40 Days of Prayer for America

It dawned on me recently that in spite of everything I’m seeing on social media, the Bible does not actually command us to vote. That’s not to say we can’t or we shouldn’t. But it’s not a command. It reassures me to remember that God worked incredible wonders in kingdoms and empires that did not enjoy the democratic process.

However, the Bible does command us to pray “for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:2). And it also offers the principle of seeking “the peace and prosperity of the city … because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:7).

I don’t think my vote this November will change the course of our country. But I do believe that my prayers might. So, starting Friday, I’ll be joining thousands of others in a 40-day season of prayer for our nation. Every Home for Christ has spearheaded this initiative. You can choose one of their two excellent prayer guides to lead you through these 40 days. I’ll be using the “Grace for America” prayer guide. But there is also one called “Fast Forward America.”

Interested in joining us? Go to http://www.acpr.org/fast-forward for information and to download a prayer guide.

 

Traveling Mercies (Notre Dame, Part 2)

While fact-checking about Notre Dame Cathedral for last week’s post, I “happened” across a stunning answer to prayer.

As you know if you read that post, I had the privilege of worshiping in that majestic Paris cathedral September 4.

As you also probably know, France has been a target for terrorist activity recently. With this sobering fact in mind, prior to my trip I had asked a few friends to pray for my safety. I wasn’t worried. I know that God determines my length of days and that I can die just as easily in Colorado Springs as in Nice, Normandy, or Paris. Still, it makes sense to ask God for protection (and there is solid biblical precedent for this; see Ezra 8:21-23).

I was never fearful during my time in France, although it was unnerving to see so many law enforcement officials—outfitted in camouflage, boots, and machine guns—silently patrolling French streets and plazas. But I was also thankful that trained men and women were on the ready, alert to protect innocent citizens and tourists.

Anyhow, as I told you last week, my time in Notre Dame was wonderful. Uplifting. Worshipful. Memorable. Thoughts for my safety never crossed my mind.

Until almost a week later when I was back home in Colorado.

As I said, I was just verifying some basic facts about Notre Dame when I ran across headlines that made my blood run cold. A “commando” of French women with ties to ISIS had just been arrested on charges of a failed jihadist attack at Notre Dame! When had this attack been planned? Sunday morning, September 4, the morning I was worshiping there!

What a close call! Yet I never would have even known if I hadn’t happened to be fact checking last week.

How many times, I wondered, has God protected me from tragedy and I’ve never even known? What stories heaven has in store for us of all the ways God has been there for when and we were completely unaware.

But this time He did let me know. He wanted me to know that He’d heard all those prayers for my safety. He’d answered. And He let me experience the joy of knowing that He answered. I’m still pretty amazed by it all. And it makes me think that praying for “traveling mercies” may be more important than I’d ever realized.

 

 

 

Worship in the Beauty of Holiness

20160904_032837Ordinarily, I worship God in a storefront church. We are über casual. There is no liturgy to speak of—we are an informal bunch. If people want coffee during the service, they get up and get it. And if they have an opinion about what the pastor is saying, they may express it right there, on the spot. In fact, he often encourages such participation. Oh, and by the way, we all speak English at my church.

So it probably won’t surprise you that worshiping at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris earlier this month represented quite a change for me. My French is rusty, and my Latin non-existent. I am unfamiliar with the traditions of a Roman Catholic mass. The 12th-century church is huge and ornate, the atmosphere formal and quiet, and there is no coffee anywhere to be seen.

I anticipated feeling out of place. I expected not to know what was going on. And, frankly, I didn’t envision encountering God there.

But I was wrong—at least about the encountering God part.

As I sat down a few minutes before the service began, I was awed by the beauty. As I gazed at the magnificent stained glass, gilding, pillars, and soaring arches, I was overwhelmed by a sense of God’s majesty. I felt drawn right into the courts of heaven. Psalm 46:9 came to mind: “O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: tremble before him, all the earth.”

This church was built for Your glory, my heart prayed. It was built to reflect Your splendor. Holy, holy are You Lord!

I should have just stayed in that attitude of worship. But I also wanted to capture the moment, so I did the touristy thing: I pulled out my phone and snapped a photo. Instantly, it seemed, an older gentleman sat down next to me and started a stern lecture, in French! I could barely understand the words, but his meaning was very clear: I was not to take photos while seated in the nave. Either I was there as a tourist (not seated in the service, taking photos at will) or I was there as a worshiper. Which was it?*

I meekly apologized, put my phone in my purse, and waited quietly for the service to begin. As other worshipers entered, many faced the altar and genuflected before taking their seats. They were hushed and, unlike me, did not take pictures.

I was impressed by how reverent everyone was. The atmosphere seemed saturated with God’s holiness.

The priest, cantor, and altar boy started their procession down the aisle toward the front of the nave. The cross was lifted high, as was the Word of God. Incense filled the air. The symbolism of this trio of simple, beautiful acts stirred my heart to honor and praise God.

When the service began, there were no upbeat choruses. There was no good-good-Father-Jesus-calls-me-friend vibe. But there were majesty, splendor, and holiness. And there was singing—of Psalms, in French. I didn’t know all the words, but some did stand out to me: Seigneur, souverain, grand et puissant, majestueux, glorieux (Lord, sovereign, great and mighty, majestic, glorious). And they were enough. My soul worshiped along with the assembly and, dare I say? with the angels, too.

My imagination wandered to Isaiah 6 and Revelation 5—scenes before God’s throne in heaven. I could imagine, in a way I usually cannot at my casual, storefront church, what it might be like to be overcome by God’s holy presence.

