Tuesday, May 1, 2012

iSmell a Stain

iPray eVotionals

The gun sounds as the race begins. iPray eVotionals exhorts the runners on the path of a prayerful lifestyle.  It's the glass of water held out around each month's turn.  It's for the runner who can use a quick and easy quench in order to finish strong.  

Approximate Reading Time: 6 - 9 minutes

iSmell a Stain...
In this months iPray I’m going to be talking about my cat.  What does she have to do with prayer you ask?  All it took was one night and well... You’ll see!
One morning a couple of weeks ago my daughter opened the car door to get in.  Out ran our cat and a wall of strong cat urine stench not far behind.  The cat had somehow gotten stuck inside our car all night.  Now I know the stain of a scent that cat urine can produce.  It simply does not go away.  
The cat’s urine had marinated the car’s air supply all night.  Rolling down our windows was the only way to sort of spare ourselves from the toxic smell.  But it was still there.  The fresh air only gave us momentary relief.  We couldn’t see where the smell was coming from but it was obvious it was there.  I was not going to sniff it out because I had to get the kids to school, do errands, get the kids to karate, home for homework and then off to Awanas. Plus, I had a hot date with my husband planned for that night!  We would just have to deal with it.  As my stomach turned I realized that dealing with it was not going to cut it.
For the rest of the day my daughter and I got out every Lysol, perfume and air freshener we could find.  We sprayed it every time we were in the car, at every light and at every turn.  That evening we picked up one of her friends to bring to the Awanas program.  All the spraying failed us.  After settling in all her friend could say was “Eww!”
The next day I brought the car to our local car wash.  I paid the hefty price to have every  part of the car shampooed. When I picked up the car the fresh sent of carpet cleaner filled the air.  Taking in a deep breath I was relieved.  When I got home I took the mats out to dry.  As I did I caught a faint cat urine scent yet again.  Ugh!  I knew I’d have to sniff a little closer to find the actual spot, but I really did not want to do it.  Actually, the car smelled fine!  The wash covered it up well enough.  Nobody was saying, “Eww.”  Two days passed and little by little that urine stain showed it’s self again.  We were right back to driving along with cat urine sinking into our pores.
I took a trip to the local pet store and found cleaners made just for cat urine.  It claimed to remove (not cover up or wash over) cat urine and stains.  That night my husband smelled every square inch of the car, his nose to the floor, until he found the one spot that was polluting our air.  My husband despises cat urine so smelling that spot was disgusting, to say the least.  He also found some innocent toys and my son's expensive watch that fell victim to the stink.  He followed the directions on the bottle: Spray the stain, the stain will lift away.  Use a rag to blot it, the entire stink will be on the rag which needs to be thrown away.  The next morning we again climbed into a car with fresh smelling air.

