Saturday, August 27, 2011

Kneeling in Prayer

 “Come let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.” Psalm 95:6-7

Two wives were mending trousers, each mending her preacher-husband’s pants. One said, “My poor James. He is so discouraged in his work. He’s thinking about resigning and finding a regular job. It seems nothing goes right for him.”

            The other wife said, “My husband says just the opposite. He is enthused. It seems like the Lord is closer to him than ever before.” A hushed silence fell as they continued to mend the trousers—one patching the seat and the other repairing the knees.

            My parents knelt with my sister and me at bedtime and we said goodnight to God, and we learned bowing by example. My mother often prayed on her knees through the day, too, behind a closed door. We lived in one of those houses that had an old fashioned key latch, with key hole. When she went in and closed the door, I peeked in and saw her kneeling in front of the toilet, hands clasped in prayer, no doubt pleading to make it through another day with her four little rascals.

            It's one of my most vivid memories of sneaking peeks at her through the keyhole of that old-fashioned doorplate, the kind unlocked by a skeleton key. God provided my mother with rest and re-creation and will also help any praying mother err on the side of sanity and love. My mother has a new home as of yesterday morning. Dad and three children were with her as she took her last breath. What a privilege to have been there at that moment and to have been her child.  

            The postures of prayer mentioned in the Bible are numerous — standing, lying face down on the ground, kneeling, hands lifted toward the heavens, eyes turned heavenward, and more. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he mentions his prayer posture, “I kneel before the Father” (3:14).

            Our culture is an ocean and several centuries removed from bowing before monarchs. A bow or curtsy indicated that the performer would defer to the person of higher rank, whether they wanted to or not. In private, when knees are bowed to God, there’s more involved than coerced obedience.

            A story of a father and son demonstrates forced compliance. Before seat belt laws, a traveling dad said to his pre-school son who was standing in the seat of their car, “Sit down, son.”

            The child didn’t sit down, but after several more verbal commands he did. Finally seated, the boy looked at his dad and said, “But I’m still standing on the inside.”

            In private, when knees are bent in prayer, it’s a voluntary act. When I was a teenager, I strayed from kneeling, but later on in life, I began praying on my knees again.

            The first few weeks of adopting that prayer pose were difficult. For me, it meant allowing God to look into all the rooms in my heart, including the locked ones that had skeleton keys.

            When kneeling, we’re physically closer to the earth, but somehow our hearts move to the courts of heaven. Try kneeling in prayer this week. Of course, you just might have to patch pant-knees but meanwhile God will be tailoring your life from above.

            Index card verse for week 34: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

            Contact Cathy at  


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Storm Surge

Book Give Away August 31: Reply, Comment, or post to enter. You choose which of my books you want: A Still and Quiet Soul: Embracing Contentment, The Stained Glass Pickup (devotional), or A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts.

The boat rocked as waves slapped its wooden hull, and the men on board lunged with the craft, stances unsteady. Streaks of electricity split charcoal skies, and the men knew that it would take only one direct hit to the boat mast and they were going down. They might go down anyway because the small craft was nearly full of lake water.  

Beyond the boaters’ control, the stormy night had also spewed water into the hull. If a massive wave came along, no human strength could stop the boat from capsizing. Casting nets. Mending nets. Filleting fish – all that they could manage, but the roiling lake was beyond their control. The storm grabbed the fishermen’s imaginations and took them on a spin of terror.

The men clung to the boat’s rigging, hoping for the storm to abate, but the storm didn’t go away. Instead, their reasons for alarm increased when what seemed to be a ghost appeared above the water surface. They wanted the approaching phantom to disappear. Blinking water from their eyes, shaking their heads trying to clear their senses, they tried to banish the ghost from their vision.

Still, the supposed apparition didn’t go away, but instead drew closer and closer and finally spoke to them in a familiar voice -- the voice of Jesus. His soothing voice offered the first notion of hope when two words buoyed their spirits, “Take courage.”

