Opportunities for Unity

The Massachusetts State House. Boston, MA

The Massachusetts State House. Boston, MA

Thursday, May 1st is the National Day of Prayer. Massachusetts where I live, is marking the day with two meetings in Boston. The first is a noon-day prayer meeting at the State House. The second is an evening meeting at one of the local churches.

From The National Day of Prayer web site: “Our theme for 2014 is One Voice, United in Prayer, emphasizing the need for individuals, corporately and individually, to place their faith in the unfailing character of their Creator, who is sovereign over all governments, authorities, and men.  To further highlight our theme, we’ve chosen Romans 15:6 as our Scripture for this year:  “So that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.””

The following is a prayer written by Billy Graham’s daughter, Anne Graham Lotz. This will be read at noon in al the statehouses of the nation. Join us from wherever you are!

“Lord of the Universe. Lord of this planet. Lord of the nations. Lord of our hearts. On this National Day of Prayer, we look to You…
In the darkness, You are our Light.
In the storm, You are our Anchor.
In our weakness, You are our Strength. In our grief, You are our Comfort.

In our despair, You are our Hope.
In our confusion, You are our Wisdom. In time of terrorism, You are our Shield. In time of war, You are our Peace.
In times of uncertainty, You are the Rock on which we stand.
We make our prayer to You using the words of the prophet Daniel:

O Lord, You are the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant of love with those who love Him and keep His commandments. You are merciful and forgiving. You are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame because we have sinned against You, and done wrong. We have turned away from Your commands and principles. We have turned away from You.

Yet You have promised in 2 Chronicles 7, that if we–a people identified with You–would humble ourselves, pray, seek Your face, and turn from our wicked ways, then You would hear our prayer, forgive our sin and heal our land.

So we choose to stop pointing our finger at the sins of others, and examine our own hearts and lives. We choose to acknowledge our own sin–our neglect and defiance and ignorance and even rejection of You. This day we choose to repent.

In response to our heartfelt repentance, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Father of Jesus Christ, in keeping with all Your righteous acts and according to Your promise, turn away Your anger and Your wrath from the United States of America.

Hear the prayers and petitions offered to You on this National Day of Prayer, as we give You our full attention. Give ear, our God, and hear; open Your eyes and see. We do not make requests of You because we are righteous, but because of Your great mercy.

For the glory of Your Name hear our prayer, forgive our sin, and heal our land.

We ask this in the name of Your Son Jesus Christ who offers us salvation from Your judgment, forgiveness for our sin, and reconciliation with You through His own blood shed on the Cross. Amen.”

– 2014 National Prayer by Anne Graham Lotz

You can learn more about The National Day of Prayer and  observances near you from the website: http://nationaldayofprayer.org/

How can you participate? Find a pre-arranged gathering near you? Gather some friends at church or in your home? Pray the prayer by Anne Graham Lotz during your lunch break?

Take a moment to ask God how He wants you to observe the day with millions across the country. Let me know what you decide.=}

Believe the Promises! The Truth Will Set You Free!

The God of all creation, became man, lived the only perfect human life ever lived, suffered and was crucified to reconcile us to Himself. CHRIST IS RISEN FROM THE DEAD! He has power over death! Let your Spirit be glad knowing that you were bought with a price. And His promises are true!

20130701_052153Psalm 19 The heavens declare the glory of God,
  and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
    and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
    and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

20130806_144408Zephaniah 3:14 Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
15 The Lord has taken away the judgments against you;
    he has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
    you shall never again fear evil.
16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Fear not, O Zion;
let not your hands grow weak.
17 The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
18 I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival,
so that you will no longer suffer reproach.
19 Behold, at that time I will deal
with all your oppressors.
And I will save the lame
    and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
    and renown in all the earth.
20 At that time I will bring you in,
at the time when I gather you together;
for I will make you renowned and praised
    among all the peoples of the earth,
when I restore your fortunes
    before your eyes,” says the Lord.

*I have added the bold type for emphasis.
I hope you can sit and contemplate just how precious and irreplaceable you are to our loving Heavenly Father. If that is hard to grasp, please thank God, anyway, by faith. Give Him an opportunity to make the promises more real to you than ever before.

CHRIST IS RISEN!

HE IS RISEN INDEED!… For YOU!

 

Sorrow and Gratitude Mingle…

DSC_0430I attend an Anglican church. This one has all the bells and whistles. Holy Week offers a profound worship experience every day, especially Wednesday through Saturday evenings. Wednesday night was Tenebrae.

Two men dressed in black robes chant solemnly and beautifully, two of the Benedictine night watches. Over the course of the hour long service 12 candles are snuffed out as the artificial lights dim to match. We who listen stand, sit and kneel on cue to fit the scripture as they sing hauntingly. Near the end, only the candle representing Christ remains. The chanters move to read their scripture set to music by this only source of light.

Then, even that light is removed. This symbolizes the death of Jesus on the Cross for us.  Fifty or so of us sit in complete darkness and silence, together, contemplating the meaning of the darkness. Just as the silence becomes comfortable, a huge shock of a noise, like a large wooden door being slammed in a violent storm, jolts us all. It is intentional. It represents the jarring of creation as the Messiah takes our sins on Himself. I find myself in barely controllable tears. I want to WAIL!

