Monday, April 30, 2012

Prayer Walking--Not a Gimmick

A church of my childhood hosted a VBS and advertised in the community. The handout consisted of a white cardboard church building with times and dates and a plastic strip attached to the paper. When I dragged my thumbnail across the strip, it emitted a high-pitched sound saying the name of our church -- a gimmick from the 1960s.

            Junior high students enjoyed going door-to-door and giving those out as we invited neighbors to summer Bible classes. I don’t know if the squeaky speaking strip fascinated potential visitors or just the young teenagers. Another way to reach a community about the good news of Jesus Christ is the humble acts of prayer walking.

            Prayer walking may be new to some Christians. It’s not a gimmick. We’ve probably all done it at one time or another whether we labeled it as such or not: walking a hospital hall -- praying. Walking in your home -- praying. Riding in a car – praying.

            However, planned prayer walking is an effort in proximity. Navpress PrayKids newsletter describes prayer walking as “getting nearer to pray clearer.” On-site praying exercises selfless prayer. Walk a basketball court in your neighborhood, praying for the players. Walk the perimeter of your workplace, inviting God’s presence. Walk near a county jail and pray for inmates. Skilled nursing centers, the courthouse, or police and fire departments—give thanks for medical professionals and public servants. Pray for calm in their lives and recipients.

            God can hear requests for Bulgaria from a New York apartment, so prayer walking is not for God’s benefit. We don’t have to stand in an exact place to ask God’s grace. The walking and praying benefits both the pray-er and the prayed-for. 

            A forward-thinking scripture to pray is that people will recognize Jesus and that the time will soon arrive when “every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).    

            At the unemployment office, pray for those out of work. Pray at a military base or anytime you see the familiar camouflage fatigues of troops in airports or malls. At a movie theater, pray for godly entertainment. Find the highpoint in a city and pray for Christians to light the community. Walking through your day, watch for countenances that seem stricken with worry, bless the bearers with a silent prayer. At a senior citizen center, pray for the elderly.

            In the movie “Sarah, Plain and Tall,” widower Jacob Whiting placed an ad in a newspaper, for a wife and mother: “someone who will make a difference.” Every person on earth could benefit from “someone who will make a difference.”

            Pray near church campuses in your community asking for unity. At popular night spots, pray for the singles in the city. At tax offices pray for wise use of taxpayers’ funds. As you walk the street past your neighbors, pray for peace in their families.

            When a person or group prayer-walks, the act is not an attention-grabbing public spectacle. It’s a private stroll, a practice in humility, much like the setting of the Garden of Eden when God met and talked with Adam and Eve in “the cool of the evening.” Prayer says, “I can’t do enough, be enough, or earn enough to make things better in this world, Lord. I need your supernatural help.” 

            This week, wherever you walk—business, pleasure, or errands—notice your surroundings and in humility pray for your “neighbors.”    

            Hunger for Humility (16): “The Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless” (Psalm 84:11).

            Comments welcome

Friday, April 13, 2012

Don't Finagle Conversations

Right before the tornados hit the Dallas area last week my connecting flight left DFW Airport for Nashville, Tennessee. Soon, the winds favorably brought me within the embrace of friends’ arms, John and Beverly. We first met in 2006, and through the convenience of Email, cell phones, Facebook, and blog posts, we’ve kept in touch and become close friends. I spent three nights and days with them while Bev and I worked on a year’s worth of daily devotionals she wrote for cancer patients and family members, and caregivers.

            Later, I listened as Beverly talked with her doctor and described our conversations as “soul searching.” Some of them were. They had to be. You see, Beverly is at the tail end of eight years of fighting abdominal cancer. She’s endured five surgeries and additional stents and ports implanted. After undergoing three FDA approved chemo treatments and five experimental trials, she hopes her efforts will assist in curing her cancer and aid others.

            Without giving you intimate details, allow me to say that Beverly remains one of the brightest, strongest, and most positive women I know. Her humility and reliance on God astounds me. Her honest airing of her feelings refresh me. A female version of Job, even miserable in her skin, she refuses to say God has cursed her. She continually praises him.

            She has lost her hair numerous times, along with her fingernails, eyebrows, and eyelashes. With poise, she has endured indignities for the sake of future cancer patients -- indeed her willingness may save you or someone you love.

            I gave you the background of our friendship and her struggles to assist in introducing Jeremy Taylor’s (1613-1667) sixth rule for living humbly. In the language of his day, “Never speak anything directly tending to thy praise or glory; that is, with the purpose to be commended.”

