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Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Father-in-Law

Dear God, I was watching a marriage video by Gary Thomas with my wife last night as my wife and I prepared to lead discussion today for our couples group from church, and he was talking about this concept. He posted this column back in 2014 that goes along the same lines. It’s a great and powerful concept: If my wife is your daughter then, in some respects, that makes you my father-in-law. When I treat my wife in a certain way, I am also treating your daughter in that way as well. But unlike other fathers-in-law, you are omnipresent. You can see not only what goes on in our home behind closed doors, but you see what I do when I am alone. You see into my heart.

So what is my heart towards my wife? Am I guarding it? Am I living out the two greatest commandments in my own home as well as in public?

He also asked another question during the video last night: Am I a spouse-centered spouse or a God-centered spouse? If I am a spouse-centered spouse, that means I will gauge my treatment of my wife based off of how she is treating me. Was she nice to me this morning? If yes, then I might go out of my way a little more for her. Was she cold or focused on other things besides me? If yes, then I might return the attitude in-kind.

However, if I am a God-centered spouse, then I am seeing her through your eyes and her actions are not determining factors in how I treat her, or even think about her. In fact, if she is cold towards me maybe that’s the time you need me to express more concern for her. You need me to care for her and give her even more. It’s not about what she gives me. It’s about what you need for me to give her.

Father, I’m sorry I’ve failed you in so many ways when it comes to my marriage. As a father of two grown children in relationships with significant others, I certainly have my opinions about them. I can only imagine what you think of me. So thank you for entrusting your daughter’s life to me. Thank you for such an amazing woman. I know I take her for granted all of the time. I try not to, but I know I do. So help me to have insights into her and to be exactly that man you need me to be for her sake and so that she can continue to grow into exactly the woman you have for her to be. And in the process, make me the man you need me to be.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
 

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The Serenity Prayer

Dear God, as my wife and I were praying together this morning, this is the prayer (from AA) that came to mind. I don’t know exactly how my prayers for you to act impact your ability, willingness, or decision to act or change course, but I do know that the more I know you–the more I pray to you–the more it changes me. I don’t know if this quote is truly from C.S. Lewis, but in the movie Shadowlands, his character tells a friend, “I don’t pray because it changes God. I pray because it changes me.”

So Father, please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. There is so much I want to change, but I am humbled by my inability to change any of it. That humility drives me to my knees. Sometimes I’m on my knees before you and sometimes I’m on my knees feeling sorry for myself. But if I try to put my energy into changing what I cannot affect then I am being a fool. So I need to serenity from you to let go. I need the serenity of you to forgive myself. I need the serenity from you to move on in other directions. Then there are times when action is required but it can be scary. I don’t want to get out of my comfort zone and challenge or confront. Speak to me when those times present themselves and give me the courage when I need it. Give me the wisdom I need to know the difference between your call to wait and your call to act.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

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Psalm 1:1-3

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with the mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.

Psalm 1:1-3

Dear God, I came across a translation of this well-know passage this morning in the Steven Purcell book Even Among These Rocks: A Spiritual Journey. But he didn’t have these words. He had a translation from somewhere between the 8th and 3rd centuries, B.C.

Certainly, verse 1 is the most different, but it does kind of fit. I guess the ultimate goal in being Christlike is that point where you are beyond greed (I’m not there yet), beyond hatred (I’m not there yet), an no longer nourish illusions (I’m not 100% sure what the translator means here, but I don’t think I’m there yet either). I also like the next part: “But they delight in the way of grace and keep their hearts open day and night.” Nope, not there yet either. I’m closer today than I was yesterday. I’m closer this year than I was last year. I’m closer now at 52 than I was at 42.

I was reading an article last night from Christianity Today about deconstructing faith. That’s become a hot button topic lately and I don’t want to do into it too deeply here, but there were a couple of quotes from the author, Kirsten Sanders, that stood out to me:

“Truth about God isn’t always easy, however. Faith that begins in earnest commitment sometimes must advance through a period of slow questioning, of confusion, of switchbacks and labored ascent.”

