A Private Message for Married Christians on Social Media

Woe to those who…do their work in darkness and think,

“Who sees us? Who will know?”

Isaiah 29:15

Some call them PMs (private messages). Others call them DMs (direct messages). I often refer to them as BMs (I’ll let you come up with your own interpretation) because, truthfully, they can place people knee-deep (or higher) in excrement when they aren’t flushed out immediately. Worse yet, sniffing out excess methane with an old flame could result in a hazardous explosion!

Yes, sometimes private messaging is appropriate – and even a necessity. My husband and I exchange a great deal of information in a non-public messaging forum, including flirting that the rest of the world doesn’t need (and likely wouldn’t want) to see. Sometimes, others have difficult personal matters – where a loving friend’s words of encouragement or instruction are needed – that would not be suitable for others’ eyes.

However, a great number of times, these BMs (PMs, DMs) are nothing more than social media fishing attempts. A person is casting out a supposedly innocent line to see if (s)he can hook another person of interest on the other end. To be fair, I truly believe that people aren’t always even consciously aware of this veiled intent. But somewhere, deep down in the recesses of a bruised ego, (s)he is searching for someone or something to quench a parched soul. And, just as truthfully, there are many forlorn souls who are tricked into believing if they accompany a desiccated drifter to a dried-up well, both parties can get refreshed there. The mirage effect. By the time the two have finished lapping up the muddied remains together, only then do they realize the tainting in the water. (This was sort of Jesus’ point to the woman at the well in John 4, when he offered her his living water instead.)

Above all else, guard your heart,

for everything you do flows from it.

Proverbs 4:23

Private messaging is one of those realms in which we, as Christians, should diligently search our hearts to be certain of our intent – as well as the intent of those with whom we are interacting in that space. Just like Hezekiah in II Kings 18-25, if we allow the enemy entry into our storehouses – through his ambassadors who may or may not even recognize his intent (II Kings 20:12-13) – we are allowing the enemy the ability to devour our territory and potentially lead us into bondage, to a place we never planned to go.

Search me, O GOD, and know my heart;

Try me and know my anxious thoughts.

Psalm 139:23

But wait, you say. I was just being friendly. Private messaging that person, even if there could have been a little flirting, meant nothing to me. I’m married; (s)he is married. I wasn’t intending on things going anywhere between us. As a matter of fact, it just made me feel good to know someone remembered me so fondly and still thinks so highly of me. (S)He is absolutely no temptation to me.

Maybe so. But…Just because you believe you didn’t get burnt by this flame doesn’t mean you weren’t pouring gas on the fire, where someone else might get burnt.

Have you considered how you’ve set either yourself or that other person up for potential dissatisfaction with his/her (or your) mate? Because we live in a fallen world, we need to be on guard for any potential temptations – to ourselves or others.

Be alert and of sober mind.

Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion

looking for someone to devour.

I Peter 5:8

I could mention I Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you except such is common to man….” Our enemy knows there are common denominators that tempt humans. The fact that social media is so often cited as a realm for affairs and sexual immorality is proof enough of that. Even if you truly have not fallen victim to your ego’s great need for stroking, you can’t control the dissatisfaction that may have set up in the other individual – of which you hold a certain level of responsibility if you encouraged that person to continue private messaging you.

Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks!

For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come;

But woe to that (wo)man through whom the stumbling block comes!

Matthew 18:7

I’m not suggesting you can’t (and shouldn’t) have friends of the opposite gender. I am suggesting that you should invite your spouse into those friendships – and certainly into any personal conversations with those individuals. If you and your spouse don’t already openly share your social media account(s) with one another, then at the very least, immediately include your spouse into the message thread. That way, polite and friendly (and long-lasting) understandings can instantly be established. From there, I would strongly suggest that you encourage public interactions with that person as the social norm (in lieu of private messages). In such a way, you are ensuring that both you, that person, and any involved spouses are being honored, as is the LORD, in both your relationship and in your communication efforts.

Whatever…you do,

You must do all for the glory of GOD.

