LenBanks

a continuing story of trust, grace and community

Tag: Prayer

Put THAT on your bumper!

Have you ever had one of those moments when you are talking to someone only to realize that they left the room and didn’t hear a thing you said?  Or you were on a call that dropped, but you didn’t know it for the longest time?  It’s awkward and embarrassing and ultimately you realize it was a pointless waste of time.   Talking to yourself on purpose may help you process things.  But talking to someone else by yourself makes no sense and accomplishes nothing.

I love that there are verses we celebrate and remember and quote.  But the risk of creating the bumper sticker or coffee mug quotes is that we fail to see/remember the fuller context.  One such verse that hit me today was Philippians 4:6-7.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

By itself it’s very encouraging and hopeful.  But by itself it also pits anxiety against the action of prayer.  “If I just pray more.”  “I am struggling because I need to pray more.”  We tend to turn this into a “I need to do more” situation.  It is so works and self dependent.  What’s one of the first things we tell people when they are struggling?  “You need to pray.”

Now, it is true that prayer changes our hearts and we find a peace.  The action of prayer is powerful.  But the fuller context here has nothing to do with our effort.  Prayer is a response, not a self-medication for anxiety!

Verses 4 and 5 are key.  Particularly 5.  Paul exhorts us to Rejoice!  Why?  Because the LORD IS NEAR!  Because the Lord is near we can rejoice and should rejoice!  Because the Lord is near we don’t need to be anxious, and instead pray.  Because God is ever-present we can be confident that prayer is not pointless exercise.  I don’t need to wonder if He will hear me or care for me or act on my requests.  I don’t need to feel like He has left the room and I am only talking to myself.  I can be confident that my call is always connected.

When I recognize that God is NEAR, I rejoice and commune and petition and give thanks!  Because He is near, I experience peace and protection.  The entire passage pivots on that phrase, “the Lord is near”.

“The LORD is Near!”

Now there is a bumper sticker for you!

Side Note:  Song playing when I read this passage:  “Father, You’re all I need, my soul sufficiency.  My strength when I am weak.  The love that carries me.  Your arms enfold me until I am only a child of God.”  (Child of God, from Hungry, Vineyard UK) God is so near, He is hugging me until all I am aware of us is my relationship with Him.  Nothing else enters in, instead it is all pushed away.

Ruin me Lord!

May God bless you with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.

May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really CAN make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.

And the blessing of God the Supreme Majesty and our Creator,
Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word who is our brother and Saviour,
and the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Guide,
be with you and remain with you, this day and forevermore.

AMEN

A Four-Fold Benedictine Blessing by Sr. Ruth Fox, OSB (1985)

Heard this today and loved it.  I don’t want to hover above the grittiness of life.  I want to be compelled to do my part.  Not sure how that looks.  I’m not the activist type, but don’t feel you need to be to make a difference.  I think most of all, you need to be the “heart of God” type.  What breaks His heart should break ours.  The saddest state is that a person be lost to eternity with God through Christ.  But in order to get there we sometimes need to meet them at their most perceived needs.

I have heard people say, “I am ruined by God.”  A very odd statement since God is the restoration business.  He makes all thing new!  But what is meant by that is that He breaks our pride, or self-sufficiency, our self-importance so that He can use us to reach a lost world.  And to that end, I desire to be “ruined”.  It has been and once again is my prayer, “Have your way O God.  I step aside so that you may be seen in and through me.”

The Faith of a Child

DSC03557As a KidMin I have a great opportunity to often see child-like faith in action, particularly when I run a Day Camp/VBS.  Having the kids everyday for a week they have huge faith steps and share great comments and stories.  This week was no exception!  We used Group’s Kingdom Rock curriculum this year and the five Bible points were so foundational and wonderful and the kids have really enjoyed it.  But because they were such basic points, they speak to me and our team of volunteers too!

  • God’s Love Helps Us Stand Strong, Psalm 18:1
  • Family and Friends Help Us Stand Strong, 1 Thessalonians 5:11
  • Prayer Helps Us Stand Strong, Philippians 4:6
  • Trusting God Helps Us Stand Strong, Isaiah 26:4
  • God’s Word Helps Us Stand Strong, Psalm 119:105

As the week went on we are able to see and hear examples from the children about what they are discovering.  One day I “carried my burdens” in a dramatic way to start our large group time.  I had a huge bag full of pots and pans and selected individuals came in to add to my cares by asking me to help them.  The point of the drama was for me to give my cares to God in prayer and not worry and I played up just how hard it was to carry all these burdens.  But before I could even get anywhere near the stage to complete the point of the drama, about 20 kids jumped up to come and help me lift the bag above their heads.  They were living out the point from the day before – Friends and Family should encourage each other!  So beautiful!

I received an email from one parent thanking our team for a great job.  Her appreciation was based on a comment by her 6 year old son on Day 4 of camp as he was getting ready for bed and listening to the music, “Sometimes life is unfair, but I just am feeling good listening to music and loving God.”

The pure trust and acceptance of kids is exactly what Jesus meant when he said unless we have faith like a child we cannot see the kingdom.   Of course they aren’t perfect, but they sure seem to get this idea of letting go to trust.

Children are all about trust.  They have virtually no ability to care for themselves and so they yield to others all the time – parents, caregivers, teachers, etc.  And so when you invite them to love Jesus who so clearly loves them, they are quick to do so.  But of course as we age and become more self-sufficient and aware of our surroundings, we  wrestle back control, not only from parents, teachers, and other adults, but we often do it with God too.  The challenge for us as we “mature” is to not make the mistake that maturity means self-sufficiency or independence.  We always need someone!  God designed us to live in community with others, and significantly with Him.  And it takes the faith of a child to know when to let go and trust Him.

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