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By Cheryl Harrison

"O Lord, please give me strong faith."

I knelt near the blueprint location of our new church altar and waited. I was desperate for God to hear my prayer. I knew it couldn't bounce off the ceiling, because there was no ceiling.

The evidence of new construction surrounded me. A bare concrete foundation and unfinished framework offered little protection from the late autumn wind, causing me to zip my jacket.

I stood and caught a glimpse of the velvety night sky. Tonight, the stars seemed to shimmer instead of twinkle. I exhaled deeply and watched a smoky wisp of breath briefly linger in the air. Light from a passing car danced across the framework and formed a cross-shaped shadow on the concrete. This returned my focus to prayer. I returned to my knees and quietly waited to hear from God.

"Have you counted the cost?"

"Are you willing to surrender?"

These two questions scurried through my mind like mice looking for a hiding place. I captured them and considered their source and meaning.

I broke the silence with an audible prayer, "Lord, is that you? Are these your questions or are they mine?"

Minutes passed as I continued to wait before the Lord.

"To have strong faith you must be willing to surrender everything to me. Are you willing?"

Suddenly, a gust of cold wind swept through the structure, sending dry leaves skittering across the concrete. A few of the leaves came to rest near me. I shifted my position from kneeling to sitting. Picking up a leaf for further examination, I sensed the Lord beginning to teach me.

Not too long ago the trees surrounding me were adorned with healthy green leaves. The onset of autumn changed their color from green to a reddish-orange. Soon afterward the trees surrendered their leaves and stood before the Lord with bare branches. Stripped clean, they now await a new season and the budding of new life. They don't question their nakedness, nor do they attempt to clothe themselves. They simply wait, fully surrendered, before the Lord.

I crumbled the dry leaf in my hand and watched as the wind carried it away. Then I took a baby step toward strong faith by praying a simple prayer:

"Lord, you know my heart. You know everything about me and amazingly you still love me. If strong faith requires complete surrender, then I surrender. Strip me clean. I surrender my strengths, weaknesses, successes and failures to you. My past, present and future belong to you. O Lord, please give me strong faith."

Complete peace washed over me as I stood and walked away. The crunch of dry leaves under my feet brought joy to my heart. I knew my prayer had been heard. Now, fully surrendered, I would wait before the Lord. I would await a new season and the budding of new life.

"Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD." (Psalm 27:14 NIV)
Cheryl Harrison resides with her family in Texas and has been on staff at her home church as youth minister since August 2001. She is an active leader in women's ministry and has organized and taught women's conferences. Writing and teaching weekly youth and women's Bible studies brings great joy to her heart. Personal experiences drawn from childhood, marriage, parenting, teaching and ministry are the inspiration for her writing. If you would like to contact Cheryl, you can do so through the Letters page of this magazine.