            Through Beverly, I know exactly what Mr. Taylor wrote about in rule number six. Oftentimes, an opportunity might arise in conversation to spotlight some good deed she has done. However, Beverly needs no attention – no public applause. The heavenly Father knows all her charitable thoughts and deeds, and he generously rewards all who seek his praise alone. She remains content with God’s praise alone.

            How would it feel to go one week without compliments from others? Would you starve for affirmation? Why isn’t it enough for God alone to know about the times we succeed in charity? Yikes, I shudder to think how often I’ve thrown sparkle dust in a conversation about myself, so others would ask about my current works. In “Soul Work: Confessions of a Part-Time Monk,” Professor Randy Harris writes about power play in language. He says that postmodern theologians and philosophers believe that almost anything we say is an attempt at power play, to get the upper hand. He says he will not go that far in his assessment of our conversations. However, he does believe this, “We manipulate people and conversations to come out in a way that is agreeable to us.” Some examples are times that people ask us difficult questions: we answer how we want to, and avoid a direct answer or indictment of ourselves.

            Harris goes on to say, “We manipulate conversations to stroke our egos.” Have you ever tried to move a conversation into an area of your expertise? Alternatively, another example, if you receive a compliment on organizational skills, do you point to a messy area showing the messy flipside of your life? Then the complimentary person feels compelled to build you up by lavishing more kudos on your managerial skills? When receiving a compliment, it’s best to simply say, “Thank you,” and let the compliment float away. At home and in business, it’s sometimes necessary to communicate what we do, but always check your motives, don’t let praise from others be the design of your heart. It’s no wonder that so many Bible scriptures advise “silence.” Jesus reminds those who had ulterior motives, “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Matthew 12:34).

            My friend Beverly writes about her cancer journey at “John’s Wife,” (Blogspot), not for compliments or applause, instead she writes to help others grace their own turbulent storms. This week pay attention to your conversations. Listen a lot, that alone guarantees less language faux pas.

            Hunger for Humility (15): “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak” (James 1:19).

            Comments welcomeher or at  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Light Always Wins

During the last week of Jesus’ life on earth, there are references in the gospels about darkness, both nighttime and an evil blackness. Historical documents also mention the three hours of unnatural darkness while Christ was on the cross, one even written by Pontius Pilate.

            The elements that came together and brought about the crucifixion of Jesus included folk with dark evil souls. Judas, one of Jesus’ closest companions, showed his true color. When Jesus and the disciples gathered for the last supper, the Master said, “One of you is going to betray me.” Startled by his announcement, the disciples wanted to know which one of them would do so. Jesus identified Judas as the betrayer.

            “Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot.  . . . As soon as Judas took the bread Satan entered into him” (John 13:26, 27). Judas then left the upper room and the Apostle John closes the scene by writing, “And it was night.”

            In Gethsemane, Judas assisted in identifying Jesus to the unruly crowd, and the Son of God was arrested under the cover of darkness. That night Jesus said to his captors, “Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns” (Luke 22:53).

            The next day throughout a bright morning, Jesus hung on a cross, but then a solemn darkness settled over the earth at noon. Crucified about nine in the morning, Jesus was on the cross for six hours, and during the final three hours, an abnormal “darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining” (Luke 23:44).

            Through correspondence, independent witnesses later corroborated that the sun didn’t illuminate the earth for three hours. Tertullian wrote to the Roman senator Proculus: “The light of day was withdrawn, when the sun at the very time was in his meridian blaze . . . you yourselves have the account of the world-portent still in your archives!”

            Another account of the withdrawal of sunlight is in a report Pontius Pilate sent to Tiberius, emperor of Rome. “There was a darkness over the whole earth, the sun having been completely hidden, and the heaven appearing dark, so that the stars appeared.”

            Pilate further wrote, “I suppose your reverence is not ignorant of, because in all the world they lighted lamps from the sixth hour until evening.” He also wrote “the moon, being like blood, did not shine the whole night, and yet she happened to be at the full.” The unusual darkness must have been unnerving, frightening. Did God clothe the cross in darkness because he couldn’t bear the world gawking any longer upon the suffering perfect Son? 

            On that long ago Sunday at dawn, when devoted women went to Jesus’ tomb an angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said” (28:1, 5, 6).

            Centuries before Jesus came to earth, Isaiah prophesied: “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” The refreshment of a clean start is the promise made at the empty tomb of Jesus. 

            From the cradle to the cross, read Jesus’ story. His total goodness has a way of shining into dark secrets and dispelling shadows. God draped darkness over the evil deeds of the cross, but Sunday dawned and Jesus rose from the dead, proving his power and giving us hope.

            Light always wins. Light always overcomes darkness.

            Hunger for Humility (14) “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).