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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Process of Prayer

It was a quiet Christmas Eve and our family gathered in the living room. Grandpa Suderman said we would have prayer. Soon the family knelt together and the prayers began. I listened with my six year old heart in wonderment. Grandpa, then Grandma, Alfred, Alma, Dad, Mom, Jonas, Eli, Bernice and Irene prayed. These were not brief prayers, but heart-felt prayers.

To a six year old, I wondered how much longer I would have to kneel. I knew my eyes should be shut, but I was tired. I crossed one foot over the other, and soon crossed back. My knees were uncomfortable. Finally I peeked. What I saw is indelibly etched on my mind….I could see everyone one of the family, bowing, kneeling, hands clasped in prayer to our Father. I noticed that my cousins were restless, too.

We often prayed as a family on Christmas Eve in the same manner, just the five of us. There was always prayer at meal times, and we learned the simple prayer – “For all we eat, for all we wear, for all we have, everywhere, We thank Thee, Father.” To our delight, later our grandchildren echoed “Amen” when we revisited the children’s prayer.

Prayer is a beautiful opportunity to converse with God. Prayer comes from the heart, containing what is on the heart, because of a need to touch the heart of God. Praying is not just a monologue, but a dialogue. Listening is just as important, or more so, than a one sided ‘conversation’.

A prayer life begins early through observation and teaching. It continues as a process and reveals the depth of faith that is growing. Recently our three year old grandson, Sam, finished his prayer and turned to his Mom and said, “Jesus said no.” That is a lesson some of us still have trouble understanding. Yes, prayer is always answered.

There was a time when the distractions of life curtailed my prayer life. Yes, I read all of the prayer scriptures and went through the form – but there is more. That time was lonely and I didn’t know why.

Why should we pray? What does prayer consist of? How often should we pray? What happens to prayers that we pray? To Whom should we pray?

When we decide to build/make our own home, we build it for our purposes. We build it to our specifications and for our enjoyment. God created us for his purposes and enjoyment. In Psalm 139:13, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb". "God gives us gifts and purpose in our lives before we were born.…for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good will" Philippians 2:13.

A part of that purpose is to pray. Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. Philippians 4: 6. Our Father in Heaven loves to hear ‘thank you’s’ and that is part of prayer.

Prayer consists of praise and thank you’s, as well as petitions for our needs and our desires. Not only for ourselves, but for others – family, brothers and sisters in Christ locally and beyond and the lost who need Jesus. Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8.

Prayer is foundational in our lives. Jim Cymbala gives the illustration of the harmony of three notes to create a chord. One note of the three note chord represents music, one worship and one the Word. Then Jim Cymbala plunked a bass note, identifying it as prayer. That tone gives the chord it color and clarity of focus.

When do we pray? Or shall I ask, when do we breathe? I Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Praying is a constant conversation with God – He gives us hope, life, forgiveness, grace and unconditional love. … he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. II Corinthians 12:9

Where do we pray? Where we are. Jonah prayed from the belly of the big fish. We may not pray in such a situation as Jonah, but we can pray anywhere and about anything. For the past several months I have found the perfect place to pray, walking…. I lift up my arms and my heart to God and feel His presence walking in His Creation, giving him praise..

The Message includes the attitude of prayer in I Timothy 2:8 - Since prayer is at the bottom of all this, what I want mostly is for men to pray—not shaking angry fists at enemies but raising holy hands to God. How pleasant our world would be if we heeded this admonition.

Have you ever wondered what happens to all the prayers uttered through the ages to our Lord? After God hears them, what does He do with them? Just as we save and print off each precious email from our children and grandchildren, God captures and saves the prayers we utter.

And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. Revelation 5:8

Ephesians 3:16-17a - I pray that out of his glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

When one elderly man prayed at the Lord’s Table, he wept. I wondered why then. Not I know. I look into the skies and say, ‘Holy Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.” My voice breaks and tears flow. For now I know the absolute wonder of our Lord. His love is more vast than the expanse of the sky. His patience reflects the calmness of the rays of the sun through storm clouds. His kindnesses are as refreshing as the Spring Rain. His forgiveness sweeps sin from my heart like the warm South sind. His blessings surround me like the sweet scent of a garden of flowers.