The special cleaner has worked!  It's been over a week and we have not had the pleasure of feeling nauseated every time we breath in.  Although we had to throw away some toys and a watch that were effected, the stain is gone!  If the cat happens to get stuck again we know the only cleaner that truly removes the stain.  All the sniff-effort was worth it because nothing is better than a sweet smelling ride.  
After that ordeal I can tell you that we do not want to make the same mistake again!  The smell is gone, the stain is removed but the cat still hangs out in the garage.  We have been more careful about not leaving the car door open while we unload the car.  Before closing the doors we are checking first to see if she slipped in there.  Together we are also keeping a watchful eye on where our cat is as we get in and out of the car.  The last thing we want is a trapped cat again, leaving a mark in our car.  We now know what to look for so that it never happens again!
Now that you know all about my cat and how we dealt with her stain it’s all clear on how it relates to prayer, right?
Well you know, a cat urine's persistence reminds me of the stinky sinful stains in my own life that never seem to go away.  You see, I can’t really write about prayer if I’m not willing to write about the scary word “confession.”  When the disciples asked Jesus how they should pray Jesus responded with what we call “The Lord’s Prayer” found in Matthew 6:9-13 and in Luke 11:1-4.
“Our Father, which are in heaven,
Hollowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.
Do you see the “forgive us our trespasses” part?  That means confession should be a part of our prayer life.  Let’s just say that a sin has recently been trapped in and left its mark on your heart, you open your car door and the stink hits you in the face!  What do you do?  What I do is not too far off from what I did with the cat’s stain.
There are times when I stink sin, and I just roll down the windows. Continuing in my ways I take no time to notice where on earth the stink is coming from.  All the airing out in the world does not make the stain go away.  It only takes minutes after the windows are up for the sin smell to dominate every single part of my life.
Pretending it’s not really as bad as it smells is the cover up.  I like to Lysol up that gossip with the word “concerned,” perfume my judgment with “just calling it as it is,”  spray air freshener onto my bitterness with some silly yet sarcastic jabs.  I can say I’m a changed person with Christ in my life, but am I?  If I’m holding onto the sin while trying to make it smell nice I might as well through my witness out the window.  The thing is I’m not fooling anyone.  The smell can’t be covered!   No one will want to hop into my life with all that cover-up going on.  After settling in the real stench comes out and all that can be said is, “Eww!”
After one too many “eww’s” I decide that it’s time to clean up my act without the shame of admitting my guilt.  I wash myself by holding my gossip tongue and just letting the thoughts travel around in my brain.  I scrub the surface by biting my judgmental upper lip and just keep it to myself.  I appear to be stench free and all clean when my festering bitterness stays hidden, nobody will know it’s there.  I deny it’s there by trying to clean-up my own act.  But Ugh!  It does not take long before what is in my heart comes out of my mouth. I can only clean the surface.  Sins will always catch up with us (Romans 3:23).  It did for Achan when he tried to bury items he had taken contrary to God’s direct command (Joshua 7).  And also for David when he tried to hide adultery and murder (2nd Samuel 11).  And what about Ananias and Sapphira when they tried to deceive the Holy Spirit. (Acts 5)?  1st John 1:8 puts it this way, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”  Little by little deep-rooted sins will smell again. 
The pet store may have the only cleaner for cat urine, but Jesus is the only source to cleanse our sin.  Sniffing it out means calling it out!  No one likes to put their nose to the ground for such a nauseating task, but the sniff quest must happen! Like the toys and watch, others are being effected by it too!  Dennis Peacocke puts it this way: "You've got to be wrong in order to get right."  Christ can remove (not cover up or wash over) my sin stains once and for all only after I have brought it out into the open.  My sniffing prayer is found in Psalm 139:23 and 24, "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."  Overwhelming stinky evidence leads me to the stain and leaves me no other choice except to humbly confess:  I just gossiped!  I'm being judgmental! It's hard to admit fault, but I'm holding onto bitterness and wanting to take revenge!  I'm sorry Lord, take it away!

Jesus' blood does not run out, it removes our sins completely!  Sin is absorbed at the cross and thrown away forever!  After I confess I can experience His sweet forgiveness.  Forgiveness is what sets us free!  I learn from each stain removing experience so I can more easily, humbly and quickly confess.  Confessing to God is worth it because nothing is better than inhaling the purifying scent of God's forgiveness.  Only then can I take a deep breath of fresh smelling air.
Avoiding a repeat means turning from the sin.  Only God can sanctify us (make us Holy) and restore our journey.  For the humble and the willing, He changes our hearts day by day.  My sinful nature still hangs out in the garage, but with God’s strength I can avoid making the same mistakes.  I know what to look for!  Don’t leave an open door for gossip to sneak in.  Stop closing the door on others with a judgmental heart.  Have a group of faithful friends to help keep a watchful eye, so that bitterness is spotted early on.  The last thing I want is those sinful ways trapped, leaving a mark in my heart.  God’s spirit can then replace gossip with words of encouragement.  Instead of judgment I can be a vessel of God’s grace.  Letting go of bitterness opens a place in my heart to forgive, just as He first forgave us. 
When I get in the car it is clean and fresh.  It’s a ride that I can easily share with others without embarrassment.  My witness to God’s changing power does not have to be thrown out the window!  
Because in my prayers, iConfessed!
In your prayers, iPray you will too!
ALL FOR HIM, Michelle Fozounmayeh
iPray eVotional
PS.  My 18 year old cat is named Sadie.
Here is a poem dedicated to her entitled "Saint Sadie"
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