Fruitful Response to Tragedies

 

Prayer

As a seamstress since age 13, I have collected a variety of colored spools of thread through the years. Stored in boxes and cabinets, at times the threads get intertwined and end up in a complete mess of knots. My response is to patiently untwine the threads or cut off the knots and reorganize the spools.

Finding solutions to knotted and tangled threads is easy. Finding answers to knotted and tangled tragedies in our world seem insurmountable. The intertwining messes of deadly shootings, catastrophic storms, loss, and destruction need solutions. But the solutions are more than human sized. We watch from a distance or sit with those who are hurting and wonder “what can I do”?

In these tragic times, we as believers in Jesus know that only God Almighty has the solutions to the messes around us. He knows that we live in a broken world full of sin and evil. And His heart is broken over this evil.

 “The LORD observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil….It broke his heart.” Genesis 6:5-6 

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

God most often chooses to show his compassion for the hurting through the actions of His people. So what is our most fruitful response to those people who live far away or close by? The most fruitful response is to PRAY.

How is it that we often say? — “Well, all I can do is pray.”  Yet that is the best thing we can do. Our prayers have a deep effect on God working in this world and in people’s lives. Here is what God says about prayer:

“The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16

 “…the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him. “ Proverbs 15:8

 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer…”         1 Peter 3:12

Paul, who preached the good news of Jesus, urged believers to pray and intercede for others:

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”       Ephesians 6:18

What do we pray for those who are hurting and suffering through tragedies?

1. Pray that they will know God’s comfort and peace.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction,” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

2. Pray that those who don’t know God personally will come to trust His great love for them through Jesus.

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

3. Pray for God to give them wisdom and guidance in making daily decisions in their trials and sufferings.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5

4. Pray for other Christians around them to show compassion and mercy, serving them with kindness as they give to their physical needs.

“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” Colossians 3:12

Will you respond to the recent tragedies in our nation and communities by committing to pray 10 to 15 minutes daily for these individuals and their lives? Ask another friend to pray together with you in your home, on the phone, through a text. We need the hand of God to move in a mighty way in our nation and He hears our prayers as we ask Him to work. The fruitful response of our prayers can change our world because Almighty God, who is loving and compassionate, is all powerful. He can do anything as we trust in Him to answer our prayers.

“The greatest thing anyone can do for God and for man is to pray. You can do more than pray after you have prayed but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.”  S.D. Gordon

“God shapes the world by prayer. The more praying there is in the world the better the world will be, the mightier the forces against evil.”  E.M.Bounds

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Finding Peace in the Storms

A dark line of clouds in the distance, unusual calm outside, sudden darkness and roaring winds all alert me to what I experienced so often growing up – a possible tornado approaching.  Growing up in Alabama, part of “tornado alley”, I have a strong sense of knowing when a tornado is coming. Thankfully, I know what to do. In our schools we would have tornado drills in the hallways, and at home I knew when to run to the basement for safety. We always took the warnings seriously. Because I was prepared in knowing what to do, even though my heart pounded with some fear, I had peace.

Often we experience storms in life, some small and some with tornado force winds that bring a path of destruction. If we are not prepared we will not know what to do when they come. And they will come at some point. Our minds will become confused, our hearts will be stricken with fear and we will panic if we are not prepared.

When a sudden storm came on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus’ disciples panicked in fear:

“But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”   Mark 4:37-40

When storms come into our lives, we often do all we can to survive, then we panic, like the disciples, waiting for God to respond. Perhaps, we too become frustrated at God and ask Him, “Don’t you care?” Before we get to that point, though, there are ways to prepare for the coming storms in life so we can have peace instead of fear.

  1. Know God and read His word daily. Memorize Bible verses about His character so you can remember these when you become fearful. Keep your mind focused on God daily trusting in Him.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”  Isaiah 26:3

Know that God is good:

“Give thanks to the Lord for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.” Psalm 136:1

Know that God loves you and rejoices over you:

“For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zephaniah 3:17

Know that God is in control:

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10

  1. Make prayer to God a daily habit. Spend time talking with God and listening to Him also. Thank Him for His blessings, rejoice in His love and goodness and ask Him for your needs. Make it a habit to give him your cares and concerns.

If we haven’t been talking to God daily and rejoicing in Him at all times then we will not know His peace in difficult times. Paul wrote these words while experiencing the storm of being in prison for his faith:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”   Philippians 4:4-6

King David often prayed to God. He gave his fears to God then rested knowing God would take care of the storms in his life.

 “Answer me when I call to you, O God…Free me from my troubles. Have mercy on me and hear my prayer… The LORD will answer when I call to him…In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe.” Psalm 4:1,3,8

So are you prepared for storms? Are you in one now? Go to God in prayer and read His word daily. He DOES care. He hears and will answer. Ask Him to replace your fears with His peace. Jesus told his disciples these comforting words:

 “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid.” John 14:27

Silence and Trust is Your Strength

Living in an area that offers rest in the mountains, quite often people are instead attracted to the many activities and tourism. Even though surrounded by the quiet beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, some don’t know how to enjoy the silence. They have become too accustomed to noise and busyness.