Is it any wonder that I praise Him? Is it any wonder I cry, “Holy, Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty!


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Feels Like Home

Where ever we lived when growing – in Clinton or Watonga, Oklahoma – whenever someone knocked at the door, I can hear Mom’s voice, “Come on in. It is so good to see you. Make yourselves at home.”

Whether it was one of the servicemen we picked up at Christmas time who became fast friends, or family, or friends, the greeting was always the same. “Make yourselves at home!”

The preparation was detailed for expected guests – every inch of the house was cleaned. Mom baked bread, and the fresh scent of bread added to the welcome. Homemade pies appeared. Sometimes roast and potatoes, more often beans and ham – but whatever it was, it was served with a “make-yourself-at-home” smile.

When I went to Midwest Christian College, and simply passed through with a group, our house was a routine stopping place for students and professors. After the college years, I heard about the professors continuing their stop in Watonga. Often when they needed car repairs, advice or something to eat.

One of my favorite memories is when J Russell Morse came to Watonga Christian Church. He came to tell about the mission work in Lisu-Land (where Tibet, China and India met, and Burma). Russell Morse professed tiredness and Dad agreed, too. They drove to our house, and walked in the south garden, talking. Both of these men loved the Lord and both loved growing fruit trees and flowers. Later Russell Morse died and later in 1979, Dad died. The scene in my mind comforts me. Dad and Russell Morse are walking and talking in God’s beautiful garden. They were both at home in the earthly garden and are at home in the heavenly garden.

As a child, feeling at home had many pictures. Love and trust in our parents. Encouragement to learn, help with chores, and getting along with each other. Our creative gifts were developed and encouraged. My brother, Gene, played the trumpet, my older brother, Jim, played the clarinet. I learned piano from Mom. Practice was a daily affair – a musical home – not from ipods or cd’s. It was home, and if we made a mistake in music or life, we tried again. Giving up was not an option.

Back in the 1930’s, sleep-overs were not part of the social scene. We couldn’t imagine sleeping elsewhere – it wasn’t home. We had our space, and knew what was expected. It was home. Home was where we heard Dad’s voice at the evening meal, Komm Herr Jesu, sei unser Gast, und segne, was du uns bescheret hast. (Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest and bless what you have bestowed on us.)

What makes it feel like home? Unconditional love, forgiveness, encouragement, support and safety. It isn't the ownership of things that rust or corrupt or can be stolen. Or fine food or clothes or the latest fad. It is the blessing of belonging and being who I am, without pretense. It is being loved and forgiven when I disobey.

Where is that home, sweet home? It is in the heart.

It‘s your smiling face It’s the way you wrap your arms

In this comfortable place Around me, that disarms me

That feels like home. That feels like home.

It’s the hurts you heal I never have to pretend

That makes it real With my closest friend

And feels like home. You Feel Like Home.

How long will home last? I’m home where I can share

Will it soon be passed? Jesus’ love and care

Oh, it Feels like home. He makes it Feel like Home

Jesus gave His Life for me With Him, it feels like home.

So I could live eternally For me, it feels like home

Where I feel at home. Where there is love and trust

Where it Feels like Home!

What are the sweetest words in the world? “I’m going home.”

John 14: 1-3 – "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God[a]; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

Goin' home, goin' home, I'm a goin' home

Quiet like, still some day, I'm just goin' home

It's not far, just close by, through an open door

Work all done, care laid by Going to fear no more

Mother's there, expecting me Father's waiting too

Lots of folks gathered there All the friends I knew

Goin' home, I’m a goin’ home.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Twittered History

Twitters have taken over my life. I so enjoy reading obtuse and humorous tweets from three of our four children (one has not succumbed as yet) and various grandchildren. The tweets remind me of our Dinner Table (we called it supper) and all the fascinating discussions and verbal ping-ponged thoughts.

