Unseen Witness to a Marriage

On Saturday night I was again an unseen witness to a marriage. Surprisingly, I’ve witnessed a number of weddings to which I haven’t been invited. No, I’m not a professional wedding crasher. It’s just that the beach at Hilton Head SC where we have a vacation home is a favorite spot for beachside weddings. There’s nothing more delightful than taking an evening stroll on the beach and happening upon a wedding. The great majority of beach weddings I’ve witnessed are intimate well orchestrated affairs that don’t skimp on any of the traditional details. Bridesmaids with high heels sinking in the sand walking down an impromptu aisle between white folding chairs, a minister in a robe standing with his back against the Atlantic Ocean, a groom in a black tuxedo with a white rose boutaineer, a bride in a long white flowing gowns trailing along in the sand trying to keep the veil on her head in the wind, and the freshness and unpredictability all around of surf and sun and clouds and God’s holy cathedral of the great dome of sky over the shore.

On Saturday night I was at a different beach – Tybee Island, GA. Gordon and I were checking into an old fashioned beach front, family-style motel at the same time as a young couple. The young woman told the lady behind the desk that they were getting married that evening at the light house. From the looks if it, it wasn’t one of those weddings that’s been planned in detail for years because they didn’t even have motel reservations and were inquiring about an ocean view room. And apparently there were no family, friends or well wishers with them, just the two of them, telling their good news to a motel clerk and strangers like me who happened to overhear.

It wasn’t a good evening for beach weddings or light house weddings for that matter. Around 6:00 thundershowers moved through. The surf was high and wild, kicked up by Hurricane Bill far offshore. From the little balcony on our room I could see a narrow slice of the beach down an alleyway between two houses. I wiped the blown rain off the chair on the balcony and sat down to watch the waves. The rain seemed to have tapered off but I wasn’t sure if it had stopped since the metal shutters on the house in front of me were still pinging with drips. There wasn’t a soul in sight on the gray patch of beach.

Then, as if on cue, a young couple stepped in front of the small dune directly in my tunnel vision. The young woman was wearing a short white sleeveless dress, the kind you might wear to church. Nothing fancy. She was holding a small nosegay of white flowers, not more than three blossoms. The young man was wearing light colored khaki pants and a sports jacket, not a hint of a boutaineer. A photographer dressed in black was the only other soul in view.

I’m not sure if the couple was on their way to their lighthouse wedding or on their way back, but I knew that I was an unseen witness to their wedding day portrait. Suddenly I wondered if anyone had even said a prayer for them on their wedding day and it seemed that God might have invited me out on the dripping balcony to be His eyes upon them to bless them with an unseen prayer. And so, as befitting an unseen, silent witness, I said a silent prayer. I prayed that whatever was past with the young couple was now unimportant and that God would give them a good and wholesome future together. The photographer snapped a photo. And I smiled from afar and on high, just like God who is always the unseen witness at every wedding and during the lifetime of every marriage.

P.S.: Today is our 36th Wedding Anniversary

Contact Karen Barber at www.personalprayerpower.com

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Answer to Prayer # 1,595: Miracle Car from God

Recently I wasn’t sure how to pray with much hope about two families who were in dire financial straits after losing their livelihoods. I called my job-seeking friend to see if she needed a ride to Bible study Wednesday night because she didn’t have a car. That’s a gigantic problem out here in the suburbs, especially when you have kids and you have to limit your job applications to businesses on the few and far between streets on the bus route. My friend didn’t answer the phone.

Before Bible study I was chatting with someone when my friend walked in the door. Surprised to see her, I asked her how she’d gotten there. She replied, “I drove. I have a car now.” I was astounded. She said it was a true miracle and an answer to prayer. Before I could get the whole story, the study began.

After the study I was itching to know the details of how my friend got the car. She said with a grateful smile on her face, “I believe this car is a miracle and direct gift from God. I won’t go into the details of who helped me get it. It’s really from God.”

We walked out to the parking lot together and she proudly showed me the “new” car God had given her. It was a clean, well kept sedan (I’m clueless about makes and models) and she explained that it got where she needed to go, although the air conditioning didn’t work.

As I watched my friend drive off in her “miracle car” I pondered what she’d said about the car really being from God. Why had I been so keen on knowing who had helped her get the car? Why had I sat there during the study forming a plausible explanation about some elderly benefactor in our church who could no longer drive passing their car onto my friend?

Then I remembered the provision triangle. A while back when I was wondering about provision, I came up with a picture in my mind of a triangle with God on top and myself down on one corner and another person on the other corner. It illustrated that sometimes God gives things directly to you like the line going directly down from God to you down one side of the triangle. Other times, God gives things to someone else down the other side of the triangle and they then passes them to you along the line on the base of the triangle, or vice versa. I realized that unfortunately, when God’s provisions through someone else’s hands to me, I too often lose sight of the fact it’s really from God.

