Answered Prayer: Work and the Neighbors

Once again I’d like to share a few of the prayers I’ve seen answered in my life over the past few weeks. In case you missed the initial write up, back in February I wrote about prayer becoming a focal point in my life and what exactly that means for me. I’ve certainly continued to pray regularly and far more often than I use to but it has changed a little during that time. For one, I’ve been using my prayer schedule less and praying more spontaneously throughout the day every day. It’s a result of feeling more confident in approaching the Lord despite not always feeling “worthy” because my confidence is in Christ. And it’s also because I am more mindful of my need for God in all things. However I would like to get back to using my list as well because otherwise I do tend to forget some needs and individuals I would like to be praying for. Regardless of how or when I pray, I am seeing God answer my prayers and it has been remarkably faith building.

Finding Favor in a Difficult Work Situation

A few weeks ago my boss visited one of the stores that I oversee as a regional manager. Her first reaction was not a positive one and as would be expected, I was concerned. I thought things had been going well at that location ever since it became a part of my region and it was really discouraging to be told otherwise. However her visit was not completely over yet and so while on the way home from another one of my stores I began to pray, “God help me to see what I was missing or help my boss to see things differently.”

In the end, I received both answers to that prayer. Shortly after I prayed and once her visit had concluded I was able to talk with my boss over the phone. Her response was very different from the first one I received, far more positive and encouraging. Most notably, she had taken the time to look at things more closely and to realize that a) some of the problems I was facing at that location were quite difficult to solve, so much so that even she after going over options for a half hour came to no viable solutions and b) there was actually a lot going well with that store and employee.

This past week I was able to visit that location myself and execute some of the plans my boss had made as well as problem solve quite a few new ones that had come up. It was a long week and physically exhausting work to get everything in order, but along the way I prayed daily for wisdom and each day that prayer was answered. When I left I was really happy about the solutions we had come up with, including those areas my boss had struggled to resolve. Employees from another department commented on the vast improvements as well, nothing that the store looked better than it had since it was opened. In the end I found both the understanding I had hoped for from my boss as well as an opportunity to get better at my job.

A Change of Plans

My daughter is going to be in an Easter play at our church next week on Palm Sunday. She loves acting and has been really excited about this play, even going so far as to running rehearsals with one of the neighbor girls who’s in the play as well. Unfortunately, I had assumed the play would be on Easter Sunday and did not realize there would be a conflict with my work schedule until a week ago. I had a flight at 7am that Sunday and I was going to miss the play. When I emailed the woman in charge, her response was that I could contact the airlines myself to make the change and that I would have to pay a $200 fee. I was discouraged and did not know what to do so I began to pray.

The next morning on my way to work I continued to pray. I thought maybe a voucher I had with the airlines might work as one possible solution. Another thought I had was to simply pay the fee and trust in the Lord to provide the finances. Two hundred dollars is a lot of money for us, but to God it is nothing and if he was giving me an opportunity to show my daughter just how much I loved her then I was going to take it. Two minutes after I concluded my prayer I received a text from the same woman who had told me the night before it was up to me to make the change. She was contacting me so that I could pick from two later flights that would allow me to make my daughter’s show. Not only had she done the work of finding a different flight for me, but she ended up paying the fee as well. It was completely unexpected but I am so grateful that now I get to see my daughter’s play.

Bringing the Neighborhood

I’ve been praying for the kids in our neighborhood a lot lately, especially a boy and a girl next door who’ve had a difficult home life this past year. The two kids and their dad live with his parents, our neighbors, and the mother is pretty much out of the picture. Specifically I was praying that they would start coming to church with us. Eventually they did but before that happened, one of the other neighbor kids spent the night with my daughter and went to church with my wife and kids the next day (I was out of town). When the neighbor girl and Sophie were talking about it later that week the two that I had been praying for overhead and wanted to go as well. My wife told me this on Saturday that week when I got home which is when I shared with her my prayers.

The next morning we received a call from the grandparents wondering about church that morning for their grandkids. Even though my wife hadn’t actually invited them, the kids had wanted to go so badly they told their family that we had. Knowing that this was an answer to what I had been praying for (and probably noting the grin on my face while she was on the phone) my wife officially extended the invitation. They’ve come with us for two Sunday now along with the other neighbor girl and I hope they will all continue to come every Sunday.

Sick Rats and Dog Bites (Cont.)

Remember the older man I met a couple of weeks ago, the one whose dog bit my son? I ended up inviting him to church that following Sunday after we had a brief conversation about God in the emergency room lobby. That Saturday I gave him a call to give him the address and the time when the service would start and he still seemed genuinely interested in coming along with his wife. Sunday morning came and the time I told him to arrive past and still I did not see them. Ten minutes later the service began and my wife and I took our seats (along with half our neighborhood…) I kept looking to the back, praying they would come and despite the late time was still anticipating their arrival. Sure enough they showed up, and the smile on my son’s face made me so happy. He understood that even though something scary had happened to him, God had used it for good.

Sick Rats, Dog Bites, and Straight Paths

Yesterday was rough. I got a call from my wife while I was at lunch telling me that our son had been bit by a dog while they were at the veterinarian’s office. One of our rats, Oliver, had gotten sick unexpectedly the day before and so my wife had taken him in to get diagnosed. As they were finishing with the vet my son went to throw something away in the lobby and that’s when a man’s dog bit him, twice. The bites were on his leg and wrist and from what she could tell they were not deep but my wife was scared, crying, and could hardly explain the situation to me over the phone. I knew which hospital she was taking him to so I got in my car and left work so that I could meet them there.

On the way to the hospital I prayed—for my son, for my wife, and for wisdom on how to address the situation. More than those things though I worshiped the Lord. That’s not easy to do when your normal, everyday pattern is disrupted and your family has been hurt but I trust God, I trust his word, and I know there is nothing better than to press in with worship during days like this. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” Proverbs 3:5.

