Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Traditions are a huge deal in the Deep South. I’m not exactly sure why that is, other than the fact that Southerners tend to squat in the same place for such long periods of time. My uncle recently reminded me that my mother’s side of the family came to Georgia shortly after fighting in the Revolution. From the 1780’s to 2010 is a long time in the same general vicinity. It tends to make traditions stick.

I’ve always been the type that tries to cling to happy experiences. I have taken too many pictures, bought too many souvenirs. The End of anything used to make me sad. I cried at pre-school graduations.

Holidays turned into idols of Norman Rockwell/Martha Stewart perfection. We had to have the same decorations, the same special dishes, the same parties, the same activities, the same gift-exchanges, the same routine, year after year. It turned from joy into burden.

As meaningful as traditions can be, I think there are times when God calls us to let them go with the winds of change. Nothing lasts forever down here. This world and everything in it are passing away.

Letting go of traditions means letting go of how I think things are supposed to be and opening myself up to receiving new gifts and joys. While remembering the happy times of the past with gratitude, I want to be able to embrace the new and unpredictable.

Living in a New Normal has expedited that process.

There have been greater changes in the life of our family than I ever could have imagined two Christmases ago. Life has been turned completely upside down. But even while grieving over what’s been lost, there has been much joy and laughter. And great hope.

We let go of many traditions this Christmas. It was much easier than I thought it could be. As much as possible, I tried to live by the adage, “If it brings you joy, do it. If not, don’t!” There were many things I didn’t do this year. But instead of feeling guilty, I felt free.

We actually allowed ourselves the freedom to fly: we flew away to New York for Christmas weekend. It was the Wolf’s turn to have Katherine, Jay, and James, so rather than sitting around missing them on Christmas morning, we decided to do something completely new for us. I even took a little Christmas tree in my suitcase!

As the Blind Boys of Alabama sing at the House of Blues in LA, “I didn’t come here looking for Jesus…I brought him with me!”

But He was already there.

Man-made traditions are not holy; He is.

And he will meet us wherever we are, wherever we go.


“Where can I go from your spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” (Psalm 139:7-10)

“Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)

May this year be one of newness for us all.


Family and friends, I've posted a holiday album on Picasa:

Feel free to take a peek if you're bored.

(Click bottom right corner above.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


(Me, circa 1960. Note booboo on right knee.)

James has re-christened Katherine.

Her new name is “Mommy-ha’-a-booboo.” It sounds kind of like a Native American moniker from “Dancing With Wolves.”

The new name is always accompanied by a long “Mmmmm” and a sad face: bottom lip out, brows drawn together.

James probably says this 50 times a day.

He can be playing with Thomas and friends, happily chatting away about the Isle of Sodor and Sir Topham Hat, when he suddenly looks up at me and says “Mommy-ha’-a-booboo. Mmmmm…” like it’s a news flash. He might be watching Sesame Street or Curious George, staring at the TV screen in an addictive trance, when he jumps up to give me the news in an urgent voice. We’ll walk past an old picture, and James will grab it and start identifying the subjects: “Mimi, BigB, Amie, Gracie, Mommy-ha’-a-Booboo.” He picks up a phone and tells his imaginary friend, “Mommy-ha’-a-booboo!” Whenever anyone says the name, “Katherine,” his immediate response is “Mommy-ha’-a-booboo! Mmmmmm…" (Sad face.) We can be laughing on the swingset, racing to the treetops, and he will tell me as we pass each other on the way.

All. Day. Long.

This is how it came about: As I’ve mentioned, James is somewhat confused about the state of his universe. He’s trying to figure out to whom he owes his primary loyalty. Who is his #1 lady? This is a natural outcome for a 2-year-old who’s had so many caretakers. I think that he senses something is a little “off.” His confusion has caused him to occasionally display anger towards his mother, which, of course, adds insufferable insult to injury. On one of these occasions, I sat him down and gave him a serious talking-to. I said, “Listen. Mommy got hurt. She has a bad booboo. It makes me sad when you’re not nice to her.” He struggled out of my arms and ran off to play. But a few days later, he came up and told me, “Mommy-ha’-a-booboo. Mmmm.” (Sad face.)