I Corinthians 10:31

By honoring the LORD, and then the One to whom He has placed in your care, and then others with whom you interact, your relational crops can’t help but reap a healthy harvest of solid growth!

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked:

For whatsoever a (wo)man sows, that shall (s)he also reap.

Galatians 6:7

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The Great Physician’s Hearing Aid Prescription for the Church

Matthew 13 (NIV)

The Parable of the Sower

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

Whoever has ears, let them hear.

That line was never more meaningful to me than it became at our Church’s Annual Conference on Tuesday night, when I found myself in need of a hearing aid from God.

We had gathered to celebrate God’s presence in mission work, with seeds being cast over soil across the world through our conference. It included a processional of flags from across the world, of which I was privileged enough to get to lead in one side of the flag-bearers. As I carried the Afghanistan flag, I prayed the whole while for all of those in that country – our military men and women as well – to feel the power of God’s loving presence in their lives. No sooner did those many country’s flags spread out across the front of the auditorium than a tremendous storm began to blow in from the west.

The assembly of people were standing, singing ‘How Great is our God.’

The sky went black with an ominous cloud. The wind was rattling the wall of windows behind me. Large trees were bending. One loud thunder clap, and we lost all power, with nighttime settling on top of us early.

Immediate removal of musical accompaniment did not stop the crowd from standing resolute and continuing to sing of the greatness of our Lord. Soon, we had gone into “…then sings my soul, my Savior, God, to Thee. How great Thou art, How great Thou art.”

The challenge came more to the speakers, working to bring thunderous voices from their diaphragms, than it did to our color guard trying to orderly dismiss ourselves, or to ushers working to provide a candlelit nuance, or to workers rushing to open windows and doors for some air flow. The storm at our conference had subsided, but its passing over us wasn’t going to bring instant repair to a blown transformer outside.

As I stood in the auditorium, straining to hear, I began to see a parable unfold.

Jesus explained the meaning of his parable to his followers in this way:

18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

Often times, we ‘churchy-folk’ like to think Jesus was talking about ‘unchurched-folk’ hearing the Word for the first time, but my ears heard it differently this time around; my eyes saw it in a new light (albeit dimly lit).

As the storm came up, many of the people who were in the auditorium were glancing around nervously, peering out at the scary-look cloud, unable to sing. Frozen in fear. I’m not suggesting that it wasn’t worth giving some attention (and will admit that I did). But, truthfully, there was no additional cover to seek. Praising God in the storm was the very best action to be taken in this case. That seed of praise had been”[snatched] away” from some of the hearts there, though (vs. 19). They could no longer hear the praise over the storm or see God at work because they were blinded by their fear. A few exited immediately upon the storm blowing over.

Within minutes, many of those same ‘churchy-folk’ who hadn’t left, proclaiming God’s greatness only minutes earlier, became frustrated with the darkness surrounding them, the stillness of the warming air, the inability to hear all that was being said in the natural. They began to slip out, little by little, until the auditorium was about three-fourths its capacity. As Jesus said, “they [lasted] only a short time…they quickly [fell] away” (vs. 20-21).

The thorny hearts (vs. 22) became of greatest concern to me personally, to be honest (because, as thorns tend to do, they also reached out to choke out the life – or at least the ears – of those around them). I stood in the back with some friends and fellow flag bearers. If we had strained to hear before, we were surely straining by then. A brother in Christ from South Sudan had taken the stage to thank our conference for the hope we were providing to his people. He had grown up as a child who was taken to carry a weapon of war in the country of Sudan. Yet, he had escaped that life. He had wanted a new life for the generations to follow his, a life that brought hope and peace. He and others had suffered much, but trusted God much, for such a new beginning as that – a beginning that was symbolized in the natural when South Sudan became its own country. Despite the positive word this messenger brought, I also knew what had been encountered for the past year by this brother and another pastor brother in South Sudan with Visa problems to be able to bring it. After much disappointment and even greater patience, our South Sudanese brother had finally been able to come to the states, just so we could be blessed with this encounter. Let me reiterate that his presence among us was special – as though we were personally being thanked by God’s very own messenger. Yet, this messenger was a man from another place than ours, with a different accent than ours, with a low, humble voice that didn’t boom like some of the other speakers. He was working to convey God’s gratitude to straining human ears.