Hebrews 8:5 says that the earthly tabernacle (later temple) is “a copy and shadow of what is in heaven.” A lot of that has been lost in on modern places and forms of worship. Which is not to say we all need to start new cathedral building programs. All I am saying is that for me at least, a visit to a cathedral once in a while is good for my soul. It reconnects me with the majesty of God and renews my reverence for Him. At least that’s what happened a Sunday at Notre Dame a week and a half ago.

*With a little embarrassment, I am sharing with you the solitary picture I took before the French gentleman’s rebuke. However, my out-of-focus, stolen photograph cannot begin to do it justice!

 

 

Coming Home with Words (Repost)

This is the final week of my short vacation from blogging. This time I’d like to share with you something from Christine Wyrtzen, a blogger who frequently writes to my heart.  Perhaps this post will be words “in season: for you as well. 

I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.  Psalm 32:5 King David is clear in today‘s scripture about the importance of words in the process of repentance.    He’s not preaching a sermon […]

[Click here to read more of this post.]

Quit Praying!

I’m taking a short vacation from blogging. During this time I’d like to share with you some posts from other people who had interesting and challenging things to say. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. This one comes from Mark Batterson.

One of the defining moments in my prayer life happened a decade ago. I was in a small group with a friend who worked for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Georgetown University. Jeremy was working on a shoestring budget, and their campus ministry needed a computer. He shared the request at the end of our meeting, and I agreed to pray for it, but when I started praying for it, I felt that the Lord wanted me to stop praying. It was like the Holy Spirit said, “Why are you asking Me? You’re the one with the extra computer!” I quit praying in mid-sentence. I told Jeremy we didn’t need to pray about it because I had an extra computer he could have. (Read the entire post at http://www.faithgateway.com/quit-praying?utm_source=fgtoday&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=fgtoday20160730&spMailingID=51946907&spUserID=MTU2NzY5NTA3MTkwS0&spJobID=964268361&spReportId=OTY0MjY4MzYxS0#.V7mwbPkrLIU.)

Losing Jesus

I’m taking a short vacation from blogging. During this time I’d like to share with you some posts from other people who had interesting and challenging things to say. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. This one comes from a friend, Leura Jones.

I’ve had words spinning in my head for several weeks, thoughts on summer ending and school starting that I thought I needed to put out there and share with my tiny part of the world. I even got most of it written down, just yesterday.

And then today happened. I got a good, stiff slap-in-the-face. I needed it. Thank you, God, I needed it. It came in the form of a message spoken by a man named Jossy Chacko. If you haven’t heard of him, google him and the work he’s doing in India. His message was that we’ve lost Jesus. The church in the United States, in particular, has lost Jesus. He said we’ve lost our focus, our sense of mission. Like Mary and Joseph traveling home from Jerusalem at the end of Luke 2, we’ve gotten distracted by all that encumbers us and we’ve taken our eyes off Jesus, losing Him in the crowd.

(You can read the rest of Leura’s post at: http://turaleura.blogspot.com/2016_08_14_archive.html#3745691219169317991.)

What and How, Not Why?

I can think of better ways to cap a Fourth of July celebration than doing a face plant in a downtown parking lot. However, a face plant is what I did.

It was night. About 90,000 people (real numbers—that’s what the TV reporter said!)  and I were headed to cars after the fireworks show.  I tripped off a curb into a storm drain, and landed on my face. At first I didn’t know if it was gravel in my mouth or teeth. It turned out to be teeth. Mine. Two of  ‘em, shattered into smithereens.

Later that week, after spending many hours and a much of money at the dentist (with follow up scheduled for still more dental work) a friend told me that she was struggling on my behalf. God could have prevented my accident. Why had He allowed it to happen? she wondered.

Now that’s a valid question. I wasn’t surprised by it because it’s one I’ve asked God many times about other hard things that have happened in my life. What surprised me was that the question hadn’t even crossed my mind this time. Why not?

As I thought about it, I realized to my amazement that my primary emotion regarding the accident and its aftermath had been gratitude. Thank You God that I was with friends when this happened! Thank You Lord that my jaw wasn’t dislocated, and no bones were broken. Thank You Father that I have dental insurance to help with some of the cost. Thank You Jesus that the damage to my face is far less than it could have been. Thank You that I didn’t get a concussion. Thank You God that friends care about me. Thank You that I have soft foods to eat.

And then the biggest thank You of all: Thank You, God, for proving to me that You are with me even in the middle of hard and scary things. Thank You for showing me that I can trust You to take care of me, even in the hard stuff I never could have planned for.

Background: the future sometimes seems scary. It’s a common feeling many of us widows share, especially if we don’t have our peeps nearby. God reminds me over and over in His Word that He will be with me in the future, come what may. But my inexplicable gratitude in the midst of this accident (I take no credit for it at all—it’s was the Holy Spirit, trust me!)—classifies as a near miracle.

I pondered some more and recalled the good advice a friend had given me years earlier: Instead of asking God “Why?” he suggested, try asking Him, “What are You doing in this and how do You want me to respond?” I’ve tried to practice that advice over the years. I certainly don’t do it every time, but apparently it is becoming more of an instinct. (Yay, God! Thanks for continuing to do Your good work in me!)

On this occasion, I don’t actually remember specifically asking those questions. Still, I had a clear impression of what God’s presence and purpose in this hard thing. It’s like He was saying, I want you to see that I am with you no matter what. There’s a lot to be grateful here—focus on that. See all the ways I am with you? Can you start to trust that I’ll be with you in the future, too?

And I did! And instead of feeling mistreated or abandoned, I felt loved and cared for. Instead of feeling afraid, I felt faith rise up. And even some joy!

I still don’t know why God allowed the accident to happen. But I’m glad He helped me see what He was doing and how I could be with Him in it. And that might even be better than knowing why!