When I arrived at the hospital I was surprised to learn that the dog’s owner had come as well. He was an older man, and I could tell that he was probably just as shaken up by the whole thing as my wife was. While the nurses and Physician’s Assistants were looking over my son and cleaning the wounds I continued to pray, this time for the dog’s owner and for what I was supposed to do. Law suits, pressing charges, and making the owner pay the bill—these were all things that crossed my mind—but I had no idea how I should actually respond. “Lord give me grace, help me to extend grace; give me wisdom on what to do. I just don’t know.”

We needed some information about the dog’s medical history so I went out into the lobby to speak with the man. We talked for quite a while and I got to know him a bit better—his work, his family, his own emotional turmoil over the situation. He was really worried this would turn into a long term traumatic event for my young son. I hadn’t seen the dog myself but apparently at 125 lbs. he was only 15 months old; a cane corso mastiff. Honestly I was shocked at how little the wounds were given how massive the animal must have been. We talked the entire time I was waiting for the PA to finish with the bandages and all the while in the back of my mind I was praying, “God give me wisdom, give me grace.”

When my wife and the kids finally did come out I could tell my son was feeling much better. He was hugging his stuffed “wolfy” and smiling at his sister. My wife and I both talked a little more with the man when eventually I shared with him something I had been thinking in the car on the way to the hospital. “Our rat got sick at a certain time, my wife took him in at a certain time, you were there at that same moment in time and all these things could have aligned differently. But they didn’t, and God is sovereign over all these things.” Or at least I said something along those lines and that started a brief conversation about God.

Before we left we exchanged numbers but I really felt like I should have invited him to our church and so I did. “My wife and I have been wanting to get back to church for a long time,” he told me, “we just needed someplace to go.” Days like this do not seem to be going according to plan, or at least not what I had planned. I’m not glad that my son was bit, nor am I happy that Oliver was sick. But I am thankful that my day was straightened out by God in order to lead our family to this man. God is mysterious and his ways are most certainly not our ways, but they are most certainly good. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good. For those who are called according to his purpose” Romans 8:28.

Oliver 1

Oliver was such a sweet and loving rat, he will be dearly missed.

 

Oliver died later that night, and I can’t answer my daughter’s question as to why he had to get sick; why he had to die. All I know is that he did get sick, he did die, and we had an opportunity to minister to someone because of it. Days like this aren’t unique to my family, nor will this be the last one we experience; that’s just life. But I trust God. I trust that he hears my prayers, knows my heart, and whether I understand or not I trust that he will exercise every ounce of his immeasurable strength, wisdom, kindness, and love for our good.

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Psalm 20:7

Answered Prayer: A Friend Returns to Church

On Sunday I posted about the importance of prayer in my life as of late and my intentions to start writing regularly about those prayers that have been answered. This is the first of those posts, covering a few prayers that have been answered in the last 2-3 weeks. Some answers may seem big while others may come across as “ordinary” but all of them are needs I have brought before God and he has answered.

Timely Encouragement

One of the first answers that sticks out in my mind was when I first started The Battle Plan for Prayer book. My goal was to start waking up earlier so that I could pray before work but as of late waking up on time at all has been a real challenge. It was discouraging to be laying there in bed like an idiot thinking “I need to get up, I need to get up” but not making a move to get out of bed. If you’ve ever dealt with even mild depression, you know what that feels like.

It was a Saturday morning which should have made this easier but no, I was feeling so down that day that I was still in bed around 8am. That’s when I started praying asked God for help. Not with getting out of bed, but rather with persevering. I’ not very reliable or consistent when committing to changes like this and all I wanted was not to give up and I could tell that I was already losing my resolve. Five minutes later I got this text from an acquaintance from church that I don’t normally hear from. He sent me a scripture from Deuteronomy 20 and this message, “not sure what you’re going through, but wanted to encourage and reassure you that we serve a great God who will fight for us and give us victory in Jesus’ name.”

A Healthier Marriage

My wife and I have been concerned about our health for a while, especially because of what we eat and how often we exercise (or don’t). We’ve not had much success with changing our habits and one thing that dawned on me as I was praying for our relationship in general one day was that I wanted us to have good motives and for my wife to find something that worked specifically for her. I never told her about my specific prayers but a few days later (maybe a week?) she found a book she liked with a healthy approach to eating she wanted us to try. It’s only been a week or two but it has been a good start for us both and she’s been really motivated to stay with it.

A Friend Returns to Church

When we first started going to our church I helped with the youth ministry for a few years. One of our church member’s daughter would bring her boyfriend to our Sunday night meetings which is how I first got to know him. Fast forward years later and they are married and expecting their first child (time goes by so fast!). Unfortunately his work for months now has made him unable to attend church with his wife and so I haven’t seen him or talked with him much during that time. His mother-in-law is in my small group and asked that we pray for his schedule to change so that he could start going to church again. I added this to my list and began praying for this change regularly.

Two Sundays ago I was praying for his schedule to change and also that God would give him a mentor (something else I felt he may have needed). I even started to wonder if I would make a good mentor. As I continued to pray I felt very strongly that if he were at church that day that yes, I should start meeting with him as a mentor. That day he was at church for the first time in months.

We were able to catch up on a lot and I hope to start meeting with him soon; he’s going to be busy as a new dad but I remember when my kids were first born how helpful it was to have another dad to talk with about parenting and marriage and following Christ as a daily way of life. One of the first things this young man and I talked about was his job and an opportunity he had with another company. He had gone through a couple interviews already and was preparing for a third so I prayed for that as well. Last week he got the job and I am so happy for him; it’s going to be a better opportunity for him as a new dad.