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Father, Friend, and Guide*

Non-disclaimer explanation: I'm a religious person. I believe in the power of prayer. I realize, though, that not only is that not necessarily true of all my readers, but I actually have a few readers (or, well, people who said they'd check my blog, and I have no reason to believe they won't) who are uncomfortable with any discussion of prayer and its impact. But I have other readers who share my faith tradition and who understand that there's no way I can share my full experience in something as transformative as the Peace Corps without reference to God. So, dear readers, here's what I'll do. Any blog entry that deals largely or entirely with my prayer will have an asterisk in the title. See, it's up there. Plus, I'll tag them with "prayer" as a label. So, if you don't want to read it, you don't have to. It won't be on the test. And if you do want to read it, enjoy! :)

Preparing to join the Peace Corps has been emotionally schizophrenic. I'm excited and happy on one hand, nervous and apprehensive on another hand, and sad to leave my friends and family on a third hand. (Like Teviye in Fiddler on the Roof, I have too many hands.) Some of the apprehension has been centered around the fear that some unexpected, last-minute calamity will arise that will yank this opportunity away, like Lucy with Charlie Brown's football. It could be a medical test, or a parking ticket, or a financial lien, or who knows what, but it could rear its ugly head just as I'm on the cusp of this amazing moment.

Wednesday's readings from the Bible included the passage from Revelations about the woman waiting to give birth, with a dragon breathing down on her, waiting to attack as soon as the baby is born. I'm not pregnant, but I am on the verge of the culmination of (well over nine months of) loving preparation for an important idea. And it sometimes feels like there's a dragon waiting to eat me, or otherwise destroy this idea I've invested so much of myself in. So as I listened to the readings from Revelation, and heard about the woman rushing into the desert - like Hagar, whose needs (and those of her child) were met, even in the wilderness - I remembered the promise from Isaiah, "Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth?", God's reassurance that nothing can prevent or interfere with the harmonious conclusion of all my labor. Pun intended. (It also occurred to me that more than one woman has probably come to her 38th or 39th week and read that verse with a "So what's taking so long already???" kind of thought.) But God has promised a successful conclusion, in His time, and I can trust in that promise. No dragons can snatch away the product of so much love.

As I thought that through, the swirling anxiety began to ebb away, and I felt myself breathing more deeply. When the time came for the second hymn, which I think was 294, or maybe 297, I saw Hymn 291, which has the lines, "Quiet, Lord, my froward heart ... As a little child relies ... Let me thus with Thee abide, as my Father, Friend, and Guide." The whole hymn is pretty great (it's written by John Newton, author of Amazing Grace; the version in my hymnal is slightly adapted from the original text, available here), and has calmed me down before, in the face of many challenges--most often final exam weeks. This time, the final line landed especially hard. It conjured up memories of going for walks with my dad when I was an itty-bitty kid. We'd range all over the neighborhood, and probably beyond, but I didn't then - and don't now - actually know where we were. I was too young to use the techniques I've learned since, of marking landmarks, noting street names, etc, to avoid getting lost. At the time, I just knew that my daddy knew where we were going, and I really didn't think about it beyond that. I knew I had nothing to fear, because my father, friend, and guide was holding my hand -- or, often, carrying me on his shoulders -- and would keep me safe for the *whole* trip. Not just the first part, but the whole trip. It never occurred to me to worry that he'd take me somewhere, then abandon me, or hide behind a tree and giggle while I flailed around, lost. And if Dad could be counted on for that, how much more can I trust my Father in Heaven to keep me safe for this whole venture? The God who is Love has inspired, illumined, designated, and led the way thus far; He's not going to let go of my hand at this point.

And the rest of the fears were gone.

In the days since then (because yes, even though I'm time-stamping this entry as of the 19th, when I had all these ideas, I'm actually typing it up on the 24th), there have been various other obstacles to overcome: picking up the U-Haul, driving through an ice storm, saying goodbye to dearly loved friends, and others. But every time fears have begun to nibble around the edges of my thought, I've remembered this. My Peace Corps adventure will yet be brought forth. And no matter how far I venture from my parents' house, I'll have my Father at my side, leading me, or even, when the going is rough, carrying me all the way through.

If you read this far, thanks. For letting me share this with you. :)

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Think local. Act global. Learn more about the Peace Corps