The thorniness didn’t allow some hearts to offer the respect our messenger-brother deserved. Some of those who had earlier exited stood outside the outer open doors, chatting and laughing about earthly “worries” (things that were apparently of greater interest than kingdom issues). After some time, realizing that many on the back rows had one straining ear on the stage and another ear being disrupted by these competing exchanges, a man I know in local missions respectfully closed the outer door. Not only did this act not serve to send a gentle message to the boisterous men outside, but it seemed to encourage the young ladies who were working the desk behind us to become louder, talking between themselves and bursting out in laughter over one of their cell phones ringing during the service. After several ‘teacher glances’ behind me that served to be absolutely ineffective, I closed the set of inner doors in front of the immature offenders. Almost immediately, the doors slung back open, with one of the young ladies slamming down the door stops without concern for the noise it created. She snapped at me, “We’re watching this. The doors need to stay open.” To this, the mother in me kicked in. Without taking the time to explain to her the gravity of our guest’s presence with us, instead, I replied, “Then watch with your eyes, not your mouths, so others can hear.” The seed was not going to be fruitful among the thorns, who deceitfully claimed to want to hear the word, but in essence, served to choke it out from others. I hate that I got snagged by them – as did many others who continued to slip out, leaving less than one-half of our original assembly.

An offering was taken, in which conference envelopes had already been prepared from churches. Many more left during that time, staying only to the point at which they felt their obligation to be there (to turn in their envelopes) had been fulfilled. (I’ve attended worship out of obligation before, too. What about you?)

Jesus said:

13 This is why I speak to them in parables:

“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’[a]

I pray that Jesus can heal my heart where my soul can learn to better receive His Word – that I can learn to discern with my heart, to see through spirit-filled eyes.

It’s interesting to me that those standing and praising until the very end of that celebration service – despite the darkness, despite the lack of sound equipment, despite the lack of many conveniences of our modern American day – appeared to be approximately one-fourth of the original group. This was the soil who heard the word through their hearts more than their ears (the same as 1/4 of Jesus’ 4 groups). Seeing how this service was about the mission field (which comes with many similar circumstances), I’m going to be bold enough to proclaim that I believe them to be the seed who will “[produce] crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (vs. 23).

Because Jesus also said:

16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.

17 For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

Oh, LORD, let me be a seer, a hearer, and a doer of Your Word.

Unearthing the Value of my Heritage – and other secrets of an Indian Giver

Sometimes my heritage is confusing to me.

My mother’s father was Norwegian. His wife (my grandmother) was German.
My other grandmother was Irish – down to her peachy skin and Celtic name.
To hear her tell it, her husband (my grandfather) was of Scottish/Irish origin too.
To hear him tell it, his grandmother was a full-blooded Native American from the Cherokee nation – and, despite his gray-blue eyes, he loved flaunting their almond shape, along with his high cheekbones and the well-tanned skin beneath his handsomely tall frame.
Of the four grandparents, I spent the majority of my time with him.
He was retired, so we’d go on summer walks through town together, as I held his large hand and looked a mile upward to speak with him.
We’d work in the garden and yard together, with him entrusting me to operate his first riding mower as I entered into my double digits.
He’d accompany my dad to many of my ballgames, where I was sometimes a teeny bit jealous when my older cousins’ friends would run up and hug him and call him Granddad. (Okay, so I still had to learn to share.)
I felt I had a right to be possessive of him. After all, I was the one who trimmed his ear hairs. (Though my eyes were assuredly better than those of my grandmother – who’d transitioned to a large print bible – some days, I believe he asked me to do this deed simply because he thought it was safer for a kid to be wielding a sharp instrument over him in lieu of testing his wife’s Irish temperament.)