I wasn’t thrilled when I first learned that my knowledge of God would always be incomplete. I felt, for a time, unmoored. Like many seminary students, I had been praying for years to a God who I had pictured as being just like me, only larger, through difficult days of uncertainty and loneliness. I loved that God and know that he loves me. Rather than only feeling closer to the God I loved, I learned that there was a clear limit to what I could know. I would need to learn to love God in the dark.

I think there is an inherent discomfort for all humans in just how small and insignificant we are. There is a limit to our abilities–a limit that you do not have. You are omnipotent, and we are not. You are omniscient, and we are not. I think the key to being at peace and sinking into a life beyond greed, hatred, and illusions is getting to a point of complete surrender that we are simply not you and there is a part where we need to accept our ignorance and sink into your grace.

Father, help me get better today at getting beyond greed, replacing hatred with grace and mercy, and rejecting illusions. I confess that I will not get all of the way there today. I’m sorry for that. But help me to at least move along in my journey.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

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“I want! I want!”

Dear God, I was going through the Lenten book Even Among These Rocks: A Spiritual Journey by Steven Purcell this morning and I came across this picture. It so lines up with the spirit I am getting from the masses in our country right now. Conservative or liberal, rich or poor, young or old, these words seem to be ruling the day: “I want! I want!” And the ladder to the moon seems to emphasize the idea that we will not be denied. Of the image, Purcell wrote: “William Blake’s simple etching illustrates the point that sin is neve the solitary escapade of desire that we imagine it to be, but more fundamentally the rejection of our relational identity. The ladder depicts an apparently innocuous ascent. Where the ladder will lead is perhaps immaterial. What is at stake are the relationships which are affected by his act. What we see in Blakes etching is how movements away from our neighbor and toward our own desires in the spirit of ‘I want, I want,’ neglect the communal image of God impressed on our being.”

I was listening to a podcast this morning that was taking a thoughtful view of trans girls/women competing with girls and women in athletics. While I don’t want to get into the specifics here, there does seem to be a theme in the story of someone deciding they want something for themselves at any cost forgetting, neglecting, or intentionally ignoring “the communal image [you] impressed on our being.” Where is loving your neighbor as yourself?

Of course, this is just one example. There are those, both conservative and liberal, who want ultimate political power so they can control their enemies. There are some who want more and more materially regardless of what it costs others. There are others who want to experience all of the carnal gratifications the human existence has to offer.

In his temptations in the desert, Jesus resisted all of the temptations to impress Satan and break relationship with you. He loved you with all of his heart, mind, and strength. As he left the desert, he loved his neighbor as himself. And he taught us to do the same. Help me to do the same today. Help me to love you. Help me to love others. Be glorified through me for your glory’s sake.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

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Thinking About Ukraine — Offramps

Dear God, one of the hardest things about any conflict, whether it was entered into wisely or foolishly, is figuring out the offramp. There are three options, I suppose: 1.) Side A surrenders or is destroyed. 2.) Side B surrenders or is destroyed. 3.) Compromise.

When I look at the Urkraine situation and watch videos like the one I saw this morning of everyday people suffering, it takes me back to a year ago in Winter Storm Uri. Not that we suffered like they are now. In fact, that’s the point. As difficult as that was, and as much fear we had at the time and bellyaching we did at the time, we still had resources and the basics of infrastructure. No one was randomly firing missiles into our cities. We weren’t having to evacuate the women and children only to turn around, take up a gun and defend our homes. Some of us were simply without power and/or water, our food supplies were interrupted, and we couldn’t drive on the streets. But we knew they would be back. We knew our society hadn’t crumbled or we weren’t in danger of our government being overthrown. Certainly, we didn’t fear a missile landing on our house at any given moment.

