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Monday, November 30, 2009

A Soul Food Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone! Having a wonderful time. Hope you are too.

What? Not ready for Christmas yet? Wanting it to come. Waiting for its blessings. And oh so much to do before it does come. Yeh, I know. Me too.

Busy making ready. Bordering on panic. Doing again this year what I promised myself I would never do again. I’m forgetting the Christmas Spirit and getting caught up in Christmas preparations.

Doug Rumford, a pastor friend of mine, lays out a marvelous 4-step plan for renewing spiritual vitality. He introduces the topic of spiritual health with a discussion of the uncomfortable symptoms of soul neglect. Here are three symptoms I relate to.
low-grade or holiday depression
the resurgence of unhealthy habits
a diminished resistance to impulse and temptation
When I recognize these appearing in my life I know that it’s time to work on refreshing my soul.

Hmmm. Soul neglect! Running on spiritual fumes! Well, I’ll be. And here I thought that the cold weather and the fewer hours of daylight caused my pre-Christmas emptiness and irritability. Or is it the memories of Christmases past? Or the frustration of too little time, money and energy?

Reading my friend Doug’s spiritual vitality plan, I’m thinking I can have a better, happier, and more spiritual holiday season this year. Here’s my plan.

First, connect with God’s Presence. Read the Christmas story and focus on the birth of Jesus, God with us.
Second, connect to God’s Perspective. Read the Christmas story again and focus on the heavenly glory and eternal plan of God there revealed.
Third, connect with God’s Power. Read the Christmas story yet again and focus on the awesome power of God to overcome despair and doubt, and even Herod’s death squad.
Fourth, connect to God’s Purpose. Read the Christmas story one more time and focus on God’s saving love, on justice and mercy, peace on earth, and good will to all.

The Christmas story is excellent food for the soul. It brings spiritual vitality, and drives away the symptoms of soul neglect. Now, soul food is not fast food. For it to be truly nutritional, the Christmas story must enjoyed slowly and long savored.

May God fill your Christmas preparations with Christmas Spirit through your thoughtful reading of the Christmas story. The real Christmas story is told in the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke in the Bible.

# 83 - 'God With Us' Prayer

The first movement in prayer is to center on the presence of God. As you begin your prayer, deliberately put yourself into the presence of God. This is a decision you make, regardless of how you are feeling. Close your eyes, change your posture, light a candle, or whatever. Focus. Open yourself to God who is always with us. Pray something like this:
Here I am, Lord Jesus. I am here to meet you. I acknowledge your presence. I am going to spend this time with you. Help me to realize that I am in your presence and that you are with me, even though I may not feel your presence. Remind me that you are Emmanuel, which means ‘God With Us.’
-- taken from the Upper Room brochure ‘Pray Where You Are”

Monday, November 23, 2009

# 82 - Great Things Prayer

The Great Things Prayer is a courageous prayer. The idea comes from William Carey (1761-1834), a shoe cobbler in England before his conversion, and the first great missionary to India. His motto was “Believe great things about God; expect great things from God; and attempt great things for God.”
The Great Things Prayer is a prayer that eventually is a prayer shared by many. Great things begin with one person’s vision, one person’s prayer, one person taking a first step in faith. But, truly great things are well beyond the accomplishment of one person alone. Great things for God are accomplished in communion with others.
The Great Things Prayer is a prayer of surrender. For great things to happen God must be in charge and the one offering the prayer must yield the vision and submit to the humble role of being obedient servant to the King of Kings.
So here is the Great Things Prayer. 1. Believe – catch a vision of God’s purpose. 2. Expect – share it, let it grow and take shape in a community of faith. 3. Attempt – surrender you life’s plan and yield your life in service to the Great Thing God has placed on your heart