But I digress…

My father and uncle were both intrigued by their Native American heritage and, for years, searched out related artifacts.
My dad turned me into a junior archaeological librarian, as I’d assist him in organizing and tagging his finds by appropriate periods. I can recall also getting to go on “archaeological digs,” walking sandbars during the cold winter months, most often needing to be carried by my father, as my small frame would sink into the soft mud as if I were being swallowed up by quicksand. Many years later, my father and uncle were killed in a boating accident in January, out in those same waters where the three of us explored our heritage together. As much as it hurt to lose them, I couldn’t have imagined a more appropriate place for them to have been together when their spirits crossed over into eternity.

Nancy Ward print by deceased artist Ben Hampton

Hiskyteehee (Five Killer) print by deceased artist Ben Hampton

One of the gifts my father left me was a Ben Hampton print of Nancy Ward.
Awhile back, as my youngest son was lying on our couch, his head hanging upside down, he peered up at the print and inquired, “Mama, is that you?”
I was amused when I asked him if he thought it looked like me. He sat up and somberly nodded, still waiting for my answer. He was a little disappointed to hear that it wasn’t, but then he became intrigued with Nancy Ward’s story and decided to embrace that part of his heritage too. He now has a print of Five Killer in his hangout space (in which I can more easily see myself, having a “don’t tick me off” scar in the exact same spot; mine, admittedly, came from my neighbor’s cat, Herbie George, who decided to engage in a surprise attack when I thought we were in the midst of a peace treaty. I wish I was wearing his claw around my neck as a symbol, where I could then refer to him as “Cat with Nine Claws” to make him sound more intimidating. I mean, Five Killer started off as LittleFellow. Sometimes, you do what you have to do…)

I didn’t think anymore about my son’s remark of my resemblance to Nancy Ward until a few weeks ago at work. There, I have a framed poster in my office from an Eastern & Western Cherokee Council Reunion, which my dad attended (with my uncle and Ben Hampton, as I recall) & which has a montage of Mr. Hampton’s Cherokee Heritage prints. Our new secretary walked into my office, took one look at the poster and asked, “Is that you in that picture?” Nancy Ward? Are you serious? Don’t I wish? I did have a proud moment of sharing the who’s & why’s of that poster, though. And, admittedly, I do enjoy having some obvious features from that particular part of my heritage, just as I do from the many other parts of my heritage.

What I don’t enjoy are the negative connotations that people place on that heritage, just as I don’t enjoy other negative connotations that sometimes surround me. Just as my heritage may create some confusion for me, so do people who make unjust slurs against others in the name of being offended, with no regard for what offense the accuser has created. The term “Indian giver” is one such example, being bestowed upon Native Americans because of a misunderstanding in communication and trade customs; yet not bestowed upon those who came in with no regard for such customs and forced natives from their own territories under purposefully perilous conditions, providing them little means for success in prosperity or survival. (Here’s where you might need to reference the Trail of Tears.)

That savage sort of thing still happens in modern social circles – at least in the spiritual, if not the physical realm.

Invaders show up in our own private sanctuaries of peacefulness, determined to drive us out (or basically, just drive us crazy). The offenses of which we get accused only exist as excuses to control our soul’s treasure. Any gifts of grace and peace offerings we produce get scoffed at, with newly fabricated accusations made. Invaders work overtime to convince others that we want them to bestow something of greater value to us in return (basically, because scoffers over-value whatever power they believe they wield). Once our weaknesses have been explored and exposed, these conquerors – convinced they have used up anything in us that was of importance to them – push us aside, out to the margins, treating us as if we never had any heritage here at all. Soon, we feel as though our peace has become some antiquated artifact that must be dug up in pieces and put back together if it is to be discovered again.

  • We see it happen in homes.
  • We experience it in the workplace.
  • It crops up in churches as easily as in middle schools.
  • When focused on themselves, people seem to have a tendency to want to de-value and drive others out for their own selfish purposes – to steal another’s heritage of belonging.