Even now, as much as I ache for the people of Ukraine and also the Russian soldiers being forced to attack them, my aching is only a smidge of what pain they are feeling. I cannot even comprehend it. But if, like when I write my congressman I imagine my letter being sorted into a stack based on issues and just counting almost like a vote, my prayer is added to the billions–literally probably billions–of prayers being raised up for Ukraine right now, let it be for an offramp. I do not want the Ukrainians to surrender or be destroyed. I do not believe pride will allow the Russians to surrender and no one wants to see them destroyed. So I pray for an apparent offramp. Give the world a quick way to resolve this issue. And please let this pain count. Let there be communication. Let there be a sense of gaining the perspective of the other, respecting that, and then moving on. Let this all be in your perfect timing. And for my brothers and sisters in Ukraine, please guide and comfort them. You know, I don’t really know how to pray for them. Frankly, I don’t know how to pray for any of this. So let your Holy Spirit intercede for all of us.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2022 in Miscellaneous

 

Untitled Prayer in Haiku

Search our hearts, oh God

Make us like Ninevah’s king

Please bring your healing

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2022 in Jonah, Miscellaneous

 

Lent

Dear God, I grew up Baptist and I’m not sure I had even heard of Lent until I met my formerly-Episcopalian wife. I knew about Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday, but I had no knowledge of its relationship to Ash Wednesday, or even that Ash Wednesday existed. So here I am this year. I learn a little more each year. You reveal a little more to me each year. I gave up something for Lent and started observing it five days ago. But I guess it really wasn’t until church this morning, after we did the Gospel reading of Jesus in the wilderness for 40 days, that I really started to think about what this year’s Lent means to me. It was more about discipline and ritual. Now, I want to think through how it can be worship, sacrifice, empathy, and appreciation.

The thing I chose to give up, in a lot of ways, is a staple in my life. I’ll confess now that I considered a couple of different things that I ultimately deemed too difficult to pass up for the next six and a half weeks. Maybe that’s weak. Maybe I should have given one of them up. But the thing I chose is certainly changing my habits. It’s causing me to make conscious decisions. Maybe that’s the point. It’s as much about the sacrifice coming to mind, and then that sacrifice reminding me to worship, empathize, appreciate, and pray. But I think that has been missing the last few days.

So what do I want to pray about when this sacrifice comes to mind? What do I want brought to mind? Obviously, there are broken family relationships that are always on my heart. I spent a lot of time in church this morning praying for a couple facing some difficult, if not grave, health challenges. I learned that one of our priests is leaving to go home to Nigeria at the end of the month. I definitely need to pray for him. Then there is Ukraine and Russia. I confess that I care about that, but maybe not enough. We’ve sent money to an agency that is helping. I’ve prayed. I’ve watched news. But, well, I don’t know that the knowledge of it has disrupted my life very much. At least I know better than to complain about high gasoline prices. THAT is nothing compared with the fear, sorrow, and tragedy millions of people are experiencing right now.

I guess I want to include my work as part of all of this as well. And the role I play in our community. You have not only given me responsibilities over our organization but also influence with others. But I guess the big one is more worship. More worship of you. More time with you. More prayer. More repenting. More pleading for others.

Father, I will end this prayer with a prayer that take me where I need to start: I confess to Almighty God, and to the people reading this prayer, that I have greatly sinned. In my thoughts and in my words. In what I have done, and what I have failed to do. Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault. Therefore I asked blessed Mary, all the angels and the saints, and you my brothers and sisters to pray for me to the Lord, our God. I am sorry, Father. Thank you for your mercy.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

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Ukraine

Dear God, I’m sorry I haven’t prayed about this more (or at all). I’ve thought about it. I’ve worried about it a little. But I haven’t educated myself on it, followed it, or allowed it to touch my heart. But I read this morning that Russia started invading Ukraine, and my first thoughts were of the people living there who are terrified right now. From their military to government officials, to just people like me wondering if they will be able to protect their families, provide for their families, and sustain life. Will those that worship you still be able to do that with freedom? There is so much, and their pain has not touched me until now. In fact, the magnitude of this situation is still not really touching me.

I saw that commodities prices were jumping and it made me wonder if Americans’ biggest complaint in this invasion is that we are having to pay more for gasoline. Our priorities can be so out of whack–and I’m including myself in that statement.