 His presence and words seemed to say, “I’m here now. Cheer up. I’ve got enough courage to go around, and besides all that, watch as I control the fury of this storm.” After identifying himself to his disciples, Jesus again urged them “Don’t be afraid.” Then he simply climbed into their boat, and “the wind died down,” and they were completely amazed (Mark 6:50-51).

When the disciples thought they saw a ghost, they despaired even further. False spirits are at the root of creating doubts and fear, and fear over-clouds hope. Longtime preacher Charles Hodge says, “Fear is the darkroom where negativity is developed.”

In any coastal area, the term “storm surge” applies to the times that seawater takes up temporary residence on productive landmasses. Life can also resemble a coastline, and storm surges can arrive at any time, due to a bad health report, loss of a job, or trying relationships. Knowing that storm surges recede gives birth to hope.

Lyle Arakaki of Hawaii says that because of the time difference between the continental U.S, the NFL Monday Night Football game is actually played in mid-afternoon, but the local TV station delays broadcasting the taped game until 6:30 p. m.

Mr. Arakaki says that when his favorite team plays he’s too excited to wait until the television showing so he listens to the game, finds out the results and then watches the game in the evening. He said that influences how he views the game. When he sees his team fumble or throw an interception, it’s not a problem because he knows the outcome. During such times, he says to himself, “That’s bad, but it’s okay. In the end, we’ll win.”

When storms surge and we’re trying to find a plank to float on, it makes a difference when we know the outcome of all our troubles on this earth. The psalmist declared that when he cried out to God that God made him “bold and stouthearted” (138:3).

No matter what rumblings lurk in your near future, take a deep breath and exhale it in prayer. Jesus, the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow says, “Take courage from me.” In addition, one of his specialties is climbing into rocking boats and calming storms.

Index card verse for week 33: “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him” (Luke 8:25).

Contact Cathy at    

Friday, August 12, 2011

“Come away with me. . ."

“Come away with me by yourselves and get some rest.” These rank among my favorite things that Jesus said to his disciples. Probably every person has needed, at one time or another, to hear and practice those words. Especially now, disciples of Jesus experience refreshment when we set aside time for prayer, study of the Gospels, and meditation on how our Savior lived his daily life on earth.

            Get ready for a treat if you decide to read the Gospel of Mark. You will meet anew Jesus the Wonderful, the breathtaking Savior sent to redeem the entire world. You’ll also get a glimpse of the time frame of Jesus’ day-to-day ministry, when he went from one good work to another and didn’t grow weary. The book of Mark uses the terms “immediately,” “at once,” “without delay,” and “as soon as,” over 40 times.

            Those time references allow readers to realize that Jesus’ day was crowded with needy people much like some of ours’. The disciple Mark helps us to see the immediacy of the needs that surrounded Jesus, and that Jesus chose to lean on the Father, to fuel his teaching and compassion. New Testament writers tell us that Jesus was sometimes so busy there was no time to eat. Huge crowds pressed so close to him that he barely had room to move, and he even had to make special arrangements to have time alone with his disciples to train and teach them.

            The purpose of Mark’s gospel—written primarily to Gentile readers—proves by Jesus’ works that he was sent from God, and empowered over nature, demons, and illnesses. Mark also emphasizes the authority and miracles of Jesus rather than the teachings of Christ. Mark’s inspired writing technique—of relating mostly miracles—reminded me of God arming Moses with miracles to prove to the Egyptians that God ruled supreme.

            The word servant is only used seven times in the text of Mark, but the prevalent theme is captured in chapter 10:45 when Mark writes about Jesus that he came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as ransom for many.

             If I could rouse your interest in one area of Jesus’ life, I would encourage you to remember how he still interacts with you and life-supports you each day. I encourage you to daily offer a prayer of thanksgiving for Jesus’ intervention, rebuke, healing, or comfort. At the end of your day, think back over all the happenings and look for the moments when Jesus rescued, aided, or gave wisdom. Then think about Jesus’ life, stories about him and find one that correlates to your circumstances and pray remembering the old story and the your new experience. Christians know to pray through the name of Jesus, but so many times that phrase, In Jesus’ name,” can end up becoming trite or meaningless to us.  

