Friday, May 20, 2011

Hibernacula--Covering with Prayer

 “Miss Goody Two Shoes” was a childhood slur cast toward girls, who were behaving well or flaunting their obedience. True goodness, purity of motives, and resulting humility comes from above.

If we humans were left solely to our own devices, I’m afraid we’d treat each other rather badly. We’ve all had our moments, and maybe lifetimes, of misbehavior. As the oldest sibling in my childhood family, I sometimes took advantage of my siblings’ weaknesses, played tricks on them, and agitated them.

At times, I could even coerce my sister, Sherry, 22 months younger than me, to join in tormenting our little brother. One such occasion happened when I was about 10-years-old. I hope my brother Kenny read this because we both regret telling you that the small round, red, very hot pepper, growing on the short garden plant, would taste just like an M&M. Your four-year-old mouth was not the only thing that burned that day. If I remember correctly, our punishment involved a bit of warming on the seat of our summer shorts.

After the flood, God said, “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood” (Genesis 8:21). He accurately described the imaginations of my heart. I was definitely engaged in a war. I wanted to be good -- was good a lot of the time -- but temptations loomed everywhere, especially to cause my siblings misery.

I believe the prayers of my godly parents protected me during that time. The good news is that at any age, we can call on God to help us. His Holy Spirit will refine and tune our hearts to make better and best choices.

Earlier this month at the Pepperdine Bible Lectures in California, I heard a keynote from Samuel Twumasi-Ankrah from Accra, Ghana, Africa. Here in the states studying for his doctorate of divinity, he taught from Psalm 103. I wrote one of his short sayings in the margin of my Bible near that psalm. He said, “God is more willing to forgive than we are willing to be forgiven.” Isn’t that true! We are often reluctant to forgive ourselves when God has already forgiven and forgotten our sins.

Our memory scripture this week comes from the book of Lamentations. While most congregational worship seems to focus on celebrating the goodness of God, would a “lament” service be appropriate from time to time? This could be a time when we would consider our personal sins and offenses against God, mourn how we hurt our good Shepherd, confess our sins, and repent.

We sing a song in my home congregation, “O Lord Prepare me to be a Sanctuary.” As each person sings that request, they ask God to create a holier heart house, in essence saying: “Make me a dwelling place for you. Hollow out my heart. Sweep out all offensive things. Make a spotless place, dear God, for you to abide and guide.”   

The word “hibernacula” in zoology means the dwelling place of a hibernating animal. In the world of botany “hibernacula” means the covering over a bud during its dormant phase before it blossoms. I’ve had on my mind, the tender hearts of our communities’ children and the summer ahead. Children pass through a stage of hibernation until they begin to emerge into their life story. Ever developing in stature, mind, and heart – wouldn’t this world be a better place if all children had the covering of their parents’ and grandparents’ prayers?

Jeremiah, noted as the author of Lamentation by some of the latest manuscripts, in five poetic chapters tells about the just judgment of God on his people. He and his countrymen ended up in a foreign country, captured, humiliated, and removed from their homeland because they rebelled against God.

Sorrow for wrongs committed against God permeates the chapters of Lamentations, but God steps into that pool of tears to tend and correct Jeremiah’s broken heart. God is truly “more willing to forgive than we are to be forgiven.” The Lord’s mercies are new every day to toward our developing children and their families who will call upon him.

Index card scripture for week 20: “Because of the LORD’S great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22, 23).

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