Saturday, March 25, 2017

Worshiping everywhere

I'm working on travel scrapbooks, and in the French one I had to have a page of churches I've visited. Whenever I travel anywhere, I try to find a church to attend or at least visit.  Something warms my spirit when I connect with other believers. I love to read their devotional materials, bulletin for worship, or history of that particular church building and its history. It helps me remember that we serve a God who has blessed people for ages and in ways we can't begin to imagine.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Travel

I love to travel. Some of my best memories are of seeing a famous site for the first time. It doesn't matter how good the photography is; nothing compares to the physical reality of a cathedral or castle. Nothing captures the freshness of a breeze on a mountainside or that feel of hot sand under your feet. There's nothing like really being there.

I'm planning travel for the coming months, when airports aren't likely to be closed by blizzards. Planning isn't so much fun; I just have to pray that I've picked the right day to fly, the right week to be away from home. Truthfully, I cover all trips in prayer, from the planning stage to every individual choice while I'm traveling.  I pray a lot for safety beforehand, and because God has been so good to me, I pray a lot of thanks and adoration as the trip becomes an amazing reality. I've learned from travel that it pays to plan, but not to worry. The things you fear generally don't happen, and if something unexpected does occur, God gets you through.

Now, my cats don't travel.  But they forgive me for going. And they try to send a little fur with me to remember them by.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Prayer with a Click

A nearby city has a "hot meal site" that offers meals to community people, shelter residents, and the homeless several times a week. I recently discovered that they also have a prayer ministry, in person during or after the meal, and online.  Someone takes the prayer requests and posts them for readers of the refuge website.

Many of the prayers read just like ones I've seen from my church prayer chain or from a Christian book club. Others are more raw, and you can sense the emotions, the vulnerability in the requester's spirit. But the requests, like all requests for prayer, reflect hope, the need to reach out for God, and at least a little faith that someone else might care.

The oddest thing about the site, to me at least, is that there is a button under each prayer that reads, "I prayed." If you pray for the request, you click the button, and the count of the number of people who prayed moves up one on the screen. The purpose is to let the individuals who made the requests know that a number of unknown people somewhere out there prayed for them. When they come back to the refuge, a worker will tell them that 17 people prayed for their request.  Maybe 26 by the next visit.

In my church we have a prayer email that goes out to about 60 people. Prayers also go in the church bulletin, that might be read by over 120 every week. If you submit a prayer request, there's a strong feeling that other people are supporting you, having your back spiritually. This button is intended to do the same for the people who perhaps don't have a home church. The refuge is their church, their connection to a place where people pray with them and care enough to carry their prayers forward.

It's strange to pray and click, but I hope it gives someone encouragement.  Part of me wants to sit at my computer and click two dozen times, to give them even more hope.  But I'm going to be honest. I'm going to make the prayer real and the tiny automated record real and just trust in God to scoop up all our faith, hope, trust and needs and fashion them into comfort, healing or direction.

But if I go back to the site and pray for the same request, I'm clicking again.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Don't Give the Enemy Air Time

Often when someone tries to grow in faith, whether it's through service or deeper worship, it seems that negative thoughts and events come to push back.  With Lent in progress, people may find that problems, interpersonal conflicts or discouraging thoughts crop up more frequently.  I've certainly had that happen.  All I can say is, trust in God that your efforts to be more faithful are important. Listening to God, worshiping and serving others are always the right things to do.  Just don't give the enemy air time. Don't let negative thoughts linger and take root.
As John Ortberg wrote, "God is never a God of discouragement. When you have a discouraging spirit or train of thought in your mind, you can be sure it is not from God."
Do all you can to keep your focus on praise, hope, and God's loving words. Your spirit will grow stronger for the effort.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Prayer for Lent

With Lent starting tomorrow (Ash Wednesday), I want to offer the following way to pray for others. I'm also going to pray this for myself, so that during this period I can grow in understanding, wisdom, and the ability to act as God would want.  Here are the verses from Colossians 1:9-10, in The Living Bible translation, which somehow brings them to life for me:

"So ever since we first heard about you we have kept on praying and asking God to help you understand what he wants you to do; asking him to make you wise about spiritual things; and asking that the way you live will always please the Lord and honor him, so that you will always be doing good, kind things for others, while all the time you are learning to know God better and better."

Monday, February 20, 2017

Workers for the Harvest

In Matthew 9:36-38 we see Jesus teaching and healing. "And what pity he felt for the crowds that came, because their problems were so great and they didn't know what to do or where to go for help. They were like sheep without a shepherd. 'The harvest is so great, and the workers are so few,' he told his disciples. 'So pray to the one in the charge of the harvesting, and ask him to recruit more workers for his harvest fields'" (The Living Bible).

There is so much suffering and need in the world today, that obedience to this command of Jesus seems essential.  We have to ask God for more people with a heart and the abilities to help others. Each day I intend to pray as Jesus commanded, "Lord, please send workers to the harvest."
Then, whether we are the ones called or not, we need to support those out in the field.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

When God's "No" is the Right Answer

Writers hate rejection. Well, everyone does, but sometimes we writers think we feel it especially hard.

I've developed some projects I thought were fully ready for publication, only to get a polite refusal or even the dreaded black hole of non-response:  "If you don't hear back in three months..."

And yet, with both of these projects, "No" was the right answer. Recently I've been getting great ideas for revision, and I'm actually enjoying the process. I may never earn a "yes", but I'm getting the pleasure of finding new ideas and new energy.  I've become grateful for the "no's" because I wouldn't want to publish anything better than my best work.

I don't even want to admit the "no's" from God that stopped me from making mistakes much bigger than a mediocre publication. I don't want to talk about them, but I'm grateful to God.

When has "no" been the right answer for you?