Monday, November 16, 2009

# 81 - Pray in Tongues

In chapters 2, 10 and 19 of Acts and chapters 12-14 of 1 Corinthians, the Bible discusses ‘speaking in tongues’. When my 73-year old cousin-in-law, and occasional missionary to India, learned how we are exploring 100 Ways to Pray she wrote me, “Have you listed any ways to pray that use the charismatic gifts? I know that it may be controversial to mention these, but really it is just another way to pray.” So, today, I’m mentioning praying in tongues. The charismatic gifts, tongues included, are gifts of passion, soul-passion. Praying in tongues is soul-prayer, prayer with the deepest concern about something or for someone whose need you feel but for which the words you find, if any, are woefully inadequate to the greatness of the concern. Praying in tongues is giving utterance to urgent, unspecific, yet prayerful yearnings within. Often this form of prayer is private, although there are places where in spiritual fellowship it is commonplace. If spoken or sung, praying in tongues may sound like a beautiful mantra, a scream, or just plain gibberish. No matter. God understands, and our prayers are only for God anyway. If written, a tongues prayer may look like scribble or even an alien language. No matter. God understands. God hears and answers. Just pray.

Monday, November 9, 2009

# 80 - Last Words Prayer

The Last Words prayer looks at Luke’s version of the “last words” Jesus spoke from the cross. It takes those three lines and turns them into a personal prayer. The three brief lines may be repeated over and over as many times and as often as you would like. Each time you offer the prayer, offer it quietly, taking deep breaths and speaking slowly. You might also try praying with your feet comfortably flat on the floor and your hands on your knees with your palms upraised to let the Spirit of the Lord flow through your body and into your soul. Visualize the crucifix and pray.
Father, forgive me.
Jesus, be with me.
Into your hands I commend my spirit.
Repeat many times.

Monday, November 2, 2009

# 79 - The Always Prayer

An important word to remember in prayer is the word “always.” “Always” means eternal. God has always existed and always will. God is glorified when we acknowledge God’s eternal qualities. So begin each prayer petition with an “always” statement. Here’s an example. Start with, “God you are always present, even when we feel abandoned…” Then mention your prayer concern, “My friend has isolated himself from everyone right now, but you are there. Break through his shell. Let him feel your touch.” We can apply the word “always” to every one of the characteristics of God. Here are a few of those characteristics. God is always powerful, always knowing, always fair, always holy, always truthful, always patient. Can you think of other parts of God’s “always” character that are not on this list? Make your own list. But most of all, call on the colorful characteristics of God to help you shape your prayers as you talk to God each day. “Always” prayers are powerful prayers.

The Abundant Life: Where Has It Gone?

In the last several weeks I’ve encountered several people, some here in the community, whose lives are miserable. Much of their misery is caused by well-intentioned people in their lives who seem to think they know better “what’s good for them.”

A long time ago I learned that there are only three roles to choose from when in a relationship. One can assume the role of a child. One can assume the role of a parent. Or, one can assume the role of an adult.

Healthy relationships are adult-adult relationships.

Sadly, I am discovering that a ton of people prefer the parent role. Apparently it is easier and simpler for the many “bullies” out there to “parent” the whole world, imposing their notions on everyone. They would rather not listen to, reason with, or accept as true and valid anyone else’s idea, understanding, or preference.

I guess the parent role works pretty well for the “ones who think they know best.” But their bullying is misery for everyone else around, especially their family.

I have never met a grown up who appreciates the indignity of being treated as a child. I have never met a bully who is, even in the least little bit, ever satisfied.

Jesus came to break that chain of violence and oppression. At the beginning of his ministry, as recorded in the Gospel of Luke, he says,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me… He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives … to set at liberty those who are oppressed …

I truly believe that if God could hate, he would hate bullies the most. Why? Because the misery bullies inflict sucks the ever-lasting life out of the souls of God’s beloved ones. Whereas Jesus, speaking of himself as the good shepherd, says,

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

God gives life. The Gospel of John tells us that. Ezekiel 34 explains that God stands over against oppressors and bullies. Be assured of that.

May the oppressed reach out to Jesus, and receive him.
May those who live in misery find freedom to stand in the power of Jesus, and live.