Tag Archives: Court

Popcorn Prayers

Then the king said to me, “What do you request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven.
Nehemiah 2:4 (NRSV)

When you have intimate, long-term relationships with others you find that communication takes a myriad of forms. Wendy and I are together almost all of the time. We live together, work from home together, serve in the community together, and spend most of our free time together. We have layers of communication:

  • Conversations about culture and world events over breakfast and  the news.
  • Brief exchanges from the top of the 2nd floor landing to the bottom of the stairs on the main floor.
  • Text message exchanges.
  • Non-verbal body language cues.
  • Short notes left on stickies on the counter.
  • Emotional rants of aggravation.
  • Nuts and bolts planning and scheduling over calendars.
  • Cell phone conversations when one of us are running errands.
  • Long, intense personal conversations over drinks or a meal.
  • Pillow-talk as we retire for the night.

I have found that my conversations with God have similar diversity of communication. From long, structured, formal give and take to brief exchanges and casual conversations of spirit. There are blurted exclamations of anger, frustration, gratitude, or need. I quiet my heart and open the ears of my spirit to hear what God might have to say during my coffee with God each the morning. I sometimes pour out my heart to God in long, hand written letters. If prayer is simply communication with God, then each one of these mediums is a different, yet legitimate form of prayer used as needed based on the time and circumstance.

In today’s chapter we learn that Nehemiah served the Babylonian king, Artaxerxes, in his court. His heart heavy with the news of the destruction of his hometown Jerusalem’s destroyed walls, Nehemiah cannot help be send non-verbal cues regarding his mood. The king notices and asks him why he looks so depressed.

We cannot fathom today the pressure placed on servants in ancient royal courts like that of Artaxerxes. Kings and Queens held ultimate power and routinely took the mantel of diety upon themselves. Servants in a royal court were expected to always be in a good mood, always serve with joy, and to treat the royals as if they were gods who lived in a higher dimension of being than everyone else. Any slight, mistake, errant word or look could result in an immediate death penalty.

When King Artaxerxes notices the cloud of depression on Nehemiah’s face, his immediate reaction is fear. Nehemiah doesn’t know whether to answer truthfully, beg forgiveness, say “it’s nothing,” or make up some plausible story. One wrong word or move, a simple raising of the King’s ire, and Nehemiah’s a dead man. Nehemiah chooses to tell the truth about his depression over Jerusalem’s walls. Then, Artaxerxes raises the stakes even higher by asking, “What do you request?”

Nehemiah is now in an even more treacherous fix. Ask too much and the king could take it as arrogant insubordination. Blow off the request and it could be perceived as false humility and refusing to answer a direct question. But Nehemiah needs to answer the king and he needs to answer it quickly. What does Nehemiah do?

He throws up a prayer.

Nehemiah had no time for religious ritual. He couldn’t stop the moment to languish in conversation about this situation with God. He could ask the King to spare him a moment while he got on his knees and recited a psalm. Nehemiah threw up what I like to call a “popcorn prayer.”

Like a kernel of popcorn jumping up quickly in the heat to explode into bloom, popcorn prayers pop out of my spirit in a moment and last little more than a breath. Popcorn prayers often get uttered in heated situations. They acknowledge in an instant that God is always present, always listening, always open to listen in all of the diverse ways two beings in an intimate relationship communicate.

There are times for long conversation, and there are times for popcorn prayers. Both forms are legitimate methods of communicating with God. God answered Nehemiah’s popcorn prayer, and the desires of Nehemiah’s heart were about to miraculously be answered via a blurted prayer from Nehemiah’s spirit.

Today, as I quietly listen to what God might be saying to me through the chapter, I hear this: “Keep popping.”

Rocky Mountain Whirlwind

Wendy and I made a whirlwind trip to Colorado last week. Wendy’s sister, Becky, gave birth to our niece, Lydia, the previous week and we wanted to pay a visit to welcome her to the family. The trip also afforded me the opportunity to make a client visit and to spend some time with Madison, who is back in Colorado Springs.

We headed west on Wednesday morning, arriving in Denver in the evening. We got to spend some time with Becky, Court and Lydia before retiring for the night. On Thursday afternoon I make my client visit and had a business dinner. Madison drove up from Colorado Springs and I met the who crew at a restaurant after finishing with business. We got to celebrate Madison’s birthday since she won’t be making it back to Iowa until Christmas. Madison and I had some father/daughter time late Thursday while Wendy hung out with the Oakes crew.

On Friday we all spent a few hours together before Madison had to head off to work. Becky and Court then treated Wendy and me to a visit at the Denver Botanical Gardens. It was a gorgeous day to get outside and there was an amazing exhibit of Chihuly glass sculptures that were installed amidst the gardens.

Wendy and I left for home Friday afternoon, breaking up the 10 hour drive with an overnight stop in Kearney, Nebraska. We arrived home on Saturday just in time to get to rehearsal for USP’s production of A Christmas Carol.

It was a quick trip, but we were thrilled to meet the family’s newest bundle of joy and to spend some time with Madison.

Tom’s 30 Day Blogging Challenge Day 8

If you were on trial and someone you know (who is not an attorney) had to act as your legal representative, who would you want to defend you?

If it please the court:

What is really cool about this question is that I have several people that I could and would call upon. I had fun thinking about my many friends and acquaintances and considering their many positive qualities. No doubt I could put together an impressive amateur legal team. I had to think about the right mix of qualities that this person would need to have to be a good legal representative. The person I think who best exemplies that necessary mix would be my friend Chad.

Chad has that intangible quality that experience has led me to believe he could, and likely would, succeed at almost anything he set his heart and mind to accomplish. He’s intelligent and a quick learner. He presents himself well and would be articulate, easily building rapport with the judge and jury. I also see in Chad the necessary ability to feel empathy and compassion deeply while holding those feelings in check when there’s a battle to be fought and the need to focus on the immediate need.

Underneath all that, he’s a good friend and I know he’d have my back and take the responsbility very seriously.

Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 54

Guilty as charged. Any accuser who takes you to court will be dismissed as a liar. Isaiah 54:17b (MSG)

Wendy and I had a quiet evening last night. As we puttered at mindless tasks we got caught up on a few of our favorite television shows which we had recorded. We watched Saving Grace, a show about a flawed and broken cop who is visited by her "last chance angel," Earl (Warning: this show is for mature audiences only; it reveals Grace's sin in graphic and uncensored manner).

In the episode we watched last night, Grace dreams (is it a dream?) and finds herself in a courtroom. She discovers that she is the one on trial. She is accused by the prosecution of her promiscuous, violent, drunken behavior. Friends and family are called to the stand to testify about their experiences with Grace.

As I watched. I put myself in Grace's shoes. How scary to think of standing in a courtroom with my friends, family and enemies lining up to testify to all the stupid, hurtful, sinful, disobedient things I've done. Believe me, the Accuser has no problem making a strong case against me.

Then I thought of yesterday's chapter and was reminded why Jesus came. That's why Jesus gave himself up to be beaten and bloodied. That's why Jesus died. He paid the penalty for all of my wrong doing. When the Accuser lays out the charges against me (they are many, and I am guilty) the Judge sees that the penalty has already been paid. THAT is "saving grace."

He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many,
   he took up the cause of all the black sheep.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and ixquick