I got into my car, thankful that God had provided transportation for my friend and thankful that her “new” miracle car had reminded me that no matter whose hands are used to provide for us, it all always comes from God.

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Prayers for a Foreclosed House

This past weekend a neighbor who’s a real estate agent took us out to see houses in our area because Gordon is nearing retirement age and we might want to make a change. Before we landed in our present home, Gordon’s job had moved us every three years. We’ve owned 9 different homes so far! Maybe that’s why Gordon and I have a hobby of walking through model homes and homes under construction to get ideas even when we aren’t looking to buy.

I’ve told you about us to let you know that we’re veteran house-lookers. Yet I wasn’t prepared for the feelings I had seeing foreclosed homes. We pulled up in front of a nice sized brick home with a front porch. Somebody’s dream house. Yet the house was empty, locked up, weeds were growing in the flower beds. There wasn’t a friendly golden retriever wagging his tail in the fenced back yard and the no one but the breeze stirred an empty swing on the wooden gym set under the inviting shade of the oaks.

I imagined the events that perhaps led to the lost home. A downsizing in the company, a lost livelihood. A big mortgage, maybe even bigger than the current market price of the house. The months of trying to refinance, find a job, make the payments, put gas in the car. Then the reality that, try as they might, they could no longer afford their dream home. There was no alternative but to lock the door and leave forever.

Houses are so much more than bricks and mortar. Four years ago my sister Susan’s dream house burned down to the ground in the middle of the night and I rode the emotional roller coaster with her. I tried to explain to someone, “You don’t expect a house to die.” It’s not helpful when people say, “It’s only material things.” It goes beyond that. Losing a home steals our sense of security. Isaiah says that, “They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.” (Isaiah 65:21) God means for us to have homes.

I don’t have a “big answer” for any of this except for the certainty that when you suffer a loss, big or small, it’s healthy to mourn. Before you can start healing, you have to let yourself feel the loss. I pray that somewhere, somehow the foreclosed family will find someone with whom to share their grief instead of trying to pretend that their loss never happened. I pray that they will go through the hard, long work of grieving well. But most of all, I pray that God will be with them on this difficult part of their life journey as travelers in a foreign land.

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Creating a Special Christmas Prayer Focal Point

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHABWLC3dQA

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Creating a Special Christmas Prayer Focal Point

youtube=http://youtube.com/w/?v=_dIya1aJJKA]

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1 minute prayer

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Skeptics and Praying for Rain

Here in Atlanta we’re in the middle of a terrible drought.  We’re under an absolute outdoor watering ban and our main source of water – Lake Lanier – is quickly disappearing.  Some estimates say we have less than a month or two supply of water before we’re out.  I haven’t seen a drop of rain in a month.

On Tuesday our Governor, Sonny Perdue, called a prayer meeting to pray for rain at the State Capitol here in Atlanta.  About 250 people came.  The press, who are paid to be skeptics, were also there in force.  In Wednesday’s edition of the Atlanta Journal-Consitition they printed a picture of the governor with his eyes closed in prayer sitting in the brilliant sunshine.  The caption under the picture said, “Gov. Sonny Purdue was not discouraged by the clear skies Tuesday.  He said, God ‘can make it rain next week or next month,’ he told reporters.”  

Since the governor announced the prayer meeting, the paper has been giving equal time to those who think that governors shouldn’t pray, much less ask others to join him in prayer.  One editorial written by a minister said that we really shouldn’t pray for rain because it was determined by natural forces, not God.  Rather a better thing to pray for the wisdom to conserve water and handle the drought.

Protestors from the Atlanta Freethought Society were on hand a block away from the Capitol holding signs that said, “Check the weather report before praying for rain” and “Pray on the Church steps not the Capitol steps.”

On Wednesday night at around 11:00, Gordon and I were awakened by a sudden, loud sound.  It was rain hammering on the roof, something akin to a sudden, hard thunderstorm shower.  It didn’t last terribly long.  But it did rain with such unmistakabe power that it woke us out of a sound sleep.  When I went out on my morning prayer walk the grass had turned green and I could hear the little creek in the woods babbling again. 

This morning’s paper carried a little sidebar that said, “Blessed Rainfalls.”  It said, “Just like Perude – and the National Weather Service – predicted, it was a rainy night in Georgia on Wednesday.”

The sidebar went on  to quote a meteorologist, “It will tease us a little bit.  The ground is so dry it will absorb everythig that falls on it.”

It’s fascinating to me that we go to such great lengths to put qualifiers all over prayer and answers to prayer.  It’s like our society ties a rope around prayer, saying, “Don’t pray.”  And then when prayers are answered society says, “Prayer and the answer that came really didn’t make a difference.”    

In the Bible, people often prayed for rain.  It was celebrated as one of God’s most precious blessings.  James 5:17,18 says, “Elijah was a man just like us.  He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.  Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced crops.” 

Actually, there was some humility involved when the Governor prayed for rain.  Not only was he setting himself up for the skeptical press reports that followed, but he was also admitting our part in the problem.  He said, “Georgians have not done all we could do in conservation…Hopefully we will be better conservators of the blessings God’s given us as he give us more rain.”   

Of course there’s no way to convince someone who doesn’t believe in prayer that God hears us.  The only thing I can say to the skeptics is that it rained hard last night.     

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Our Son’s Arrival Home from Iraq

On Monday, October 29, 2007 at noon our son Captain Chris Barber returned home from Iraq.  Our whole family drove to North Carolina to be on base when his plane landed.  We hadn’t seen Chris for 15 months.  

There were cheers, banners, hugs, tears and plenty of smiles.  But most of all there was a deep down feeling of peace and thankfulness.  When we arrived at Chris’s home, before he even changed out of the uniform that he’d spent the night in on the plane, we stood out on his small back deck and Chris stood there facing the small creek area behind his house drinking in the sight of ordinary trees in the sunshine.  

How simple a sight and how simple a pleasure and yet it helped me see with new eyes the sorts of gifts we take for granted and hardly see.  It reminded me of the hundreds and thousands of you who have prayed for my son, either by name or in your daily prayers where you mention our soldiers in harms way.  

Your prayers have been answered.  And we’re all extremely grateful.   Thank you from the bottom or our hearts.       

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Fortune Cookie Theology about Faith

My husband Gordon and I were eating at a cafeteria style Chinese restaurant.  I opened my fortune cookie and here’s what it said, “Faith is personal, but never private.” It sounded much more profound than I could figure out there over the fried rice, so I stuck it in my purse and brought the tiny slip of paper home. 

I got to wondering if personal and private have two different meanings.  I looked them up in the dictionary and private has more of a meaning of secrecy or not for public view or use.  Personal means pertaining to a particular person, such as their individual qualities or possessions. 

I named my video series Personal Prayer Power in the sense of being the time an individual spends developing their own unique relationship with God.  Each individual nurtures or neglects this for themselves.  It’s done in private, when no one else is around so in a sense it’s both personal and private prayer.  

And yet I can’t say that it’s effects are completely personal or private.  In our alone time we often pray for other people, even whole nations.  Jesus says, “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed.  Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.  For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.”  (Luke 8:16,17)  

So personal faith and personal prayer really aren’t private after all, just like this fortune says.  They affect our relationships with the others in our world. 

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Meeting Catherine Marshall

In a previous post I mentioned that in 1980 I was chosen to attend the Guideposts Writer’s Workshop in Rye, NY where I was priviledged to meet Catherine Marshall. 

When I learned that Catherine (that’s what the editors fondly called her) would be at the workshop, I was absolutely star struck because I consider her the pioneer of Christian inspirational writing of our era.  I was 6 months pregnant at the time of the workshop.  (I was pregnant with our son, Chris, who inspired my website www.militaryprayers.org)  I was dying for Catherine’s autograph, so I found room in my suitcase for a cheap (and light!) paperback copy of Beyond Our Selves hoping to get her autograph.  

I didn’t know much about books back then and I’d never really understood that paperbacks are made out of pulp paper and aren’t made to last like hardbacks.  In fact, the book was already several years old when I carried it to New York.  Nevertheless, Catherine gamely signed it “To Karen Barber.  Cordially, Catherine Marshall.”  I still treasure the book, even though the pages are turning brown with age.

As the 15 writers and assorted editors sat in a circle of chairs around a large room, Catherine told us about her passion for writing.  She described for us how writers like herself are fairly solitary people who prefer being alone with their thoughts.  She also described her particular thirst for details, which her editor husband, Leonard LeSourd, agreed might go a little overboard at times.  She described how while writing her best selling novel Christy she persuaded the railroad to allow her to ride a segment of rails that her grandmother would have ridden to arrive in the small town in West Viriginia where she would teach in the one room school house at Cutter’s Gap. 

So zealous was Catherine for detailed research that she admitted that on her current project – her novel Julie later published in 1984 -that she traveled to England to learn more about the family background of a ficticious English character whose family name she had randomly chosen.   

Along with all of the insight into writing, Catherine surprised me by mentioning a heartfelt regret about her work – that Christy had never been made into a movie.  The movie rights had been purchased by a major stuido – and then tabled.   Only years later was Christy finally filmed in a special TV series. 

This disappointment suprised me because I’d always assumed that famous and incredibly gifted authors such as Catherine would have all of the necessary doors easily opened to them.  However, being one of us was her particular form of genius.  I realized that her writings struck such deep chords in all of us because she was indeed one of us.   She had a knack of saying, “I don’t think I’m a special case.”  By that she meant that the way God was real in her life was the way God could be real in anyone’s life.  Even in mine.    

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