So, this friend and I may have not met face-to-face, but we are soul-sister partners in ministry. Sherry Harney laboured thoughtfully and prayerfully with me to create the small-group discussion guide for my book, One Thousand Gifts, and our collaboration led to an engaging study guide that has helped people to live out the secrets of a joyful heart. The story we’re sharing today with you comes from Sherry’s new book, Praying with Eyes Wide Open and is sure to touch your heart and inspire you to connect with God with fresh new passion. It’s a grace to welcome Sherry to the farm’s front porch today…
The day started like any other, but by the time I went to bed that night I would look back and realize I had received one of the greatest gifts of my life.
It was about 6:00 a.m. on September 7, and it was my thirty-fourth birthday.
I was having some quiet time with God on the sofa in the living room before my three boys would wake up and bring joy, energy, and volume to our home.
I heard a stirring and looked up from my Bible to see my middle son quietly trying to sneak past me. Josh, our then 5-year-old, was headed to our bedroom. I found it curious that he was up this early and wondered if he had remembered it was my birthday.
I listened, trying to figure out what he might be up to. I realized he had snuck into my bedroom closet.
I knew there was a box filled with cards for all occasions tucked in the corner, but did not know if Josh was aware of this. I was surprised when my son appeared several minutes later with a card in one hand and a little unwrapped blue box in the other. It wasn’t just any box–it was his favorite school box.
He walked over to the sofa where I was reading and quietly handed me the card and box as he said, “Happy Birthday, Mom.”
I was amazed and deeply touched by this kind act of a little boy so early in life and so early in the morning. Even if there had been nothing in the box, the very thoughtfulness of his actions had already brought joy to my heart.
I looked at his little face and said, “Oh Josh, thank you so much.”
As I opened the card, which I still have, I had to smile.
Instead of addressing it to MOM, he had written the card to WOW.
Josh was still working on getting his W’s and M’s figured out, and it was quite early in the morning.
He signed the card, “I Love You.” There were all sorts of cards in that box in my closet. I was pleased that he had actually found a birthday card and not pulled out a sympathy card.
As I thanked Josh for the card, he just smiled. I held the little gift box on my lap. It was covered with pictures of racing cars and classic cars. Josh sat quietly as I opened it and looked at the contents. To my surprise there were four items in this special school box. As I looked at them, I realized that each one reflected Josh’s love for me.
I took each gift out of the box and held it in my hand; I was overwhelmed by a deep sense that this was a special moment of love between a son and his mother.
The first item was his favorite matchbox car. I turned to Josh, thanking him for such a sacrificial gift. I told him that I knew this was his favorite car, and he nodded.
The second gift was a quarter. This was all the money he had accessible to him at the time. “Josh, how special that you would give me all the money you have.”
The third gift was a handheld toy that he always took with him whenever we traveled in our car. It was a little pinball game. This was before video games, cell phones, or electronic gadgets were used to entertain kids while traveling. He loved this little travel toy.
I sat there and thought to myself, “Wow, could this gift get any better! His favorite school box, all the money he had to give, his favorite matchbox car and his special travel toy.”
You can imagine the heart of a mother receiving such a loving and sacrificial gift.
As I looked back in the box to retrieve my final item, the significance of this gift was not as obvious. I picked up the item and held it in the air so both Josh and I could see it.
It was a set of children’s plastic play handcuffs.
I knew there had to be significance to this gift but was unable to come up with it as I had with the previous three. I had worked as a second-grade teacher for a number of years so I used my educational skills to unravel the mystery.
Kindly, I spoke to him, “Josh, what were you thinking when you put this in my special gift box?”
He spoke quietly, “Well, I was thinking since today is your birthday, maybe you could put one handcuff on one of your wrists, and I could put the other one on my wrist, and we could spend the whole day together.”
Tears welled up in my eyes, “Oh Josh, thank you so much, I would love to spend the day with you.” And we did!
That experience has become a picture of love that I continue to remember and share with others.
In that moment, the Holy Spirit impressed this thought on me: “You know the joy you feel right now toward your son? That’s how I feel when you want to be with me, to talk with me, to encounter me.”
I knew God was teaching me through Josh’s gift box. I was overjoyed that my son would give with such sacrifice. I was also touched that what he wanted most was just to connect with me.
With each passing year I learn more about prayer. This experience with my son Josh seared truth deep in my soul.
Prayer is not first and foremost about making lists, getting our words exactly right, reciting memorized supplications, or a particular posture.
Prayer is about a deep and vital relationship with the God who made and loves us.
It is about coming to our heavenly Father and saying, I want to be with you, all day long!
When this is our heart condition, our words become prayer and so does our silence…for we are connected (handcuffed if you will) to the God who loves to be with His children.
When we realize God’s heart for us, we naturally hunger to communicate with Him and be in His presence all the time.
God delights in your prayers, worship, and company.
Draw near Him over and over throughout your day.
Pray with your eyes open or closed.
You can be seated, kneeling, walking, playing, or doing chores. Offer what you have as a loving and trusting child.
Just like I rejoiced in the seemingly small offerings my son Josh gave me on my birthday so many years ago, God will delight in everything you offer to Him.
Most of all, God wants to be with you…all day long.
Sherry Harney is the mother of three grown sons, a wife, a writer, and a speaker who has a relentless passion for prayer and helping God’s people connect more intimately with the God who loves them. Sherry serves as the leadership director at Shoreline Community Church in Monterey, California. Along with her husband, Kevin, they are cofounders of Organic Outreach International and continue to write small group study guides with several authors.
Sherry’s new book, Praying with Eyes Wide Open, A Life-Changing Way to Talk with God introduces new and ancient ways to pray, engage with God, and find yourself handcuffed to your Creator in the flow of each day.
In this book you will be invited to pray with your eyes wide open (literally and figuratively), with your ears open to the voice of God, your heart open to honest communication with your Maker, and your life open to be used by Jesus to impact the world around you.
[ Our humble thanks to Baker for their partnership in today’s devotion ]