Whenever that happens to me, I take time to remind myself of my most important heritage – the one in which I am a daughter of a heavenly King. In Christ, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1). In Christ, there is no east or west (United Methodist Hymnal, No. 548); thus we are not sent on a journey of separation from others. In fact, our God reconciles, telling us He “will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). I’m also pretty sure there are no gossipy trouble-makers in that land of peace because we’re told that, “only in the place of hypocrites will there be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:51). (I can’t think of any better example of how teeth gnashing must look than to watch a gossiper in action, chewing up a gut-full  of someone else’s troubles.)

No one said we had to wait for the new creation, though, to experience life’s best heritage. When Jesus walked among us in the flesh, He said, “The Kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15). We are expected to live in peace and harmony with this land and the beings with which we have been entrusted in the here and now. Native Americans have long understood the spirituality and sacredness of all of creation. The gifts that they gave, such as roots that seemed worthless to the white man, held great meaning and often the power of healing or sustenance. Likewise, the gifts we give of ourselves, in which we know the value and meaning, may be received by others as meaningless, with that same sort of haughtiness and open disdain.

This shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the gifts of your heritage, though – the ones that are given to you because you ARE expected to graciously share them with others. I want to encourage you not to be driven out – but to go. Go be an Indian Giver. Offer goodness when others don’t have the capacity to understand the value. Offer peace in the midst of strife. As for the scoffers…II Peter 3:3 tells us to expect them. But then we’re told: “But in keeping with His promise, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells” (II Peter 3:13). In my mind, that new creation will look much like Native American spirituality, full of nurturing relationships between all people, land, and all living things. We are called to be part of that new creation in the here and now.

LORD, of all the characteristics that others may see,

let them most clearly heed the heritage of You in me.

 

 

 

 

 

How to limit GOD – or at least create immense boredom & an unenthusiastic response

Excuse me.

I was wondering if you would at all be interested in reading my inconsequential blog if you thought you might somehow be able to spare just a tiny bit of your time to get around to it at some point in the undetermined future — but only if, of course, you don’t think you might possibly have better things to do…

Hmm. I’m wondering who actually made it this far and still thought there might be anything worthwhile here for you to consider.

By the time you got finished with all my hem-hawing around, chances are that you weren’t even certain what I had been troubling you for in the first place.

But here’s the thing. You see, you and I may not know each other very well. We may not know each other at all, as a matter of fact. We may be utterly complete strangers. And everyone knows that good etiquette requires a certain amount of beating around the bush when making an important request – from a stranger, no less. Just ask Miss Manners.

Of course, if I wanted my friends to read my blog, I’d politely tell them about it, invite them to read it, and likely provide a link occasionally to offer up as a strong hint (to guilt them into reading it). Okay, that’s pretty much what I do. Well, that’s at least one step better than the way I approached you with my ‘unfamiliar stranger’ request.

We’re timid and nearly apologetic to the stranger when communicating (by stumbling through) our request. Less so with a friend, though still somewhat reticent.

Are you starting to get how this relates to our prayer interactions with God?

The book that I’m currently reading as part of my online study to become certified (again) as a lay speaker makes an incredibly strong (of world class body-building magnitude, as a matter of) point:

Too often, we approach God in prayer as if we’re talking to a stranger.

Many times, we aren’t even sure of what we should be saying. But more often than not, we waste of lot of everyone’s time (both ours & God’s – and whoever else is unfortunate enough to be listening in) by failing to get to our point.

So we’ve just acknowledged that we’re less formal and a little more direct toward someone with whom we share some common tie or interest. But let’s take it one step closer…

How do we interact with our closest family members, the ones we know best and with whom we share intimacy?

Would you speak to your spouse or sibling in either of the above described methods? (If so, I’m going to suggest relational counseling to break down this barrier of unfamiliarity.)