As the weeks wore on, the phrase began coming out more and more frequently. Being in Athens, it has reached a crescendo.

I think a lightbulb has come on in that baby boy’s brain. He’s a smart little guy. He’s already taught himself the whole alphabet. I think he’s beginning to understand what’s going on. With all of the old pictures around the house, he can see the “before” and “after.” At first, I was a little surprised that he could correctly identify Katherine. In the “before” pictures, Mommy is usually standing up and smiling a great big smile. In the beginning, he hesitated. It was almost a process of elimination… “Okay, we know the big one is BigB. The short one is Mimi. The blondest hair is Gracie; Amie is the one laughing…so the other one must be Mommy! But it’s a different version of the Mommy I have now. Hmmmm…” The first time this happened, he looked up at me, and I promise, I could read his mind. He gazed into my eyes very intently, let out a little breath, laid his head on my shoulder, and told me, sadly, “Mommy-ha’-a-booboo.” “That’s right, James,” I told him. “Mommy has a big booboo. A bad, bad booboo.”


Ironically, “Booboo” is Katherine’s family nickname. The AVM rupture was not her first life-threatening medical crisis. When she was 6 months old (James’ age when her rupture occurred), Katherine became very sick. Further irony: It ended up being a serious urological problem requiring surgery. My father was a urological surgeon. He wouldn’t touch his own grandbaby with a ten-foot pole, so we headed to Egleston, Emory’s children’s hospital. It was a scary place then…still unrenovated. Tons of babies with cancer and other hideous malaises I didn’t even know existed. We had to share a room with another mother and her toddler who was severely retarded. The mothers slept on plastic reclining chairs on either side of the room. When the toddler couldn’t be comforted, the other mother would put her in one of those old rolling walkers we used in the 80’s, and she would play bumper cars with the walls. Dante’s Inferno.

Like James, Katherine was an exclusively breast-fed baby when this happened. I was too lazy to pump, so she’d never had a bottle. They had to tie her down after the surgery (“double ureteral re-implant,” with Brooks’ college roommate, a urological resident, assisting the primary surgeon!) to prevent any movement that might disturb the delicate procedure. I cried and cried, my tears plopping down on her little heaving chest as she screamed. I’ll never forget the look in those big eyes, staring into mine with questions: “Why are you letting them do this to me??? Don’t you love me anymore?” (There have been times when I’ve asked my heavenly parent questions like those.)

Both the staff and my family realized that if I didn’t get a hospital break, I might break. When Katherine was more stabilized, a cousin came to babysit while my husband took me out to dinner. My cousin told me later that Katherine began screaming as soon as I left. Missy walked her back and forth, back and forth the length of the little room, unable to comfort her. As they made the trek for the umpteenth time, Katherine snatched the sleeve of my bathrobe off the closet door and buried her face in it. Eau de Mommy instantly quieted her for the rest of the evening.

(A side note: This story came to mind when I was caring for James in the early days of Katherine’s residence in UCLA’s Intensive Care Unit. He’d never taken a bottle, either, so we were having some rough times adjusting. As he was screaming inconsolably, I thought I’d give the same method a try. I found Katherine’s “Hooter Hider,” a cloth cover used for discreet public nursing, and put it in his face. Like an instant opiate, it calmed him down. He immediately stopped crying. It’s interesting. Sometimes just a whiff of my Father can calm me down, too.)

Somehow, we survived our stay at Egleston, and took a lasting memento home with us when we left. Our favorite nurse adored Katherine, and snuck in to play with her whenever she could. She began calling her “BooBoo.” It stuck. We made up all kinds of silly BooBoo songs, which followed Katherine through childhood. She was accident-prone, which we now understand to have been a result of the location of the hidden AVM, so the nickname was appropriate. To this day, I call her “Booboo,” or just “Boo,” more frequently than I do her Christian name.


It’s impossible for any of us to go through life without accumulating some pretty nasty booboos.

Some booboos are external and obvious, like those that plague our own sweet Booboo. Some are more hidden. Spiritual cancers, deep, gaping, core wounds…the booboos of heart and soul. Writing those words, the refrain from a Vigilantes of Love (Athens band) song comes back to me:

“yeah, the thing we cannot speak of,

the secret we all know…

this blister soul

oh this blister soul…”

The harshness of life, the cruelty of other injured people, and our own destructive choices can rub some really nasty blisters onto our soft and tender spots. There are times when it is best to keep those suppurating blisters and booboos covered with medication and bandages. But after a time of stillness and healing, it is good to take the bandages off and allow the light and air to complete the healing. Sometimes we need to ‘speak of the secret we all know.’ Everyone suffers from blister soul at one time or another. It helps us­­ and others when we are willing to share our deepest pains and wounds…allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Bringing things out into the Light always heals. Then we are enabled become what theologian Henri Nouwen calls “Wounded Healers.”

That is what Jesus is.

When James uses his new hyphenated-name-for-his-mother, I counter it with, “Yes, Mommy has a booboo, but she’s getting better. God is helping her get better every day.”

The Wounded One himself is washing her wounds, pouring his healing Spirit into her battered body. I felt this very powerfully the other day when a few friends gathered to pray for her. The Scarred One is bathing her scars with his tears, comforting her heart with his incomprehensible, unearthly comfort. He is equipping her to be a Wounded Healer, one who can “comfort those in any trouble with the comfort she herself has received from Christ.” (II Cor. 1:4) No one else can empathize with another’s suffering as passionately and lovingly as someone who’s been injured in the same way. It’s impossible.

I still have many scars from childhood booboos. A prissy tomboy, I was constantly falling out of trees and scraping huge chunks of skin off my bony little knees. My husband still teases me about these lasting reminders of how wild I was as a child. I have a 52-year-old star-shaped scar a few millimeters away from my eye…a memento of a dog bite at age 3. A thin line just above my eyebrow passes as a wrinkle, but is actually a souvenir of the time I busted my head open in a bathtub, requiring 20 stitches. Strings of old picked bug-bite scab scars still decorate my legs. My body is a booboo scrapbook.

So is my soul.

But I am not ashamed of my booboos and bruises, my scrapes and scars. In rereading the story of doubting Thomas, I realize that it is our wounds…and our openness in sharing them…that make us real. Our booboos are tools that God uses for healing in the lives of his other beloved children. We pour healing and comfort into others who’ve been hurt as we’ve been hurt, who’ve bled as we have bled, been broken as we’ve been broken.

It is an honor to be used by God as a Wounded Healer.

Jesus was a Wounded Healer.

That is why he came.

May we keep his wounds in our hearts as we celebrate his birth.


But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; 
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2: 24)

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” (II Cor. 1:3-5)

“Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”

“My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.” (John 20:26-28)


God rest ye merry, gentlefolk/ 
 Let nothing you dismay/
 Remember, Christ, our Saviour/
 Was born on Christmas day/
 To save us all from Satan's power/
 When we were gone astray/
 O tidings of comfort and joy,/
 Comfort and joy/
 O tidings of comfort and joy…


Addendum, 1/8/10: I have just discovered an amazing woman called "Punk Rock Mommy." Here is the link to her blog: On the entry dated April 21, 2008, the day of Katherine's AVM rupture, she talks about the same thing, only her testimony is more valid than mine. How strange is that??? Check it out.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


We’ve had a couple of scary falls recently.

The second one occurred at my mother’s house. Katherine has been thrilled to develop more independence. She is doing a great job of getting around on her own, albeit slowly, using a three-footed cane. But sometimes a foot turned a millimeter in the wrong direction can cause the world to turn upside down. As she started going down, Katherine grabbed the back of the couch. Thanks to the intense physical therapy she received at Casa Colina, and continues to receive here from her fabulous personal trainer (her husband), she has developed amazing strength. The heavy couch started to topple over on top of her. Luckily, she let go on the way down, and it righted itself. She said, “Mom, I thought I was going to die!”