Father, my government is not my idol. The economy is not my idol. While those two statements are mostly true, I confess to you right now that they are not entirely true. I do put some of my faith in my bank account, our military’s ability to protect me, and my job to provide for me. I am sorry for that. Please move in Ukraine and Russia. Give leaders everywhere, including Putin and Biden…well, let me just ask that you would guide this whole situation to work out for your glory. Make this pain count. Protect your children. Use this to draw all of us closer to you. I know that many in western countries will use this as an excuse to become more partisan. I don’t know if even you can stop that from happening, but my prayer is that, ultimately, this will all work out so that you will will be done and your kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
 

Wintering

Book Club Announcement: Wintering by Katherine May

Dear God, I was reading the introduction to this book club for a book called Wintering, and some of the words really resonated with me. I think this one paragraph sums it up:

In Wintering, May opens the door to winter, settles in, then watches it pass. She lets it teach her, and us, how to winter. May uses the word “wintering” as a metaphor, applying the meteorological season to a season of life. It’s not necessarily the hardest season, not the one that pushes us beyond our limits, although that can usher in a wintering. It’s the one in which we lie “fallow.” No more to do. Wait for spring.

That’s really quite something. I’ve never thought of lying fallow as an appropriate response to a season of life. All seasons are to be addressed, aren’t they? They are to be approached with deliberate intention and action. Even if there is nothing that can be done about one thing, I need to make sure I am being constructive in another area. Vacations might be for lying fallow, but the rest of life should be worked.

So what might be happening to me in a season of life where I lie fallow? What does that look like? I mean, I know I still need to do my job and provide for myself. I can’t just let myself go into a depressed state of wallowing. I know enough about myself to realize I would ultimately just lie in self pity and make matters only worse. So I cannot totally shut down. But should there be intentional seasons of restoring my soul? A chance for my body and life to rest from producing lots of fruit so that it might gather its strength for a productive spring? This is interesting. I might just have to join this book club and read this book.

Father, speak to me. Holy Spirit, speak to me. Jesus, speak to me. It’s interesting that there is this one part in my life that seems to be completely dormant and there is absolutely nothing I can do to revive it. I’ve had to let it lie and pray that you are helping it to regenerate in the silence. Are there other areas of my life that perhaps need this as well? There is a writing project I was really interested in a year ago, and I made some exciting progress on it, but now it has gone dormant. Should I let it stay that way for a time? How will I know when spring is here and it is time to pick it up again? Or was it only important for a time and not what I thought it would be for me? I don’t know. Holy Spirit, be my counselor. Guide me. Give me ears to hear.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
 

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Revenge

No verse.

Dear God, I was watching a basketball game with my wife last night that was a lot of “fun.” What made it fun? The revenge factor. The hate and animosity that the home team fans had for the visiting team, their coach in particular. The venom in the arena came through the TV. One of the announcers said, “We need more hate like this in college basketball.” My wife and I remarked how much fun it would have been to be there. A friend texted and told me his sister camped out for three days to get tickets. What fueled this glee on all of our parts (myself included)? Revenge. Hate. Animosity. In the case of last night, the “bad guys” lost and there was much rejoicing.

When I woke up this morning, I thought about this a little. Why was I drawn to revel and enjoy this vitriol for a while last night? Why was I texting friends about it?

There are still worldly things in my heart. Idols. Pride. Anger. Guilt. Lust. Pretty much all of the things listed by Paul in Galatians 5:19-21 as the “desires of the sinful nature” (NLT). I wish they weren’t there, but they are. And things of the world can fuel them if I let them.

The Bible in a Year thing I’ve been listening to this year is covering Exodus right now, and this morning mentioned the plagues on the Egyptians and how they not only eventually broke the Egyptians to let the Israelites go, but they were also the process of you defeating the Egyptian gods. But not only in the minds of the Egyptians, but also the minds of the Israelites. They had been in Egypt for 400 years. They had let Egyptian way of life creep into their lives as well. To some extent, the Egyptian gods had become their gods. So the plagues were also about revealing yourself to the Israelites as their one, true God.

Father, you are my one, true God and I am grateful for you. Thank you for making your grace attainable for me. Thank you for the opportunity to repent and humble myself before you and others. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for being a God that is worthy of my worship.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen