Chloe’s First Day in School
Our granddaughter, Chloe, who will be six in November, had her first day in Kindergarten this week, in Canada. She’s been so excited about going to school.  But her first day did not meet her expectations. When her mommy picked her up after her first day, Chloe disappointedly said, “I didn’t even learn how to read.”
Reading is a multi-year learning experience. Expecting to quickly learn to read will lead to dissatisfaction.
It’s not only reading . . . 
We often have the same impatience with spiritual transformation.  Hearing a couple stories of bad habits dying instantly, or a nasty person becoming a loving, caring person overnight, sets us up for unrealistic expectations and accompanying disappointment. I’ve certainly experienced that at times in my life.
The word conversion sounds like spiritual transformation is microwaved. What if conversion means a new direction? What if it means we’ve transferred to a new school, and we have a new teacher? What if conversion is not about a curriculum, where it’s about what we know? What if it’s about knowing a person? Getting to know someone takes time. What if that Someone has novel, intriguing ideas and ways to live? What if those ways are new and unfamiliar, like putting God first in our lives and thinking of others before ourselves? What if following that Person, means discovering things about ourselves we don’t like or want to accept? What if facing them and turning from them leads to freedom, but we discern that we need help to unbuckle ourselves and be free?
That’s how spiritual transformation happens. That’s why Scripture points the way to the Kindergarten of personal change – “. . . let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (Romans 12:2, NLTse). That’s higher education at its best. But it’s a life-long process. Spiritual growth is like pealing an onion. We peal back one layer, and there’s another. That’s sometimes how growth feels as God works in us, bringing transformation.  It’s different though, than we might think. God’s work in us is layered with grace.  With every layer God peals back, he pours his grace on us.
Several years ago we attended a conference where many participants wore a button with PBPWMGINFWMY on it.  It has a hopeful message.  Please Be Patient With Me, God Is Not Finished With Me Yet.  That’s spiritual transformation. It doesn’t happen abruptly. Like learning to read. Like reading, it leads to a life-time of adventures. 

Are We Experiencing a National Interest in Prayer?

What’s up with prayer being such a hot topic at the box office this weekend?  War Room, the latest movie from Alex Kendrick, focuses on prayer as an ultimate weapon, no matter what the battle. “The Christian drama topped the four-day Labor Day weekend with $12.6 million in just over 1,500 theaters, according to box-office tracking firm Rentrak. Made on a budget of just $3.5 million, the PG-rated film has earned $27.9 million in just two weekends of release.” (Patrick Ryan in USA, September 7, 2015)

The burning question is why?  Amidst the shouting of “no prayer in school or public places” people in droves are now buying tickets to a movie about prayer? Sure, many of those are Christians who already believe in prayer. They want to support and celebrate prayer coming to the big screen.  But that doesn’t explain it all.  

Almost daily, the news tells us of yet another murder.  Police are being gunned down. They’re not in the line of duty. They die only because they are police. Our nation is carrying a threatening debt.  Shifting values have created a confusing instability. What is a family? Why are marriages in such a struggle? How can ISIS recruit young people so easily? There’s no place like home has a hollow ring to it. Are we scared? Overwhelmed?

Or, could we be waking up? We have a natural tendency to think we can do anything. We can solve any problem. We are equal to any challenge. Self-sufficiency, rooted in sin’s misguided security, fertilizes thinking like that. But some of the brightest minds and those most blindly convinced we can handle it, are likely beginning to wonder if that’s clearly not true. 

Could these lines at the theater indicate many are beginning to see their need of God? Is there an awakening that we need someone bigger than ourselves? War Room does not present prayer as a empty spiritual exercise. It demonstrates prayer as talking with the mighty God who is able to do things we never imagined possible. Are more and more people grasping their need to join that conversation? If so, I am hopeful.