We’ve come a long way since the days in Acute Rehab when Katherine tried to run away to Cabo…before she could even stand ("RollercoasterRide," But it seems likely that falls will be an inevitable part of her journey for years to come. Over half of her cerebellum, the part of the brain responsible for balance, has been surgically removed.

We recently had a chance to talk to a wonderful lady who has experienced the most unimaginable kind of loss there is. But she turned the focus to Katherine. She shared that her mother had had an AVM rupture. Katherine asked her about residual deficits. Our new friend said, “There really weren’t any, other than some balance issues. If you were walking next to her, she would always gradually drift into you.” Paths would cross.

There are worse things.


I’m getting just a wee bit tired of Tiger Woods. Why is everyone so shocked? Our culture thrives on elevating people into Idols, and then rejoicing when they fall off the pedestals we’ve erected for them. It seems an inescapable truism that all idols will fall. Humans cannot tolerate the burden of worship indefinitely. We were not built for it. It will inevitably corrupt and destroy those for whom it was not originally intended.

Celebrities are not the only ones who fall. I’ve heard a lot of gossip lately about the ‘falls’ of people I know, or know of. Human nature being what it is, I think we feel a little better about ourselves when we hear of the failures of others. Maybe we’re not so bad after all, in comparison. But it doesn’t work that way.

I’m a slow learner. It has taken me decades to discover this spiritual principle, but you can take it to the bank: However you judge others, you will be tested in that exact area. The absolute dumbest thing you can ever say, or feel in your heart, is “I would never…” Or even dumber, “My child would never…”

We are all capable of absolutely anything under the right (wrong) circumstances.

I’ve had more than my share of missteps and stumbles, scraped knees and soul bruises. Sometimes I feel that the part of my brain responsible for mental and spiritual balance has gone missing. I’ve teetered and tottered and toppled into a heap on the floor. But that is the best place to ask for help. Down your knees is a good place to start learning to stand.

We all fall down. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”(I John I:8)

But, as I’ve said before, a fall is not the end of the world.

It has many negative connotations…

Fallen women and fallen arches…

The Fall of Man, The Fall of Rome…

Fallen heroes, fallen idols…falling from grace…

But also…

Falling snowflakes…

Falling into an inheritance…

Falling in love…into someone’s path…

Falling into someone’s arms…

There are arms that are strong, but tender.

Those arms will always pick us up again, and welcome us back home.

“Now unto Him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy…” (Jude 1:24)


...falling in love over and over again...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Remembering the Reason...

I was sad that the little "created by" tag obscured part of what was, to me, the most precious I'm posting it by itself. Pretend it's our family's 2009 Christmas card, mailed straight to you!

"The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29)

"The wolf will live with the lamb...and a little child will lead them." (Isaiah 11:6)

I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas.

Today I'm choosing to be joyful!

These are some pix from our trip last week to Palm Beach to introduce James to his Arnold great-grandparents.

Click to play this Smilebox scrapbook:
Create your own scrapbook - Powered by Smilebox
Make a Smilebox scrapbook

Love, Kim

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Changing God's Mind (or changing my heart?)

Part 2

These are some of the reasons I think prayer is vital:

1.) We are told to pray.

It is an act of obedience. (Matt. 6:9) Jesus even told us how to pray. The Lord’s Prayer was given as a model…a blueprint…for all prayer. It just dawned on me that it begins and ends with praise. The words of praise form parentheses around the words of petition. In other words, our requests for forgiveness, protection, and daily needs are made within the context of an acknowledgement of God’s attributes and character. We are not praying to capricious idols like Zeus or Aphrodite, who meddle in human affairs for their own amusement. We address the Holy King of Kings who possesses all glory and all power… “forever and ever.” We are actually told to “pray without ceasing” (a topic for another day) because “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.” (James 5:16)

2.) Prayer changes circumstances or us.

a.) There are instances thoughout the Bible where prayer is said “to change God’s mind,”* although we could spend endless hours debating what that actually means. If He is omniscient, then He knew from before time that the prayers would be prayed. In His great ‘courtesy,’ as the Medievals called it, He deigned that these prayers would be a vehicle through which His ultimate purposes would be accomplished. He has graciously allowed humankind to participate in the pattern of history. Weymayer states: “…some may wonder how it is that Scripture can teach both that God providentially brings all things to pass in conformity with His eternal purpose and that the prayers of men can have a significant affect in the unfolding of world history. The seeming contradiction between these two truths vanishes, however, when one realizes that “the same God who has decreed the end has also decreed that His end shall be reached through His appointed means, and one of these is prayer” (The Sovereignty of God, 167).”