Most of us probably wouldn’t waste that many words trying to get to the point with our “in circle.” Instead, I’m more prone to personally address my closest family members in ways such as:

“Hey, come over here and look at this post. Tell me what you think.”
“I need that computer for blogging when you’re done. Hey, wait, don’t run off. I need you to take a look at my post for today.”

Closer relationships have a tendency to equate to more direct communications, particularly in conveying our expectations or requesting a response. With that being said…

Which of the 3 communication styles described above are closest to your prayer talks with God?

Distant Stranger?

Acquaintance/Friend?

Intimate Family Member?

Chances are that it’s not Number 3. Mine either.

For some reason, number 3 seems over-demanding to us, even as God’s children. (I’m a southern “gurl,” so even the thought of sounding sacrilegious comes to my mind!)
Funny how we were born into the world learning to express our desires to our earthly parents – even before we could speak their language; yet, we can’t seem to bring ourselves to have that same close communication style – that intimacy (and trust in response) – with our heavenly parent.

Jesus did.

He didn’t hem-haw around. He got directly to the point, and the verbs he used were what Stookey (2001) refers to as vigorous.

In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus gets right to the action-packed point when teaching His followers how to pray:

Give

Forgive

Lead

Deliver

Vigorous verbs require action. Action verbs are the ones we use for ourselves when we expect to get results. Apparently, God means for us to call Him into action (rather than limiting Him with pacifying redundancy) in our prayers – expecting results. And we can – when our petitions come from a scriptural basis not taken out of context (meaning we can be more assured they are aligned with God’s ways and His will). Then we’re not wasting God’s time in making them, nor are we being rude in our directness.

By addressing God in an unswerving manner with our needs and desires, whether personal or intercessory, communication is enhanced, thus improving our chances of receiving a more fruitful response.

God may know our hearts and our desires, but I’m pretty sure He wants us to be 100% honest and certain about them too. (Do try to remember that some responses may be “No, not in this particular circumstance, child,” or just “Not yet, but wait until you see what I have in store for your life.”)

Oh, sure, God could spare a little time to answer our drawn out excuses at some undetermined point in the future. But God isn’t our genie in a bottle, waiting to pop out to fulfill our every passing fancy. God truly does have better things to do than be like the character on I Dream of Jeannie – always cleaning up messes that were created by fulfilling every tiny whim.

That should serve as a good reminder that our prayers shouldn’t come from self-centered desires (like me wanting someone to read my blog for my own ego’s sake). They should be aligned with a purpose – God’s purpose for our lives (like me hoping someone will draw nearer to God and have a more active – and exciting – prayer life after meditating on this blog’s reflection).

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

***

Here’s a fun exercise to do, to help you begin to make an Action-Packed Prayer List of Vigorous Verbs. Write A-Z down a column on a piece of paper. Then try to think of at least 1 vigorous verb for every letter on your list that you could use when petitioning God. (This was one of my assignments this week, so I sat down with 2 friends yesterday and we thought up quite a few. I’ve included a sample below, in case you get stuck and need to borrow some!)

Accentuate (our gifts for ministry)
Build (Your Kingdom here on earth)
Calm (our spirits in times of trouble)
Direct (us to do Your will)
Enlighten (us with Your Word)
Fill (us with Your Spirit)
Generate (a new desire in us aligned with Your will)
Heal (our congregation during this time of loss)
Instruct (us in Your ways)
Journey (before us & with us in this new endeavor)
Kindle (our spirits to action)
Lead (us on Your path of righteousness)
Multiply (our gifts for Your kingdom)
Nurture (the broken in this place)
Ordain (us to do Your work)
Pour (out Your love upon us, that we might pour it out on others)
Qualify (us to do Your good work through this educational experience)
Replenish (our minds, bodies & souls for this task)
Stand (in the gap for us)
Teach (us to meditate on Your Word and Your ways)
Unify (the body of Christ for Your service)
Validate (our efforts in this ministry)
Walk (with us)
Xerox (your love in our hearts for others)
Yoke (us to you)
Zing (us with a dose of Your Holy Spirit)

***

Reference:

Stookey, Laurence H. (2001). Let the whole church say Amen: A guide for those who pray in public. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.

