Beth & Rob -- Several weeks had passed since we'd left NZ, and settled in London, UK. London proved to be a city that was filled with history. By home-schooling our two younger children – having left the older two back in NZ - we were able to spend many hours exploring the museums and galleries, towers and castles. It was a city that vibrated with life, but there was a finite level of energy that could be expended and school work demanded attention. This proved to be a bit of a challenge, particularly for a ten year old boy who hadn't experienced the discipline of being schooled at home. There was seldom a day that didn't end in tears of frustration or stubbornness on either his part or ours. His sister, the elder by three years was self–motivated and had the ability to achieve much in a short time. The question was, how to encourage the younger one while rewarding the other. Prayer or bribery? Why not prayer and bribery? What was needed was a large juicy carrot to dangle out there so there was something to aspire to. A personal computer for the young techno minded male and a piano for the musically inclined daughter, who had to leave hers behind. This gained great favour and proved to be the tool to channel and expand both young minds. It was to become a turning point, and our days of home schooling never looked back. It wasn't long before we faced another challenge. Our bubbly, outgoing daughter was beginning to suffer from peer withdrawal. This was a problem bribery could not cure. Our only recourse available was more prayer.
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:24)
We made the situation a matter of specific and focused prayer. The request was for a like-minded girl of the same age, home schooled and available for on-going friendship. We knew this was going to be a tall order for the Lord, as we knew home schooling was quite rare in London, never mind the rest of the prayer list.
Carmen & Lon -- Soon after we arrived to live in England in 2000, we were able to settle into a vibrant church that would, in many ways, reorient our walk in the spirit. Carmen continued home schooling both daughters as we transitioned to the U.K. which meant that both girls spent a large amount of time at home with limited opportunity to connect with others in their age groups. Our youngest daughter, in particular, was adjusting to a new country and a new church and seeking friends. The church had a central role in providing a safe place for her to connect with others, but it wasn’t easy for her to find fast friends amidst a cultural shift from Holland to England. Carmen and I were also looking to meet people with similar values. The likelihood of finding another home schooling family seemed very poor, since home schooling parents had few opportunities to gather together in the U.K., a culture where home schooling was tolerated, but not specifically endorsed.
Beth & Rob -- At this time we were attending HTB in central London, a vibrant, missions orientated church that had a Friday night youth group, but alas, filled with 'fluffy ducks', a term I used to describe the cutesy young girls from well off families. I'm sure they were for the most part quite lovely young ladies, but clearly not home schooled, as our adolescent young offspring undoubtedly was. Between growing up on a farm from 'down under' and not having a sophisticated bone in her body, there didn't appear to be a prayer match at her youth group.
Carmen & Lon -- One of our daughters was scheduled to take the U.S. SAT college board exam early on a Saturday morning at a school just north of London. Our youngest daughter, meanwhile, was set to participate in a youth group event at the new church on the evening before and we were to take her there by train and local London transport. En route to the church, I suggested to Carmen that we take a practice run to the school where the SAT would take place while our daughter was with the youth group. Knowing exactly where the school was located, in relation to the nearest London Underground station, would help ensure we were not late for the exam the next morning. We dropped Raphaela at the church and immediately headed for the SAT location, which we found a few city blocks from an Underground station. We timed the walk and then calculated which train and tube times we would need to plan for the following morning.
Beth & Rob -- On a Friday evening, unexpectedly, not one but two girls came bouncing over to our car in the church parking lot. The companion was wearing scruffy black track pants and a tie dyed tee-shirt. We'd struck gold! Her name was Raphaela. Could she wait with us? she asked. She was the same age as our daughter, home schooled, working on the same curriculum, at the same level and settling in London with, you'd never believe it, a bonus: an older sister. Actually, later we learned she came with, wait for it, not one older sister but two, and over the next eight years all three sisters became our daughter's closest friends. If one wasn't available, then another could always be counted on to fill the gap, and today I'm not sure which one is her best friend. I think all three have won a place in her heart.