Because God loves us, and desires to be in relationship with us above all else, He has (mysteriously) deemed that we have a part to play in the plot of history. We are not puppets. God is all-powerful, yet He longs to incorporate His children (and heirs) into His business.

This is an extremely weak example, but the best I can come up with in a time crunch:

Say I want to take James to the park. He is busy playing with Thomas the Train, and won’t come when I call him. He thinks he doesn’t want to do what Mimi wants him to do, even though Mimi’s plan is for his good. He stalls, he runs away, he hides…as I often do when I sense that God is calling me to do something new. I don’t want to drag James kicking and screaming to the park. I want him to be on the same page I’m on…I want his will to be the same as mine. I want him to be excited about it. I want him to trust me that it’s going to be fun. I know what he likes. I know he loves the park. I am taking him there for his benefit. I want him not only to agree with me about the park, I want him to ask me to take him there. And I’d like a little gratitude, too. Eventually, James is persuaded by my description of all the fun things we could do at the park. In the end, he even says “Pease Mimi! Wet’s go to de park!” and gets in his stroller. Then we go. I am delighted. I was waiting for him to be in accord with my will, and to ask me to fulfill it. His hesitation delayed his joy. (So does mine sometimes.)

(* For example, Ex. 32:14)

b.) Prayer changes me. Spending time with God softens me, humbles me, and makes me able to listen. The “still, small voice” becomes louder and clearer the more I learn to listen well. All it takes is time. I find that I don’t insist on my own way as often when I spend quality time alone with God. This is not something I have to force myself to do. It is a delight. So even if the circumstances I’m praying about don’t change, my attitude does.

3.) Jesus prayed.

If we are to be “imitators of Christ,” then we must follow the example he set. Jesus was always sneaking away to be alone with his Father. He prayed both publicly and privately, but it seems apparent that he valued the one-on-one time above all else. It was like oxygen to him.

But here’s the shocker: Even Jesus, “being of the same substance as the Father, very God of very God,” got a “NO.”

Luke 22:44 says he sweated blood when he beseeched the Father to “let this cup pass from me.” His humanity cried out against suffering. But, immediately, he acquiesced to God’s authority, “...not my will, but yours.”

“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion… Blessed are all who wait for him... How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you.”

But what if the answer is “No”? There is one “No” that is particularly hard to understand and bear. If God is gracious and compassionate, as the Psalmist says, then why does He allow the ultimate suffering of separation by death?

Kelly Edens wrote, “God knows the human heart because He created it. He knows how fragile it is, how quickly it can harden and above all, how it needs to be loved. But real love does not mean a perpetual "yes". When it comes to prayer, there are three answers: yes, no and wait…The hardest "no" to understand is in the death of a loved one. You want them to remain on earth with you, to have one more day to love them, but God takes them anyway. No amount of bribery, promises, or deals can keep your loved one tied to earth. But does this answer mean you will never see them again? Only if you don't intend to follow them to heaven. If you really think about it, maybe God is saying "no" to your loved one's suffering, pain and illness instead of your request for them to linger.”

Nothing on earth hurts like the loss of one you love. Thankfully, at this point I have not experienced the loss of a child. Although I cannot imagine exactly what that must be like, I assume that it’s the worst hurt there is. Unbearably painful. Devastating.

In grappling with all of these questions about the purpose of prayer, I turned to a cadre of close friends (that I look upon as “spiritual mothers”) for their insight. One shared this story with me:

“Bottom line, when I believe in Christ, God Himself is our very great reward. What could be greater than that! He gives me Himself as the answer for all my prayers.