These past few months have been a time of silence and quiet from blogging and writing so that I can read God’s word, pray and renew my mind. From these times of silence, quiet trust, and prayer God renews my strength to help others and minister to their needs. Silently reading and meditating on God’s word and listening in prayer, I have the words to speak and write for others. In our American culture of busyness and noise, even in the church, this spiritual discipline is rarely honored in the Christian community.  In fact, we “glorify” being busy.  We rarely seek silence before God. Instead we seek our own ways, asking God’s “blessings” on our plans instead of first going to Him in silence, listening to His instructions and gaining His strength.

Often a recurring problem among God’s people, centuries ago, the Israelites decided not to listen to the Lord either, wanting to go their own way, as “children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord.” (Isaiah 30:9) They decided to seek someone else’s help and guidance in Egypt. They didn’t want to hear from God – they had their own plans, thank you. Yet, even in their disobedience against God to listen, He wanted them to come back and rest in Him:

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)

It is our silence and trust in God that give us the strength and words to minister to others in this hurting world. We are too quick to make our plans and not stop to be silent and pray. Too many Christians, even those in ministry, are following their own ways, and the influence of others’ worldly knowledge instead of seeking God’s instructions in silence and prayer. God could say to them as He told the Israelites, “You make plans that are contrary to mine. You make alliances that are not directed by my Spirit, thus piling up your sins.” (Isaiah 30:1. NLT)

In his book, The Way of the Heart, author, Henri Nouwen talks about the importance of solitude, silence, and prayer. Nouwen says:

“A word that bears fruit is a word that emerges from the silence…from it we speak to those in need. Solitude and silence can never be separated from the call to unceasing prayer…The literal translation of the words ‘pray always’ is ‘come to rest’…It is a rest in God in the midst of a very intense struggle.”

In the quiet clinging to God in prayer, we grow in our strength. The deep roots of the tree grow in silence but its strength is shown through withstanding the power of the wind and storms.

Can we just stop for a few minutes or even an hour? And dare I say, even perhaps not attend another Christian meeting or event before we have spent silent time with God, listening to His instructions? Can we turn off the noise around us, put down the tourist guide, and get away so our strength is renewed? You never know what you might hear God say to you in His word and through prayer.

“He will be gracious if you ask for help. He will surely respond to the sound of your cries…Right behind you a voice will say, ‘This is the way you should go,’ whether to the right or to the left.” Isaiah 30: 19, 21, NLT

 “Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him,” Psalm 62:5

 

Love for the Family

NYC skyline with flag 2

 

The shock, fear, horror, disbelief, tears, and now painful memories of what happened on September 11, 2001 fill our minds today in the U.S. and around the world. And thirteen years later the world still seems to be in chaos. The good news is that God, the Creator of the entire universe and our world, is still on His throne and in control of all things. He is good and works all things for good, even the evil which kills thousands. King David, who walked closely with God and experienced evil in his own life, wrote, “For God is the King of all the earth… God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.” (Psalm 47:7-8) “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:8)

As we trust in God’s plans and goodness we still have to live in the midst of sorrow and pain. So what do we do as followers of Jesus, as those who are abiding with Him and have our hope in Him? He has told us what to do very clearly. Jesus told us to love our enemies and to love each other.

Jesus said, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:27-28)

He also told His disciples to love each other, the family of believers, our brothers and sisters in Christ. “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:34-35)

As the early believers were facing sorrow, pain, and persecution Paul told them to love each other and to take care of each other. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “…through love serve one another.” (5:13) and “Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone, especially to our Christian brothers and sisters.” (6:9, NLT) As we abide with Jesus, His love flows through our lives to the world and what greater way to show His love than to our enemies and to our family. We pray for our enemies to find hope in Jesus, to know His love and forgiveness. We pray for our family of believers in the Middle East to have God’s strength right now as they face such evil and death. We can also love them by giving to their needs through several Christian organizations that are there with them in person.

What will you do this week to show your love for your enemies? What will you do to love those in the family of Christ? Will you take time to pray for them? I would like to know what you are doing. I will be praying for and supporting those groups of Christians who are showing love to our persecuted family in Iraq and around the world. And my enemies? I will pray that they will trust in God’s love and forgiveness through Jesus.

Check out some ways to help:

http://www.samaritanspurse.org/article/iraq-crisis-response

http://www.persecution.com

http://www.persecution.org

Peaceful Alone Time

Central Texas Landscape
Central Texas Landscape

 

All packed up in my grey Chevette, I eagerly anticipated my arrival in the little town of Salado, Texas, one hour north of Austin. Back in my first years of campus ministry, while living in Austin, my weeks were filled with meetings, discussions with college students, speaking in sororities, late night phone calls, and social events with my roommates and coworkers. Each semester I planned a weekend retreat at the Stagecoach Inn in Salado for a time of peace and quiet, alone to think and listen. Walking around the town and sitting outside, I filled the pages in my journals and talked with God, praying and listening to Him. After two days of thinking, silence, prayer, and writing I returned home with a renewed purpose, excited for the next adventure at work and in my life.

