Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Hot Water Bottle

There's a saying I like that applies to every prayer. "When you pray for potatoes, have a hoe in your hand."

In other words, do not ask God to bring it on unless you are ready for His answer, whatever it is.

Monday night, God definitely brought it on. I, who has rarely used more than two sick days a year for myself, was up most the night with my eyes feeling as if they are rolling in their sockets. I, who rarely has any sinus botherings, could not make the world quit spinning whether my eyes were opened or closed. And any who has ridden that spin ride more than 20 minutes knows what it will do to your stomach.

Yeah, I was that sick.

But I have to admit that amid all the nausea and wishing I could sleep, I talked with God. A lot. And often it was not about me. So when God brought it on, I could feel myself drawing nearer to Him, which was the purpose of asking Him to bring it on in the first place. It's like a mini "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie" deal - except mine was more like "If You Ask God To Get Your Attention" type thing.

I choose to count it a joy that He answers prayers the way that He sees fit. Today I am better with a new appreciation for health, a refreshed esteem for an understanding boss, a sense of gratitude for my daughter who tried her best to tend to me before and after school, a son who knew not to bounce the bed and a husband who really there in sickness and in health. Oh I praise God for making saltines since they were the only thing to stay down...

When I read the story below, I thought it fit perfectly with the saying above.

This story was written by a doctor who worked in South Africa.

One night I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all we could do, she died leaving us with a tiny premature baby and a crying two-year-old daughter. We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive, as we had no incubator (we had no electricity to run an incubator).

We also had no special feeding facilities. Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts. One student midwife went for the box we had for such babies and the cotton wool that the baby would be wrapped in.

Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly in distress to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst (rubber perishes easily in tropical climates). "And it is our last hot water bottle!" she exclaimed. As in the West, it is no good crying over spilled milk so in Central Africa it might be considered no good crying over burst water bottles. They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways.

"All right," I said, "put the baby as near the fire as you safely can, and sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts. Your job is to keep the baby warm."

The following noon, as did most days, I went to have prayers with many of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle, and that the baby could so easily die if it got chills. I also told them of the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died.

During prayer time, one ten-year old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt conciseness of our African children. "Please, God" she prayed, "Send us a water bottle. It'll be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby will be dead, so please send it this afternoon."

While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added, "And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she'll know You really love her?"

As often with children's prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say, "Amen"? I just did not believe that God could do this. Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything, the Bible says so.


But there are limits, aren't there? The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending me a parcel from homeland. I had been in Africa for almost four years at that time, and I had never, ever received a parcel from home. Anyway, if anyone did send me a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I lived on the equator!

Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nurses' training school, a message was sent that there was a car at my front door.

By the time I reached home, the car had gone, but there, on the veranda, was a large twenty-two pound parcel. I felt tears pricking my eyes. I could not open the parcel alone, so I sent for the orphanage children.

Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it unduly. Excitement was mounting.

Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box. From the top, I lifted out brightly colored, knitted jerseys. Eyes sparkled as I gave them out. Then there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children looked a little bored. Then came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas - that would make a batch of buns for the weekend. Then, as I put my hand in again, I felt the.....could it really be? I grasped it and pulled it out - yes, a brand-new, rubber hot water bottle. I cried. I had not asked God to send it; I had not truly believed that He could. Ruth was in the front row of the children. She rushed forward, crying out, "If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly too!"

Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small, beautifully dressed dolly. Her eyes shone! She had never doubted!

Looking up at me, she asked: "Can I go over with you and give this dolly to that little girl, so she'll know that Jesus really loves her?"

That parcel had been on the way for five whole months. Packed up by my former Sunday school class, whose leader had heard and obeyed God's prompting to send a hot water bottle, even to the equator. And one of the girls had put in a dolly for an African child - five months before, in answer to the believing prayer of a ten-year-old to bring it "that afternoon."


"Before they call, I will answer." (Isaiah 65:24)

How does this apply to my situation? I'm reassured that God will prepare things in advance of my asking them. He created that weather system days (weeks?) before I asked Him to bring on whatever was necessary to take me down, make me stop and bring me to my knees. He's that good of a friend and that magnificent a God.

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