From these Tweets I catch glimpses of family life and opportunities to pray. Then one day, I thought about what my Grandfather Suderman would have done with the snippets of chatter called Twitter. What would he have sent on cyber space? Grabbing the ‘big red Suderman’ book by Carolyn Zeisset and Mom’s book “Lines Have Fallen”. I poured through both trying to determine exactly what his thoughts would be and what his situation would be as he gave his twitters.

I loved my Grandpa Suderman. His brown eyes with green flecks reflected the fields where he planted and raised crops to feed his family. His hands were roughened by the farm work and his heart sang praises to Jesus, His Lord. I was his first grandchild, and always felt loved unconditionally.

Gerhard Wiens Suderman was born the 23rd of November in 1874 in Pordenau Russia. He married Anna Loewen the 8th of March in 1900. He died on the 16th of March 1950, in Hillsboro, Kansas, at the age of 75.

· 1878 – We left Russia on the ship Switzerland. I don’t remember much, except we got a baby brother on the ship – his name is Nicholas.

· 1882 – I cried when Isaak and Aganetha died from diphtheria epidemic. I recovered after a time..

· 1884 – We have a depression that affects us – only 25 to 35 cents a bushel for wheat.

· 1891 – 9/14 – Dad became a citizen of United States. I am 17 years old.

· 1893 – Dad had to borrow money from Mr. Good, we prayed about hard times in Ebenfeld.

·1895 – I am twenty one, and then I had a great abdominal pain. When the pain subsided, I was very weak. Soon God gave me health again.

· 1898 – We built a frame house instead of the adobe house. It is a lot lighter in my room.

· 1920’s – I am farming near Ebenfeld Mennonite Brethren Church.

· Mom and Aunt Lena make Schnetkes – a kind of biscuit – not only are we called the tall Sudermans in Ebenfeld, but also the Scnetke Sudermans.

· 1900 – March 8 – I married Anna Loewen. She is a beauty. Our first night, and thereafter, we prayed together before going to bed.

· 1900 – we moved into a dirty shack – on a rented farm. Anna just smiled and cleaned. I am a blessed man.

· 1901 – February 1 – Daniel was born. I truly am blessed

· 1904 – January 27 – baby Gerhard was born. I am undone, for Gerhard died within three months. Why?

· 1906 – Dad noticed a strange sensation in his tongue. It is cancer. Not my Dad – he has always been well.

· 1906 – April 3 – I give God praise today. He has given us Alma, a healthy baby girl.

· 1907 – Dad (Jacob) died, January 21, at 1 am as we sang “In my heavenly home, There is rest for my soul, There is sweet rest, There is sweet rest for my soul”. (In dem Himmel ist Ruh, in dem Himmel ist Ruh, In dem Himmel, in dem Himmel, in dem Himmel is Ruh)

· 1907 – I took Poppa’s place as choir director and church music leader at Ebenfeld. Next to farming, I love praising God with music.

· 1907 – March 20 - Why? Why, God? Why did you take Daniel? Two of my sons lie in Ebenfeld Cemetary – side by side.

· 1907 – July 4 - I praise you. You have given us little Anna. I am glad we have the new party line phone to let our neighbors know, even if the operator isn’t on duty on the 4th of July.

· 1908 abt – I lost my fourth finger using a new-fangled power saw. I am so weak. I thank Grandpa Loewen when he argued against amputating my arm…how could I feed my family? I will learn to use my crippled hand.

· 1912 – I bought the Reiswig farm for $11,000. 126 acres just south of the Ebenfeld church. I want my girls to not have to walk a long distance to school near to the church.

· 1911 – January 24 – Our Hilda died today. One more little white casket that we carry to Ebenfeld. How can this be?

· 1912 – October 16 - God has given me the desire of my heart – a son – Jonas!

· 1913 abt – I built a sink low enough for children with a red pump that brought water from the cistern in the bathroom. I wonder what else I can do to help my family?

· 1914 – April 24 – Paul Gerhard is born today. Two sons once again. I pray for them and give them to you.

· 1916 – God, you took our Paul away, but you gave me another.August 9 – Eli is with us – I praise you, Lord.

