Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Red Umbrella

In a small farming community in the Midwest, the farmers didn’t know what to do. The drought was dragging on for what seemed an eternity. The rain was very important to the community’s way of life. As the problem became more urgent, the local church felt it was time to get involved. The members planned a prayer meeting in order to ask God for rain. 

When the pastor arrived, he slowly circulated from one group to another. Finally, he made his way to the front in order to officially begin the meeting. As the pastor secured his place in front of his flock, his thoughts were on the importance of quieting the crowd and starting the meeting. 

 Just as he began asking for quiet, he noticed an eleven-year-old girl sitting in the front row. She was angelically beaming with excitement. Resting next to her was her bright red umbrella, poised for use. 

The beauty and innocence of this sight made the pastor smile. He realized that this young girl possessed a faith that the rest of the people in the room seemed to have forgotten. For the rest had come just to pray for rain—she had some to see God answer.
(Written by: Anonymous)

The young girl in this story saw hope when none existed: her hope was in God. She knew that God 
would hear her prayers. She believed that He would answer them. Although she was a child, she understood that despair is not the end of faith—God can be trusted in the darkest of hours. As you step forward into autumn, may you do so with expectant faith and a red umbrella in hand! 

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, 

‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, 

plans to give you a hope and a future. 

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, 
and I will listen to you. 
You will seek me and find me 
when you seek me with all your heart.’” 

Jeremiah 29:11-13

Copyright © 2004-2014 by, Inc. and by Vicki Scott Burns. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Spiritual Songlasses: Living Life Through the Lenses of God's Word and Prayer

It’s late afternoon. You’ve played with the kids, done five loads of laundry, and two loads of dishes. You’ve bathed the dog and weeded the garden. You’ve bandaged owies and dried tears. You’ve stepped on toys, slipped on toys, and even begged toys to put themselves away. 

What you haven’t done is shower. Your hair has been hastily smashed into a baseball cap. Rusty soil is smeared across your backside. Evidence of runny noses and strands of dog hair cling to your T-shirt. You smell as though you and your bar of soap have had a parting of ways. The panic attack begins as you realize that you don’t have anything for dinner. You could order pizza, but you’re afraid of what the neighbors will think if the delivery boy’s car appears in your driveway yet again. The milk is chunkier than it ought to be, so cereal is out. Your options are dog kibble and potato chips, neither of which your conscience will let you feed to your children. Your shoulders droop in defeat as you realize that there's no way out: you simply must go to the grocery store. 

As you turn the key in the ignition, you catch a glimpse of yourself in the rearview mirror and pray that you don't run into anyone you know. For a brief moment you consider driving to a store in another state, but the squabbling in the back seat has already begun. You haven't even made it down the driveway. Sigh.

After pulling into a parking spot at the store, you take a deep breath. You can do this. The Nike ad says so. The time has come. You don the most masterful of all disguises: your sunglasses. 

You make your way through the store, relying upon your memory of the store's layout and hoping it hasn’t been rearranged since last week. Suddenly you are in your groove, tossing things right and left into your cart. You haven’t any idea what you’re actually tossing in because you can’t read the labels. Accuracy, however, is not your mission. You get in. You get out. You escape recognition. That’s your mission. Mission impossible, or so it seems. Somehow, you manage to succeed. 

What would you do without your beloved sunglasses?

Paul had his own pair of beloved Songlasses. However, he didn’t use them as a disguise; rather he wore them with confidence to identify himself as one of Christ’s own. As do our prescription glasses, Paul’s Songlasses enabled him to look through two different lenses to converge upon a single focal point. For Paul, that focal point was Jesus.

So what, exactly, were Paul’s lenses?

One lens was God’s Word. Paul studied, taught, and quoted scripture. He carried scripture in his heart and in his mind. Paul knew that the diligent study of scripture was God’s desire for believers. In 2 Timothy 2:16-17, Paul wrote “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

In March of 1987, I gave birth to my second child, Kyle. He was born with a coarctation of his aorta, a pinched section in the arch where the aorta branched off of his heart. It was surgically corrected two days later. We were told that although the surgery had been difficult, it had been successful.

Things quickly declined. Kyle’s heart failed the next day. After 25 minutes of CPR, it became apparent that Kyle was going to die. I had never held him, so I asked the doctor to stop the CPR and to quickly remove the equipment. He did so and handed Kyle to me. I cradled him in my arms. Two minutes later, Kyle released his last breath upon my face.