Related Article:

Above All…Let All the People Say Amen

Above All…Let All the People Say Amen

I’ve just begun an online workshop on Public Prayer towards achieving revised certification requirements for the designation of Lay Speaker within the realm of Lay Servant Ministries within our Church Conference.

As such, I’m already enjoying the primary text for the course:

Stookey, Laurence H. (2001). Let the whole church say Amen: A guide for those who pray in public. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.

To be honest, I never gave much thought regarding how public prayer differed from personal prayer, except for the obvious component that it was no longer my own personal time with God – it was a corporate time and should be addressed in kind. Perhaps, when I stepped forth to lift up a prayer within a group, I even subconsciously knew much of the protocol that was required. However, it’s always a great refresher to have structure laid out where you can see it, dissect its parts, contemplate why we do things a certain way (or maybe why we should consider changing those ways) – capturing a new angle through the study of God’s Word and forming our relationships (both with God and others) through a varied lens and in a new light.

Here’s a very important reminder from the Introduction of the text that I believe serves the Public Intercessor well:

  • Because you are being asked to send up prayers on behalf of an entire gathering or some group (large or small), even though the prayers may contain personal elements, your statements must be more generalized than your own personal prayers. Because these prayers are representing all who are present, you must provide a setting where all can agree in order to be able to authentically say Amen at the end with their own personal measure of integrity.

corporate

Of course, all that being said, I believe it’s also important to acknowledge that when any individual is selected (or volunteers) to bring forth prayer on behalf of a larger group, it should be expected that the person is going to bring his or her own personal touch, so to speak. You should allow yourself permission to interject your personality, your own inflections, so the prayer is genuine and doesn’t seem overly constrained or as though it isn’t from your own heart.

As I begin this study, I’ve been asked to meditate and write a prayer of praise to God – one void of any requests. (Interesting that the author understands that human nature compels us to slide those in…) I was meditating on the Psalms prior to this, thinking on the themes of thanksgiving and adoration.

Here’s what passed through my mind (& my fingertips):

Lord GOD,
I* know You are ABOVE ALL –
Above All of life’s battles,
Above All of my* daily problems & concerns,
Above All of my petitions or moans, my groans, my complaints,
Above All of my seeming defeats.

I know You are ABOVE ALL –
Above All of the daily delights I either acknowledge or overlook,
Above All of the times I call out Your Name – either in glorious praise or unfortunate defamation,
Above All of the ways I interact with others – both positively & negatively,
Above All of the matters that You intricately know within my heart.

I know You are ABOVE ALL –
Above All of my outright confessions,
Above All of my hidden secrets,
Above All of my shortcomings, my comings, my goings,
Above All of these things that ought to be Yours.

I know You are OVER ALL –
Over All of creation,
Over All situations,
Over All that comes before me*,
Over All that makes up each of our personal beings.

I Praise You, Lord GOD
for taking me under Your wing,
for breathing into me Your breath of life,
for wanting me to abide in Your presence,
for All I understand You to be…
And much more so for All in You I can’t comprehend.

You are Awesome.
You are Amazing.
You are GOD.

***

*Note that our or we or us could have been substituted for my or I or me in the above stanzas; but whether personally or corporately received, I wanted to assure this was a very personalized prayer (much like we perceive when we read the Psalms – understanding an individual within the Psalter was speaking/singing to God in each one, but that we, too, might join in.)

As I close today, I’m reminded of something powerful that one of my older sisters once reminded me in my younger years about the power of prayer in a difficult relational circumstance:

“Jody,” she said, “God will not change people. But God will change circumstances.”

(What I didn’t yet understand was that those circumstances might have actually been mine to create a change in me! ha!)

For me, that’s always been a worthy reminder of how I should never try to use prayer to manipulate people. I think it’s an especially important reminder in the corporate setting, where a prayer leader should not try to interject his or her own will onto a situation to manipulate those in attendance (or…God!). God is simply far too great for that.