· 1919 – July 10 – Bernice is born today. How I praise you.

· 1922 – December 8 – And now we have Irene…You have given us ten children, and you needed four of them back. We give you the praise.

· 1923 – February 5th – Momma died today. I have no tears left. I will simply keep her in my heart.

· 1924 – a week before Christmas, we heard the fire bell ring. Ebenfeld church was on fire. We arrived and watched it burn…nothing could save it. I ran to the basement, but couldn’t reach the stacks of choir music. I brought out just one book. I coughed and coughed, my lungs hurt from the smoke. When the concert organ crashed into the basement, I cried.

· 1940 –abt – I am tired, and Anna’s Mom is sick. I know we must move to town and care for her. I want to feed the cattle, watch things grow – but Eli will take care of the farm.

· 1950 – March – Anna and I have been married for fifty years. We have prayed together, raised children you have given us together. When Emily sang about the Still Waters…I told her, I wanted to be there…’beside the still waters where there was peace”.

· 1950 – March 16 – You won’t receive this Tweet – and if you could -- I would tell you about the glories of heaven! Praise the Lord! Every sadness, every hurt has helped me see your grace more clearly. I pray for all my children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and those beyond…Trust in the Lord Jesus Christ!


Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Rhythms and Seasons

In the impatience of youth, I sat at the piano to play for my Grandpa Suderman. I played with my usual exuberance with a myriad of rubato. (speeding up and slowing down). Then I felt Grandpa's hand on my shoulder, beating the rhythm - evenly - no rubato here. I wanted to play it the way I felt - I fought against a steady rhythm.

Each morning during this season called summer, I have enjoyed walking - the blessed rhythm of my feet. I look for God's surprises and joys of the season. The rose bush we planted last year began blooming luxurious blossoms. Then one day I noted an onslaught of Japanese Beetles that slowly tried to dismantle the rose bush, leaf by leaf and blossom by blossom. I mourned the destruction I saw. After spraying the rose bush with its decimated leaves, to my surprise, new leaf growth began, leaving the destruction behind.

I rejoiced to see the rose buds begin to appear after two months of near death. How like life this is. The promise of beauty was cut short by a destructive force. After a season, it picked up its life rhythm to again bring forth its beauty.

As the new season of fall flirts with frost, I count 6 buds and three roses in bloom. Again I rejoice.

Life is filled with seasons and their rhythms...created by God. Recently a young man of 7 asked, "Where did God come from? We were born, was He born?" My answer? "In the beginning, God.... " He began the rhythm and the seasons... And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day. Genesis 1:3-5.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

A time for joy, a time for sorrow, a time for thought for tomorrow. A time for serving, a time for giving, a time for prayerful living. A time to be Jesus, a time for love, a time to give of our hearts. A time for prayer and a time for praise. And again we speak of a rhythm of life. We recognize that seasons change even as our hearts grow in Him.

Learning to walk for a toddler is such a glorious thing…to observe. Even as we learn to walk with Jesus – falling more than walking, we finally hit the stride, the purity and simplicity of walking with Him in rhythm. We may fall, but getting up to go again is the key to getting into the cadence of righteous living.

Just the moment we think we have the rhythm down, there is a discord, a dissonance in our life. This is a moment when we realize it is time to pray erase the dischord and measure our steps for a new season with our Lord.

Just as the quietness rests the soul after the last beat of a song, so we need to refresh ourselves in the Lord.

Just as the rose renews itself under a blanket of snow, we renew ourselves under a blanket of prayer and hope.

Just as an orchestra is held together with the rhythm of the timpani – so is God’s power in our creation and in our lives.

Bruce Barton wrote -.
Action and reaction, ebb and flow, trial and error, change - this is the rhythm of living. Out of our over-confidence, fear; out of our fear, clearer vision, fresh hope. And out of hope, progress.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Psalm 1:3

Now I understand. After years of chaffing against a steady rhythm, I am content with a steady beat, and the change of seasons. The rhythm of my life is slowing...and I often feel Grandpa's hand on my arm, and his rhythm and vibrating beat echoes throughout my life.