            At the end of your day, freshen your walk with Jesus by really thinking about exactly how Jesus helped you throughout the day and end your prayers in that way. Here are a few examples of prayer endings: When you respond to accusations with silence instead of retaliating with unkind words, say thank you in the name of Jesus who stood silent before his captors, or when you choose to help someone instead of indulging in selfishness, give thanks through the name of Jesus who provided for a hungry crowd on a hillside.

            Our county suffers from a heat drought that can cause us to be hot, tired, and frustrated, but a well of living water will quench thirsts, nourish bodies, and replenish strength like no other, and his name is Jesus. The calendar may say August, but a day can bring a refilling through time spent with Jesus. Do you want to shiver with delight in August? Spend an hour or so reading the book of Mark. Underline your favorite verses, and memorize our scripture words for this week, an invitation from Jesus that will give you a breather and help you endure.

Index card verse for week 32: “Jesus said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest’” (Mark 6:31).

Friday, August 05, 2011

Basket Miracles

Winner of the July book drawing: a male reader from Springfield, MO. Book mailed out this week. A new drawing for August. You choose which book you would like to receive. Reply or post to enter.

“There are no miracles, of that I am sure” Pearl S. Buck wrote in “A Bridge for Passing.” Shocked by her words, I read further to see what she based her statement upon. Near the end of this column, I’ll share her explanation.
Baskets of miracles dot the pages of the Bible. I use the term “baskets” quite literally. The first basket miracle assisted in the rescue of a baby. Born into an enslaved family, this baby Moses would become the Hebrews’ savior. Centuries earlier, the Hebrews lived in freedom on Egyptian grazing lands, but when their population grew to staggering numbers, a domineering Pharaoh bound them into servitude.
Despite hundreds of years of harsh treatment and living conditions, the prolific Hebrews kept adding names to their family Bibles. Finally, the Pharaoh issued an edict that all male babies should be drowned in Nile River. At least one Hebrew mother kept the secret that she’d birthed a third child, a son. Prudent, she kept him hidden.
 In private, she wove a tiny bassinet of reeds and coated it with pitch. She placed her infant son inside, most likely christening the tiny boat with prayer. Then she launched the water-worthy vessel into the Nile, and guided by Divine current the baby drifted right into the path of an Egyptian princess and her entourage.

Discovered by royalty, the baby was named “Moses” because he was drawn “from the water.” Spared by God, Moses grew to read and write, tutored by the Egyptians. Later he would record the early history of mankind, from the beginning of the world through God’s law giving. One miracle in a basket.

Much later, when Jesus multiplied a few fish and loaves, there was a hearty catch of leftovers. Matthew 15:29-39 relates that the disciples gathered up seven basketsfuls of God-grown fish and God-baked bread. More baskets of miracles.

Even later, the apostle Paul encountered hostile religious leaders, who refused to listen to his message about the Jesus Christ. Their minds closed to any discussion of religious thought other than their tradition, they plotted to kill Paul. However, ingenious friends helped Paul escape at night by lowering him outside of the Damascus city walls. Another evil plan foiled, another miraculous escape aided by a basket.

The rescues of baby Moses and the adult Paul happened because God worked and kept them alive. Because of their leadership and teaching, others would also escape captivity. At God’s command, Moses led the Hebrews from Egypt. God-commissioned Paul preached to non-Jews, leading many to believe in the Christ.

By definition, a miracle is “an event that appears to be contrary to the laws of nature and is regarded as an act of God,” according to the Encarta World English Dictionary. When Pearl S. Buck wrote “There are no miracles, of that I am sure,” she followed with this explanation.

“If one walks on water and heals the sick and raises the dead to life again, it is not a matter of magic, but of knowing how to do it.” What we observe as extraordinary, the bypassing of the natural laws of the earth are no feat for God. Miracles are simply God’s natural work.  

A baby rescued through the use of a basket, a cancer patient healed, thousands fed from a pittance of food, a prodigal returned home, an apostle survived to tell the good news—all engineered from God’s blueprint—because He is able.

Index card scripture for week 31: Jesus said, “I have compassion for these people….I do not want to send them away hungry or they may collapse on the way” (Matthew 15:32).