Sweet Honey in the Rock

Sweet Honey in the Rock

Have you ever had the splendid surprise of a long-held prayer being abruptly and abundantly answered?

This prayer was on my lips in the daytime, the nighttime, quietly and loudly, indoors and outdoors, humbly and willfully, in whispers and bellows, in faithful expectancy and dull habit. But I have kept on praying – with a stubborn willingness to speak in God’s ear like a relentless dripping faucet.

Viola! God has answered my tired plea with not merely a “yes” but with a “YES, absolutely, no problem, of course, you got it and more” kind of abundance. I am bursting with gratitude.

I reflected on this blessing as Pastor Chineta gave an amazing sermon at New Hope Presbyterian Church in Orange, California. She spoke on Mathew 5, in which Jesus affirms and warns his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? Furthermore, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.”

Pastor Chineta shared tales from her story-infused childhood, when her elders continually guided her with a dual-sided message of affirmation and warning.  Her deep loving voice and authentic smile resonated through the sanctuary. We sat motionless – riveted by her passion, as she urged us to apply these words of Christ to our lives.

She brought it home as she lifted into song the well loved lyrics of the civil rights movement, anointed with the conviction of one who has lived it …

Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around,

turn me around,

turn me around.

Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around

I’m gonna keep on walking,

keep on talking,

 marching to freedom land.”

 (Click below to hear the song “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round” performed by Sweet Honey in the Rock”)

We congregants were inspired by her powerful message of hope, reconciliation, and “affirming warnings” as she put it. Pouring out of the satin-robed, gospel music infused, ‘preach on sister’ call-and-response banter and community hug-fest that was this service, my husband Steve and I felt challenged and bolstered by this largely African-American community of faith.

We milled about in the narthex, discussing our reaction with friend and church member Antoinette. She has a Ph.D. in Sociology and a demanding career providing services to reach under-privileged, 0 – 5 age children in LA County. What she said struck me as prophetic.

She described how every December, she takes stock of what the last year has meant in her life, and prays for God’s blessing on the year to come. She explained, “For several years now, it seems God gives me a vision of what the coming year will be. And I have been amazed to witness, that it comes about in exactly that way. It becomes the year’s theme for not only my life, but for so many of my loved ones and people I come into contact with. This year, God’s message was, ‘This is the year of the Lord’s favor.’ I just can’t deny that it is coming to pass.”

Antoinette has recently gotten a promotion and is positioned to make a much bigger impact in the work that she loves, to benefit impoverished little people she has never met. I was touched by her humble sincerity, and wondered, “Does this woman have a gift of prophesy? We joked and rubbed against her, hoping her blessing would be contagious. But I knew in my heart, God’s favor had already come.

I claim the divine promise voiced by Antoinette. I thought about my answered prayer, and thanked God for hearing me, and confirming his intention through Antoinette. To many, this may sound superstitious.

Does God do this? Does he give a faithful servant a message, and then deliver on it to those who have ears to hear? Could 2014 be a year of God’s favor? I choose to believe.

You may be wondering about the answered prayer. You see, my husband has been an ordained Lutheran pastor for 25 years. We came to Southern California in 2001 for him to serve a church that after nine years, had to be buried. Even though it became financially unsustainable, he continued to shepherd his flock for a year without pay. This is just before our children were headed off to college. I was scared and frankly, a bit indignant with God. What a disaster! It broke my husband’s heart and shook his confidence.

But I knew, that as sure as God had seen me through the darkest times in healing me from depression, he would sustain and deliver Steve and our family from this hardship. I clung to the promise “weeping lasts for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

Steve subsequently went through a total career and identity change to become a leadership consultant, starting a business called TurningWest. He has showed incredible resiliency, determination, creativity, and courage to forge through this transition. The first three years have been lean and a bit scary for a security-minded person like myself. However, Steve has remained fastidious and hopeful, despite the odds in this post-recession economy. And God has slowly and steadily blessed his efforts.

But suddenly, during the last couple of weeks, the contracts have been rolling in at an astounding rate. His home office is lit afire with phone calls and emails from the many people he has reached out to in boldness. Now, and for the foreseeable future, he not only has enough work for himself, but for several other colleagues partnering with him – all with families, losses, needs, and dreams like ours.

This work is a win-win proposition.  Each job is producing phenomenal results for the clients – all who have largely humanitarian, justice-oriented missions. Steve will make the world a better place through the work of Turning West. I am so proud of my husband. And I am indescribably thankful to God, who has heard and answered my prayers.

I believe that for me, 2014 is “the year of the Lord’s favor.” May it also be so for you.

For these promises are ancient, and prophesied in the sacred book of Isaiah:

Isaiah 61:1-3

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
 to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, 
to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
 the oil of joy instead of mourning,
 and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
 They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

 

 

4 Comments

  1. Lisa, I am happy for you and the wonderful provision God is providing you and Steve and your family.

  2. Kathy McGillivray

    I’m praying this is a year of favor for me too, on multiple levels. We don’t deserve favor, so of course it is not something we can assume. But we can receive it when it comes and pray that it continues.

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