer

What Are You Expecting?

Palm Sunday. The first high of the emotional roller coaster the disciples would ride the following week. On Thursday night, on Friday, on Saturday, don’t you imagine they each classified this week – this moment – to be the very worst of their lives? This grief, this loss to be the most unbearable they had ever known? Only days before, they had danced into the city on the wave of a great party. Riding beside them, the Savior they’d been waiting for. They shouted and sang and clapped and announced to anyone who would listen, “This is Him! This is the guy who’s going to deliver us!”

 

 The problem was in their definition of Deliverer. 

 

They believed He would still be their momentary conqueror, the one who would crush the oppressive Romans, give them a taste of their own medicine, and set the Jewish people free from their terrible reign. They were celebrating their own idea of a savior. 

 

They believed he was there to be a new king. 

 

The highest high for them became the lowest low on Thursday night when He was arrested before their eyes and taken away. Their wildest dreams of freedom came tumbling down on Friday afternoon when their would-be king died on a Roman cross. Their spirits were crushed afresh when they woke on Saturday morning and remembered it had not been a terrible dream but a real, lived-out nightmare. 

 

The problem in all of this was simple. He wasn’t who they thought He was. 

 

He wasn’t there to conquer a temporary oppressor for one group of people at one point in history. He was there to offer spiritual and eternal freedom to every captive. He wasn’t there to defeat a group of cruel Romans. He was there to defeat death. He wasn’t there to be a new king. He was there to be THE King. 

 

He wasn’t who they thought He was. He was so much more. 

 

The Palm Sunday celebration ran out of steam in a few hours. Onto the next thing. The next step in a Passover Festival they could all walk through in their sleep. But the Easter Sunday celebration? Oh, it’s still going. Hasn’t stopped one day since. Because the party for an earthy king is simply no match for that of a Savior who was carried into a cold dark tomb on Friday and walked out confidently on Sunday morning. 

Conqueror of Death.  

Prince of Peace.

King of Kings.

 

On this side of the story, we celebrate the Savior we love riding in to save us. But in looking at those early faces of the people who laid down coats and palm branches for their approaching king, it is a piercing reminder of how we are so often the same. A mirror to our own simple expectations. We praise Him for what we believe He will do, the answers we’re sure He will give to the petitions we bring before Him. We wait for him to deliver us from temporal discomforts and hardships, thinking all the while that this is the biggest thing we can ask for. This is the pinnacle of our desire. And we stand confused and angry while we watch Him do what looks to us like nothing. 

 

But could it be that our dreams are too small? Could it be that our prayers are too measured? Could it be that He is waiting for us to clasp our hands around the truth that He is “able to do immeasurably more that all we ask or imagine”?

 

I’ve been reading a book by Max Lucado during this lent season: And The Angels Were Silent. In chapter 13, “What Man Dared Not Dream,” he says this about Jesus: 

 

“…no one could ever dream a person as incredible as he is. The idea that a virgin would be selected by God to bear himself….The notion that God would don a scalp and toes and two eyes….The thought that the King of the universe would sneeze and burp and get bit by mosquitoes…It’s too incredible. Too revolutionary….In our wildest imaginings we wouldn’t conjure a king who becomes one of us. But God did. God did what we wouldn’t dare dream. He did what we couldn’t imagine. He became a man so we could trust him. He became a sacrifice so we could know him. And he defeated death so we could follow him…it is the very impossibility of it all that makes it possible. The wildness of the story is its strongest witness. For only a God could create a plan this mad. Only a Creator beyond the fence of logic could offer such a gift of love. What man can’t do, God does.”

 

In these days between our current Palm Sunday and our upcoming Easter celebration, I wonder if it wouldn’t be beneficial for us to pray a new prayer. A prayer for God to increase our daring. To expand our imagination to include what Lucado calls “a divine insanity” and “a holy incredibility.” Maybe we pray something like this: 

 

Lord Jesus, my expectations are so often too small, too dull, too unimaginative. I’m asking for relief from temporal bindings, and while I know You are fully capable of delivering me from anything, I want to look higher. I want to expect greater things. I want to look for an eternal Savior, conqueror of every darkness, not just the one I happen to be looking at now. I want to see You as You are. To celebrate the true and highest King. Show me this week, Lord. Unearth and break down any untrue beliefs about who you are, and show me your unwavering glory. You are greater than all we could ever ask for. Our wildest dreams are small points of color in the greater strokes you are brushing across the canvas. You want to do more. Help us, Holy Spirit, to expect more.

My View From the Top of the Stairs

The year was 2012. It was a Saturday in February, and I was nestled in my warm, comfy bed. Asleep. Deep, unbothered-by-dreams-or-stirring sleep.

When all of a sudden, I wasn’t.