I pray that all is well with each of you.

-jody

A Heart of Compassion (and how mine needed CPR yesterday)

I think of myself generally as a compassionate person.

Sometimes I even consider my compassion to be a curse (when a burden gets laid upon my heart, then another, then another, and I hurt for so many in the world).

But I was again faced with the ugly truth yesterday.

I can be just as selfish as the next person.

I feel the need to preface my story by saying that I haven’t been in the best of moods lately about human nature, in general – and much of that revolves around the court system, of all things. I’ve had to be in courtrooms over the past couple of years more times than I think anyone should ever spend in a lifetime (unless, of course, you’ve chosen to be a judge). I feel in the times I’ve been there that I or others have been treated unjustly in a system that, to be honest, seems to exist more for itself than for the good of the whole. In the last several circumstances, greed has been the prevailing factor, in which others have sought to take what was not rightfully and ETHICALLY theirs, but by which LEGALLY they could create great costs and burdens on others who were already paying high prices for these individuals’ actions.

Yes, I know that’s rather vague, but my point essentially is this…when you’ve been exposed to greed and had people stealing what little you possess, apparently it wears down your compassion and perhaps creates a stingy kick-back response.

Point in case…

My sister and I have a tradition of sharing dinner & a movie for our birthdays. This week, it was her turn. I arranged to take her to a matinee movie, and had brought along a free popcorn & soft drink coupon that I had saved up for the occasion, along with a coupon stuffed away for the dining establishment she had chosen. (In other words, I was having to be thrifty with my celebration extravaganza.)

As I pulled into the parking lot of the movie theater, I noticed a younger man standing up from where he’d been squatted next to a car across the aisle. As he stood, his beltless pants sagged well below his waist line without the usual fortunate covering of underwear. As a mother of a teenage son, I have no doubt, I ground my back teeth in irritation. When I pulled into my parking space, I didn’t see my sister yet, so I began searching through my purse for my coupons and my discount theater points card.

That’s when I noticed him – in my side mirror.

The same man (probably in his mid twenties, though I’m assuming it was his lifestyle that made his face appear older) was standing at the rear of my car, blocking my exit for the moment I decided to open my door. An alarm went off inside my head that told me to stay where I was, as I saw no other persons nearby and I wasn’t certain of his intent.

Five minutes passed.

I began to feel additionally irritated that he hadn’t moved and was causing me to feel trapped in my own car.

I watched as he swung around the car parked next to mine to approach the front of my car. He yelled out, “Ma’am, ma’am!”

Probably because he seemed to have some sense of manners, I partially rolled down my window and politely responded to his call.

“Will you give me some money for…?”

I never heard what it was for. His voice faded, as he tried to decide for himself what he should say.

It didn’t matter. I was already aggravated about his pants. I was irritated that he’d trapped me in my car. I felt the need to show him I wasn’t going to be his victim.

“No, I won’t.” My answer was harsh, cold, to the point.

He turned, dropped his head, and began walking across the parking lot, unintentionally (or not) mooning me as he went.

I jumped out, locked my door and headed the opposite direction, asking the girl at the theater counter to alert mall security, as I stood at the door watching him veer toward cars, looking into them.

It wasn’t until much later, until I had time for the alarms in my head to silence themselves, that I had an overwhelming compassion flow over me.

What had I done? Or better yet – not done? There was a store across the lot. If his pants bothered me so badly, couldn’t I have gone into it and gotten the man a belt? Maybe even a pair of underwear?

So what if he did have track marks up the insides of his arms? Did I have the right to judge him for that? How could I have known what his life had been like? What it was going to be?

Couldn’t I have found one simple way to show this man one ounce of compassion?

And yet, all I showed him was contempt. The same thing that had likely caused him to be in that parking lot, begging for his next meal or his next fix. Which was it? Had I even cared? Not when it mattered the most.

* * *

Matthew 25:40 says – The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

I did nothing, Lord. Nothing. God, forgive my lack of compassion.

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