Recently, I took a small “retreat” from writing my blog to take some time alone to think, pray and listen to God. I needed to refuel my mind. Right now, in my own world and the outside world around me, I am constantly bombarded with daily turmoil, urgent decisions, and discouraging news. There are so many needs, so much to pray for, so many lives in pain that I need to retreat and get God’s perspective. I need time to listen to the One who is in control of it all.

Not much different than now, Jesus lived in a world of national problems, cultural divides, and religious pride and persecution. Meeting the needs of the hurting, the dying, and all worldly evil made Jesus eagerly long for special times alone to think and pray. His disciples who noticed these times of retreat wrote:

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5:16

“Afterward he went up into the hills by himself to pray…” Matt. 14:23

Right now the world and nations are in great turmoil, evil is growing day by day, there is so much to do to bring God’s light into a dark world. But, like Jesus, we need special times to retreat, to withdraw to a quiet place to be with Him. Even King David, the leader of a great nation, recognized his need for peaceful time alone with his Lord God. He wrote these words:

“He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” Psalm 23:2-3

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not…over the man who carries out evil devices!” Psalm 37:7

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10

Are you packed up, ready to withdraw to a quiet place for a peaceful alone time with Jesus even though your world is full of craziness? As we abide with Jesus daily, we also need special times of quiet to think and pray, maybe even to write what is in our hearts. Then we too can say–“He restores my soul.”

Stagecoach Inn Salado, TX courtesy of staystagecoach.com
Stagecoach Inn Salado, TX courtesy of staystagecoach.com

Family Love

Facebook is full of what else? – faces. It is an online “book” of faces. Many of the faces are of family and family members. There are pictures of weddings, births, graduations, vacations and events of the past. Some pictures are funny and some serious. Every day, even every hour, people share their love for their families by posting pictures and writing comments. Then those of us who are their friends get to “like” what we see and comment ourselves. Really, to me, Facebook is a family of friends sharing our love for others and each other.

Family love is powerful. A picture of family love whether on Facebook, in a frame, or in person can have an amazing influence in other lives, especially if those lives don’t have family love. Many people in the world would love to have a family or at least a family that loves each other.

When Jesus was eating the last supper with his best friends, his disciples, he shared what was on his heart. He loved these disciples; they had become his family. He told them of his coming death but then gave them a command. One simple command, yet it wouldn’t be easy to follow.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Luke 13:34-35)

And how were they to love each other? Just like Jesus had loved them – He was their example, their picture. Talk about an amazing picture of love. Jesus had just washed their feet, humbly serving them. He fed them with loaves and fish, He taught them God’s Words and Truth, and He was about to die for them so that they could live.

When we come to trust in Jesus and know God’s forgiveness we enter a family – a family of believers all over the world. We may look different, speak a different language, and may never meet, but we are family. Jesus told us that our love for each other would be a testimony for others that we are His followers. The world would know we are Christians – Christ followers – by our love for one another. This is our witness. How are we doing? What does our picture look like? Do we tear each other down; ignore our brothers and sisters who are suffering? Or do we humbly lay down our lives for them in love as Jesus loved us?

I am going to take some extra time this week to pray for my family in my church, community and around the world. I will support them financially where there is a need. I will seek ways to serve them and “wash their feet” as Jesus did? What will you do to show your love for your family?

 

Praying for these and other family members who are persecuted for believing in Jesus.

Walking in Closeness

Summer is here and more people are out walking in our neighborhood. Families, couples and friends talk with each other while jogging or taking a walk. My husband and I walk on Saturday mornings and talk about the week, what God is teaching us, what we are reading in His word and current news. It just comes natural as we walk with each other.

I also take my daily “walks” with Jesus. It may be in the morning or evening, or all throughout the day. It should be natural to communicate and talk with each other as I abide in Him and He abides in me. I share with Him my thanks, my concerns, talk to him about my family and friends and also spend time listening to Him as He uses His words to speak to me. Sometimes it means rejoicing and praising and other times I can share my fears and concerns with Him.

When Jesus returned from the grave to earth, he appeared to two disciples and walked with them on the road to Emmaus.

While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, ‘What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?’ “(Luke 24:14-17)

Not recognizing Jesus, they talked about the crucifixion and Jesus listened. In their sadness and confusion, they explained what they saw and told him that some women had seen the empty tomb that very morning; his body was gone. Jesus listened and then explained to them the meaning, “’Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” (Luke 24:26-27)

Arriving at their destination, they asked Jesus to come stay with them. He stayed and while blessing the food these disciples recognized him! “And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?’ ” (Luke 24:31-32)

Abiding with Jesus is closeness, a heart communication with each other. Jesus wants us to abide, to walk with Him daily. He wants to listen and has so much wisdom and insight to share with His followers like the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Am I walking so closely to Jesus that I recognize him in my life? Do I listen to Him as He speaks His words to me? Is my heart burning within me because I have been with Him? Do I feel comfortable in His presence and then invite Him into my home, into my life?

He is waiting for a walk. If you know Him will you take a walk with Him today? He loves to listen and talk to you. I would enjoy hearing what He is saying to you.

 

prayer group at mountain house

Walking with my prayer group in the mountains