There was a siren! I was under attack! This was the end!

I am not a fast human by nature, but in that moment I was a jungle cat. Out of the bed, down the hall, by my parents’ bedside in just a few bounds. My parents were out of town, and my dad had forgotten to turn off his no nonsense alarm set for 5 A.M.

On a Saturday.

It was one of those obstinate alarms that grows more infuriated every second that passes without silencing it. Its volume steadily ticks upward until you start to believe you’ve been transported right inside the machine and are standing directly next to the noise-making mechanism.

I hit buttons, turned knobs, and finally just ripped the stupid cord from its secure spot in the wall socket.

I walked slowly back to my bed, but not before texting my parents a long message dripping with sarcasm and irritation.IMG_3676

For as long as I can remember, John T. Brock has set his alarm to ring at 4:30A.M. If ever there was a day when I was awake before my dad, chances are I hadn’t yet been to sleep. He cuts himself some slack on Saturdays and will sleep an indulgent half hour more.

He fixes the coffee the night before and sets a timer on the pot so it will wake when he does. He pours himself the first cup of the day. Sometimes, he’ll walk to the back room, flip on the television, and stand a few minutes in the bright glow of the breaking headlines.

By 4:45, he’s settled into his chair and has already made a significant dent in his first round of caffeine.
His chair. It sits firmly by the fireplace. Beside the left arm there sits an ever-changing stack of leadership books, commentaries, and sermon notes. To its right, a small table stands at attention holding a pair of glasses and the aforementioned cup of coffee.

This is where he sits. Day after day, month after month, year after year.

The rest of the house is asleep, but my dad is awake. And he’s there at this time, in this chair, every day to meet with Jesus.

I’ve always known about his habit of waking early in the morning. I knew how he spent that time. I knew he’d be there every day. Without fail.

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Our house is laid out in such a way that when I walk from my room to the bathroom down the hall, I walk past the staircase on my left. And if I make that trek at anytime between the hours of 4:30 and 6:30 A.M., I can catch a glimpse of my dad’s knees and feet. Sitting in that chair. Talking to Jesus.

On another dark morning a few years ago, I again emerged from the comfort of my bed, slow and groggy this time, annoyed that my sleep had been interrupted by my need for the bathroom.
When I rounded the corner of my doorway and walked past that familiar first step, I caught a glimpse of a different image at the bottom of the stairs.

And I won’t ever forget it.

Knees, not crossed gingerly in his normal seated position, but pressed to the floor in front of the chair, long legs stretched out behind him. His larger-than-life, 6’4” frame bent at a ninety-degree angle. His elbows in the chair’s seat, his hands resting on his shoulders, his forehead pressed to the fabric. Praying. Interceding. Having an all-encompassing conversation with his Savior.

Until today, he never knew I saw him in that moment. He didn’t hear me get up. Didn’t hear my feet pad across the floor. Never knew for a second that someone was watching him.

But this isn’t the first time I’ve told it.

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Not long after moving to Nashville, I found myself in the middle of a conversation about parents. About our relationships to them. About how frustrating those relationships can be. I heard story after story about damaged paternal relationships, wounded and scarred by broken promises and sinful choices.

And suddenly everyone was looking at me. It was my turn. What was my father like?

“Well,” I said, “he’s like this,” and I pointed to that moment. That image. That dark morning when I caught the most beautiful glimpse of my dad’s heart.

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I won’t ever stop being grateful that the Lord woke me up at just the right time, at just the right moment for me to take that mental picture.

Because that is a picture of my dad. Not just in that moment, but in every moment. That is the physical posture of his heart. He kneels daily to seek his God and to serve the people who have been entrusted to him.

The long list of characteristics I love most about my dad all stem from and grow out of those moments. His kindness, his sacrifice, his love and devotion to his wife, his kids, his church are all marks of a man of God. But those qualities did not arise simply because he is a pastor. They didn’t come as a packaged deal when he became a Christian. They did not manifest within him because he is what the world calls “good.”

No. They did not appear by magic or happenstance.

They came with the morning. They rode in on the sun’s tide. Day after day, new mercy after new mercy, they were carved into the fabric of his DNA. He is kind because he has a standing appointment with Kindness Himself. He is devoted because he has never gotten over the devotion of a Jewish King who came to rescue him. He is sacrificial because, time after time, he has shown up and put his knees in the dust at the foot of a Roman cross and looked up at the most beautiful sacrifice this world has ever known.

He is a good father not because he is perfect or without flaw or failure, but because he starts every day at the feet of Jesus. And of all the things I’ve learned from him, this is, without a doubt, the most important lesson, and the one I am most grateful for.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy. I love you, and I’ll never be able to tell you exactly how proud I am to be your kid.IMG_2953