Carmen & Lon -- Once comfortable that we were ready for Saturday, we hopped on a London Underground train for the journey back to the church, allowing just enough time to arrive back at the church where we would pick up our daughter and head for home. London “tube” trains pause their runs from time to time for a minute or two so the system can allow sufficient track in front of and behind the trains to avoid collisions. On this particular run, the train came to a halt about 10 minutes into the run. We were sitting and chatting in our rail car, waiting for the forward motion to begin. We sat. And we sat. And we sat. About 10 minutes later, the conductor announced that there was a problem on the tracks ahead and we would need to wait in the same spot until the tracks were cleared. Almost precisely 5 minutes later came another announcement that the delay was being extended. It was impossible to call ahead from the train between stations. There was no cell phone communication in the tubes. There wasn’t that much air and I was beginning to feel claustrophobic. Unlike subway systems in other cities where I have lived, such as New York, the London underground leaves little room in the tubes beyond what is needed by the trains. No catwalks beside the tracks leading to exits to the street. No egress, except forward or backward on the tracks. When you are moving fast through the tubes, you really don’t feel as trapped as you do when you are sitting, unmoving between stations, in a type of bore-hole dozens of feet below the surface. I looked at my watch, did some fast calculating, and told Carmen that, unless we were rolling again within a minute or two, we would arrive late to fetch our daughter at the church. We both began to worry, since we were new to the city and the church and uncertain what the custom was when a child’s parents did not pick up the child. Carmen said she thought most certainly that one of the youth leaders would remain at the church with her until we arrived. After a period of about 30 minutes, the train finally began to move and we arrived at the station nearest the church almost an hour late. After a slightly anguished walk at a fast clip from the station, we arrived at the church and found … darkness. No sign of life within the building. It was a tense moment. Then, glancing toward the car park adjacent to the church we could make out a few people standing and talking in the semi-darkness of a street lamp. As we made our way over we could see that our daughter was among them. Also, a girl of the same age. And the parents of the girl who, we would soon find out, were also from another land and also home schooling, in fact, with the very same curriculum we were using.
Beth & Rob -- That Friday evening so long ago brought another change into our lives. The new home schooled best friend came with two parents who became our best friends. Together we moved their family from Holland to London, then over time, from the UK to the US. When they returned to their home in Florida, we weren't far behind them. That's how our friendship began: two families in need, reaching out and allowing God to work in each other’s lives, drawing us together as family.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
Writing this devotional together is another stepping stone on that journey we started many years ago on one cold night in London while we waited for the parents of our daughter's new best friend to arrive.
Carmen & Lon -- That Friday evening was the beginning of a friendship among many that would last over several years and at least two countries. Did God guide us to that family by halting the particular train we were on sufficiently long enough for the youth group meeting to end and for our friends-to-be to arrive to pick up our daughter’s friend-to-be and also agree to wait with our daughter until we could arrive? Was this life-changing evening for both families a product of God’s desire to provision our family in a distant land? We believe the answers are yes … and yes.
The Bible is filled, cover to cover, with story after story showing that God cares about the details. Particularly, that He loves His creation and especially His children and just like an earthly Father (or should that be the other way around?) likes to bless and give them gifts.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16~18 we read “16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus”.
So here we find that our continuing posture throughout the day should be one of joyful expectant prayer. Further in James 4:1~3 we read “1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
Thus it appears we can ask wrongly and also miss out on things God wants for us because we are not even asking Him.
As we mature on this earthly part of our journey and strive to Walk in the Spirit, there are many opportunities to breathe a quick (or not so quick) prayer to our Heavenly Father. The gospels show that Jesus spent a lot of time in prayer – may I suggest, if it was good enough for Jesus then we too need to develop the spiritual discipline of communing with God about all the things we experience. Sometimes this can be a simple “Thank you God” right through to an anguished “God where are you?”
In the sample prayer Jesus gave the disciples there is no 'please' mentioned, and in fact some of the clauses are declarative – or even demanding statements such as
“...Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, in earth as it is in Heaven...” Thus it is clear that we can be very confident about praying in line with God's will. Yet we are to be mindful of asking with wrong motives and not in accordance with the Kingdom purposes of God. More on “the will of God” coming up, but suffice to say, a great way to get and stay on track with our Heavenly Father's Kingdom, is to read the Bible regularly, so we learn to think in alignment with the purposes, destiny and direction God wants for us, and not like the world around us.
Think of regular situations you find yourself in, daily, weekly or even multiple times per day.
How could you turn this situation into one where you regularly include a prayer (whispered or thought, short or long) that acknowledges your awareness of, thankfulness and dependence upon God. And thus develop a habit of talking constantly to our Father in Heaven.
Help me to be constantly mindful of you, to remember you care about all the little details in my life. Let me always share each decision I need to make with you and be listening to your Holy Spirit that lives within me and continually points in the direction I need to go towards you.