This picture comes to mind: 1980...I'm expecting our 3rd child. I'm in an intense Bible study on the Book of Revelation. I'm walking and talking with the Lord intimately. I'm praying for the well-being of my unborn baby. I'm in the arms of God with Him hugging me tightly when our little daughter is born with such a birth defect that she dies that day. I turn and bury my face into the chest of the Lord as He is right there hugging me. I trust Him, as I know our baby girl is with Him. I grieve and I think of what could have been, but all the while He's hugging me and telling me, "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well."

I think that's the way my prayers were answered. He gave me Himself.”

Since Katherine’s AVM rupture, I’ve been receiving Joni Eareckson Tada’s daily devotionals. If anyone knows about suffering, it is Joni. For those unfamiliar with her, she is the writer and artist who was left a quadriplegic by a teenage diving accident. She reached out to Katherine in the early days, and has been an amazing encourager and example of grace under fire. Many days, her short devotion “just happens” to speak directly to my immediate circumstances. The other day, her words pierced my heart: “If we do not cling to God through the worst life offers, we will misread him entirely and grow to mistrust and even despise him.”

That is what my friend Lynn did. She clung to God when her heart was breaking. He held her in His loving arms, when she could not hold her baby girl in hers.

I remember the first time Lynn told me her story. Though tears were shining in her eyes, she emanated peace, and even joy. She and her husband had two boys, and they’d prayed for a little girl. She told me, “God gave me the desire of my heart…a little girl. But she gets to grow up in heaven.”

I have thought about that over the years. Lynn's daughter has never known heartbreak. She has never faced rejection or fear or sickness or depression. She has never been the victim of violence or gossip. She didn’t have to deal with Mean Girls in the 7th grade. She has never experienced peer pressure or temptation. She has never suffered loss. She has never sinned. She has never known anything but exquisite joy. And her family will spend eternity with her.

Because her parents know the character of God to be All Loving, they accepted His “no” as somehow coming out of that love. They trust Him. They believe that “all things work together for good for those who love Him.” (And they do love Him.)


I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know why God said “yes” to the prayers for Katherine’s life, while He says “no” to others. There are things that cannot be known. There are mysteries that will not be solved until Heaven.

But we can come to know God himself.

That is what prayer is to me.

Prayer is…

Connection…conversation…relation…intercourse…union…love-longing satisfied…


Prayer is a caress.

It is most beautiful when it is beyond words. It is communion. It is consummation. It is a ravishing.

It is the purest form of love. It is transcendent. It is sparkling light and floods of thrilling, roaring, living water pouring out of the heart of God into mine. Liquid delight…cool fire and fiery ice.

Prayer is losing myself in Him in order to find my best, true self. It is a joining of hearts, minds, and wills.

If you haven’t yet experienced prayer in this way, know that “if you seek (and keep on seeking), you will find.”

We are told to seek the greater gifts. (I Cor. 12:31)

For “if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”
(Matt. 7:11)

The one request that we will always receive is more of Him.

That is a prayer that is always answered “Yes!”

He is enough.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Changing God's Mind (or changing my heart?)

The anxious family huddles together in the cold hospital waiting room.


Praying. Murmuring quietly with each other. Sipping stale, cold, acidic coffee.

Waiting. Praying.

Stomachs growl. Icy hands clasp and unclasp. Backs ache from painful chairs.

Praying. Waiting.

An exhausted, grey-faced doctor strides into the room.

“I’m sorry. We did everything we could.”

Where was God?

Was He not listening to the fervent prayers? Was He too busy in the Middle East? Did He not care?

Why even bother praying if He’s too preoccupied or callous to answer, to act, to intervene?

…if His mind’s already made up?

…if He’s just going to say, “NO”?

“The whole world groans as if in the pains of childbirth up til now…”

Most of us are quite content to live in our bubbles until the needle pricks of life abruptly burst them for us. No one goes out searching for pain and heartbreak. They come, nevertheless.

They come as inevitably as death itself.