Kyle’s death got my attention. It was the magnet my heart needed to be drawn towards God. What a magnet it was. 

Two years later, through a series of events well orchestrated by God, I walked into a Precept Bible study class in the 13th week of a 14-week course. I sat next to Maria, a woman who spoke about a God so real to her I was sure that she could reach out and touch Him. Maria invited me to lunch. The pain of my aching heart poured out to her. She shared salvation verses with me. I felt uncontrollably drawn to God. I accepted Christ that evening.

Becoming a believer didn’t change the reality of Kyle’s death, but it profoundly altered my perspective of it. Where I once stood in despair, I now stand in hope. There's not a doubt in my mind that God led me to that Precept class. He wants me to know Him through His Word. So I choose to look through that lens and diligently study my Bible.

Paul’s other lens was the lens of prayer. In Philippians 4:6 Paul wrote, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, he wrote “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” For Paul, prayer and God’s Word were inextricably intertwined.

I have always known the importance of prayer, but I hadn’t lived its importance. Then my hand happened.

A simple sprain followed by a simple surgery to remove tiny bits of scar tissue that had formed between my carpal bones on my right, and dominant, hand. Then the nightmare began. An aggressive tumor took my hand captive. In two and a half years I endured nine operations, countless hours of occupational therapy, four months of wearing a cumbersome machine, and two courses of radiation treatment. My husband, family, friends, church and I prayed incessantly about this hand. The emotional ups and downs throughout this time were unrelenting. Each corner promised a new and hopeful solution. However, nothing stopped the tumors. I quickly lost significant use of my hand. Yet I continued to pray. My prayer, specifically, was for a steadfast spirit despite the uncertainty of my journey.

I trusted that God would answer my prayers in His way and in His time. He eventually sent me to 2 Corinthians 12:7-9. Paul wrote, “And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’”

It was as if God said that directly to me: "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”

God remained faithful to His promise. It no longer matters whether God’s answer is yes, no, or not yet. My hand remains my “thorn,” yet I understand and accept the gift of God’s grace and that is more than sufficient for me.

Faith is the frame that holds these lenses together. Faith is what keeps me studying and praying. When I look through the lens of God’s Word, I gain intellectual knowledge of Him. When I look through the lens of prayer, I deepen my emotional connection to Him. When I look through both lenses simultaneously, I have a complete relationship with Him, a relationship in which I know Him, I see Him, I feel Him, I talk to Him, and in which He responds to me.

Paul’s Songlasses were a by-product of his heart for God, a heart molded by the collection of his experiences. My Songlasses are a by-product of my heart for God, a heart molded from the collection of my experiences. My lens of God’s Word came from Kyle’s death. My lens of prayer came from my hand. My frames of faith came from the hope only He could build from the rubble of my broken heart and my broken body. Difficult experiences, yes, but they brought me to my knees before my Lord where I can honestly thank Him for allowing Kyle and my hand to happen. Though it isn't always easy, the emotional scar on my heart and the physical scar on my hand keep me looking up through my Songlasses and enable me to bear witness to others about God’s saving grace. 

In Jeremiah 29:12-13, God said, “’Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”

Do you have the frames of faith? Do your frames need to be fitted with the lenses of God’s Word and prayer? Do you allow God to use experiences in your life to draw you near to Him?

Go. Pray to Him. Seek Him. Search for Him with all of your heart, and you will find Him.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by, Inc. and by Vicki Scott Burns. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Simple Sketch

A Simple Sketch
Vicki Scott Burns 

You could dress me to the nines 
and then take my photograph. 
Airbrush out the flaws and lines, 
add the features that I lack. 
I could primp, I could preen 
but all that would be seen 
is just a simple sketch of everything that He 
wants me to be. 

And if you could commission 
a Van Gogh or a Monet, 
a masterful rendition 
of my face he might portray. 
I could pose, I could sit 
but still in the end it 
would be a simple sketch of everything that He 
wants me to be. 

“A picture paints a thousand words,” or so the saying goes. 
So I paint my soul on canvases of poetry and prose… 

When this portrait session ends 
He’ll walk through my gallery: 
portraits hung for my defense 
of my faith’s reality. 
So I hope and I pray 
that these words will display 
more than a simple sketch of everything that He 
wants me to be. 

So I hope and I pray 
that my life will display 
the One that gave His life for me 
so that someday I might be 
more than just this simple sketch. 

Copyright © 2004-2014 by, Inc. and by Vicki Scott Burns. All rights reserved.