Alyssa Cable is a 19-year-old from Johnstown, Pa. currently in her junior year Eastern Mennonite University majoring in Elementary Education. Mennonite Church USA is a big part of Alyssa’s heart and she is so excited to be blogging about Convention. She loves writing, playing guitar and piano, and laughing. She is a member of a team of bloggers writing and reflecting each week on the convention theme.
With the middle of the semester hitting us college students pretty hard, I can’t help but celebrate the fact that spring break is less than 48 hours away! It’s so close, I can taste it. Well, kind of, once I rise above papers, exams, portfolios, and meetings. “There are only two days left,” I keep telling myself. Two days. I got this. You got this. We got this.
Of course I realize that not everyone who reads this is a college student. The idea of spring break may be new to some people or for others it may simply be memories of fun relaxation times stored away in the memory bank. Whatever spring break means to you, I want you to take the idea of break and embrace it.
I am a native of Johnstown, Pennsylvania but I attend college about four hours away in Harrisonburg, VA. I have a car and often make the trip home for a weekend or two. This past month however has given me many occasions to head home. I have spent a total of 24 hours in a car over the past three weeks – not including the simple driving I do throughout my time here in Harrisonburg! I love driving, I love the solitude, and I love the idea that I can sing whatever I want, any way I want and no one can hear me. Yes, some “Rolling in the Deep” and “We are Never Ever Ever Getting Back Together” concerts have taken place in my small Subaru.
However, I can only be entertained by Adele and Taylor Swift for so long, and sometimes the radio can become boring and monotonous so I eventually shut it off. I usually drive in silence for a time and awkwardly look at other people driving around me. Then I start talking. I’m sure other drivers think I’m crazy because I’m talking out loud, in a car, filled with no one but myself. And I’m not singing – that’s obvious. But I’m talking, with my hands, and gestures, and facial expressions. Sometimes there are tears and sometimes I’m laughing so hard my face turns red.
At this point most of you are probably thinking, “…That girl shouldn’t be driving and talking at the same time.”
The funny thing is, I’m praying. I have found that my four-hour drives (eight hours total) are the best times to talk to God.
I’m in an open space. My head isn’t bowed. My eyes aren’t closed. My mind doesn’t go flitting off in a gazillion directions… because I am having a conversation. With my best friend, Jesus.
Growing up in a Mennonite family, prayers were always the bow your head/close your eyes/fold your hands/eloquent words type. Then there was the other extreme – kid prayers. You know the kind – Johnny Appleseed, God is Great sung in a jazzy way or to the tune of the Jeopardy show, and a prayer based on the Superman theme song. Prayer became more of an obligation – before meal times and bedtime. It wasn’t until I was a counselor at Laurelville Mennonite Church Center that I understood the concept of God being more than this powerful presence who watches over me, and of prayer being more than just asking for forgiveness and giving thanks.
I understood Jesus as my friend, simply because of one song entitled, “Jesus is a Friend.” I was often the Music and Worship leader at summer camp and I liked to introduce the songs in a way that related to the kids. In introducing this song, I would often mention that when we have Jesus in our hearts and our friends have Jesus in their hearts, and Jesus is a friend because He is in all of us.
The lyrics to the song go like this…
“Jesus is a friend, He’s a friend next to ya,
Jesus is a friend so sing along
Jesus is a friend, He’s a friend next to ya,
Jesus is a friend so sing!
The song then continues with verses such as shake a friend’s hand, or pat a friend’s back, and, my personal favorite, bump another rump. The kids then go around shaking hands, patting backs, and bumping rumps with all of their friends, recognizing the Jesus in everyone. After that, I knew that I should talk to God like He is my best friend, and so I did. Jesus became more real to me than ever before and my relationship with Him has grown immensely.
I get upset, I yell, I cry, I laugh, I get excited – I talk to Him as if I’m calling my best friend on the phone. And that’s what prayer should be – a conversation.
Now, I’m a talker (just check out the length of this post!), but you have to remember that a conversation goes two ways – there is also a listening part. Remember to listen, just as you give and take in a regular day-to-day conversation with someone visibly in front of you. Listen to God as He begins to show you and tell you what He wants you to know.
At Convention, we will be challenged daily to pray, not only in worship sessions but through a prayer walk, a morning prayer vigil, anointing, and so much more. As we prepare for an awesome week of God in Phoenix, think about how you pray. Are your conversations one-sided? Do you give God a chance to respond to you? Are you open, raw, and revealing, like you would be with your best friend? Do you tell Him everything? I challenge each and every one of you to change the way you think about prayer. Think of it as a conversation!
For spring break, I have the lovely opportunity of spending six days in the Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. That’s a nine-hour trip of talking time. I plan on making this Spring Break my Prayer Break – six days of time set aside to be just with God.
I know not everyone gets the luxury of a college spring break. But we all get the occasional coffee breaks, work breaks, and lunch breaks if not every day – at least every week. Pray while you sip your coffee, pray while you read the newspaper, pray while you eat with a coworker. Take those breaks and make them Prayer Breaks. The conversations you have with God don’t need to take away from your break time, but rather add to it.
I drive pray. Maybe on my way to Convention I’ll fly pray. Immerse yourself in prayer. I’ll see you there!