Maybe it’s just because I’m in an ‘aging spurt,’ but trial and trouble appear more widespread than ever before. There seems to be an acceleration of evil and the tragedy that results from it. Almost every day, I hear fresh heartbreaking news.

Children with life-threatening illnesses. Cancer. Devastating accidents. Life-destroying injuries. Debilitating addictions. Financial meltdowns. Divorce. Mental illness. Plain old meanness. Families estranged. Maiming. Violent death. Death, death, and more death.

The naivety of youth always asserts that tragedy happens to someone else. Those other people. Not our kind of people.

But eventually, we all learn that no one escapes life unscathed.

This comes as quite a shock to some.

My father always said that ‘there are no atheists in foxholes.’ He spent quite a bit of time huddling in them all over Germany, so I assume his statement was authoritative. He also told me that there are few in hospital delivery rooms. He said he’d never heard the name of the Lord spoken so loudly, frequently, or creatively until he did an OB rotation at Grady Hospital in Atlanta in the early ‘50’s. I’ll spare you his imitation of some of the young mothers who came in too late for anesthesia. (You can thank me later.)

There are moments in life that bring us to our knees…to the end of our ropes…to the end of ourselves and our silly self-sufficiency. There are times when we just can’t fix it.

I think even agnostics must pray then…just in case.

But we don’t always get what we want.

Sometimes I wonder why God intervened in the natural order of things in Katherine’s case. More and more medical professionals have emphasized to us the complete improbability of anyone surviving what happened to Katherine. It cannot be explained in merely human terms.

Was God persuaded by the thousands of prayers bombarding Him to get up off the couch and do something about it? Did we talk Him into performing a miracle?

If so, why are there so many cases where it appears that He did not get up off the couch? Were there not enough prayers? Were they not fervent enough?

Were we just lucky He was in a good mood that day?

Obviously, I’ve been thinking a lot about the purpose and efficacy of prayer these days. My ‘mullings’ were inspired in part by an email Katherine received from a precious young mother who, tragically, lost twin baby girls. She wrote:

One topic i would love for you to talk about would be: what the purpose of prayer is and if you think prayer can change God's mind about something. i just know so many people who have lost children- both during pregnancy and after- and so many of them prayed for their children to make it...and God said no. Do you think God changes His mind as a result of prayer, or do you think prayer is our way of accepting God's will for our lives? Or do you think prayer has a completely different purpose- like to rally people together during times of trouble and lifting them up?

Wow. What great, but challenging, questions. I haven’t been able to get them off my mind. Although the questions were addressed to Katherine, I felt led to address them for myself, if no one else.

I guess the pivotal issue is this: If God is sovereign…if His plans and purposes have been ordained since before time…then what part do our prayers play in the grand scheme of things?

My questioning send me rushing out to research the sovereignty of God. It is easy to get bogged down in endless, unresolvable theological debates on the topic. Predestination? Free will? Calvinism vs. Arminianism?

I need to keep it simple.

One California pastor summed up the basic question:

“It is very easy to drift into thinking that prayer is a nice sentiment, but in the end, a waste of time because it doesn’t really make any difference anyway. For some people, this kind of dismissal arises from unbelief and doubt that God really can answer prayer. For others, however, the question that paralyzes their prayer life is this: If God is sovereign, why pray? In other words, if God will simply do what He wants to anyway, why offer prayers of petition and intercession? Why bother requesting that God do such and such when everything has been ordained by Him beforehand? If prayer consists of pleading with God to change His eternal purposes, isn’t such an undertaking feeble at best and arrogant at worst?” (Matt Waymeyer)

In thinking about it, I realize that I do pray fairly often. I pray inconsistently, but frequently. I pray formally and informally. I pray when I’m calm and peaceful, but I pray even more when I’m not. Prayer is an intrinsic part of my existence, my being. I think I have pretty much always prayed, even in the early 70’s when I doubted God’s existence. They were foxhole prayers, but I believe God heard them, nevertheless. He did not, however, always say “Yes.” (Thank God.)

So why do I pray?

(to be continued…)


(We made it back alive! Thanks to those who was an ordeal. Working on a photo album, but I'm slow. Please bear with me!)