At the foot of the cross I feel the anguish of my own sin. Not just against God, but against my family and friends, against society. Without Jesus I am, we all are, eternally separated from the Creator and all of creation as it is intended to be.

But it does not end there…. The Christ Candle reappears! Only the Christ candle.

The story is not over. On Good Friday, in the face of death, there is hope. There is gratitude for the promise of the Resurrection. There is power greater than death. There is reconciliation with God, creation, family, friends and society.

There is still a heaviness in the air as all of us leave the dark church in silence. I sit in my car alone and let myself feel. The WAIL is released. Then, when I let go, the gratitude begins to drip into the car, into me. There is hope; even a bittersweet joy that begins to touch each of those recently exposed places.

We are never alone. The past is just that, past. That’s what Good Friday is about.

Join me in giving Jesus those new, or recurring, thoughts of your mistakes, offenses or worse! He does not take them reluctantly. He wants them. He died for them. He slammed the door on them…. forever.

Often, once we give them to Jesus ,they still like to try to harass. All we need to do is say, out loud when possible, “No. Jesus took it. I am forgiven!” Receive the very costly, yet free to you, gift.

Will you let go and allow the love of God heal the exposed and the hidden places? 

Confessions of a Beachcomber

Planted in the crag, in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

Planted in the crag, in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

So, why do I show you a photo of a mountain if I’m talking about beaches? I have always considered myself a Mountain person. Just as there is a difference between Cat people and Dog people, there are differences between Beach people and Mountain people.

I always love to get up high where I can see. A few years back, I trained for several weeks so I could hike 2,000 feet up a mountain in Yellowstone Park in two miles, just to see a spectacular view of most of the park and even the Grand Tetons 75 miles away! It was worth it!

Interestingly, I live less than five miles from several public beaches on the Atlantic Ocean, and that has been the case for the last 20 years! My mom lives right on a beach half the year, and I visit her there at least three times a year. When I was in Africa, nearly half of my 13 years on the continent, I lived in coastal cities. I have visited beaches much of my life.

So, as much as I love the mountaintops, the views and the “high’s,” in reality, I live at sea level. I have learned to look for treasures and to appreciate what is around me.

A Hermit Crab on Crane Beach, Ipswich, MA by Karen Zanellis

A Hermit Crab on Crane Beach, Ipswich, MA by Karen Zanellis

I often go to a mountain or a beach to get away from the static of life so I can hear God more clearly. Life can be so imposing at times. I need to find space. Mountains and oceans both offer open space. Whether planted in a crag on a mountaintop or relating to a hermit crab at sea level I find wonder and majesty in God’s creations.

By being in God’s creation I can also come to grips with what needs to change in my life.

An orange comb in the white sand. Crane Beach.

An orange comb in the white sand. Crane Beach.

In this late season of lent, that leads us into the intensity of Holy week, from Palm Sunday to Easter, my short comings, sins and imperfections can stick out like this bright orange comb on the beach, that I honestly did NOT plant there. I Promise!

As I walk toward resurrection Sunday, I first go through the celebration Hosannas of Palm Sunday when Jesus enters Jerusalem triumphantly, to the Last Supper and the Crucifixion of Good Friday.  It was an emotional roller coaster of a week when Jesus first walked it. By entering into these days of remembrance, I am reminded of the price God paid to bring me into right relationship with Him….

I am grateful beyond description and I am motivated to honor God as best I can by choosing to give Him the “orange combs” in my life.

I choose to walk this coming week to the Easter mountaintop, through the lowlands at sea level. I do not come with shame, but rather with a recognition and gratitude that I need both Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday be the woman God created me to be.

Will you join me in a sober, yet hopeful self-examination this week? Don’t hold on to what you find, but leave it all, forever, at the foot of the cross on Good Friday!

Ask Whatever You Wish….

Abiding in the vine, brings fruit and life and answered prayer.

DSC_0412

I like the “fruitful vines” over the door. The real access is NOT that hard, even if it feels that way at times!

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. “(John 15:7)

I was blown away, last week when I read this passage again. The promise of Jesus is breath taking! There are conditions. I must abide and His word must abide in me, but the result is too grand for me to wrap my mind around much of the time.

Whenever I hear the word abide, I think of the children’s song about the little rabbit being chased by a hunter. “Come little rabbit, come in side and safely you’ll abide.” The hand motions that accompany the words are to gently wave an invitation to come. Then once inside, to hold the “rabbit” gently in your arm, like you hold a baby adoringly and gently stroke the imaginary rabbit to reassure it that it is safe.

Among the synonyms for abide from Vines expository are: continue, dwell, endure, remain and stand. Those cover the cozy rabbit image of rest, and add the endurance factor. Standing and enduring are active choices. I need to actively seek God. At the same time I rest in His love for me. A little farther in John 15:16 Jesus says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” (Emphasis mine.)

There is that amazing promise of answered prayer again. This one begins with a clear statement from Jesus, “You did not choose me, but I chose you…” And to think I have thought it was my idea! The Creator of the Universe chose ME. The Creator of the Universe chose YOU! And then, if we continue to respond to His invitation to be cared for by Him, and we are students of His word so that we know His ways… he promises to answer whatever we pray in His name!

John states this amazing promise clearly in 1John 5, “13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”

The if‘s in these passages are not unreasonable conditions. Get to know God and His ways. He can not deny Himself. His character does not change and He will not act against His own character. He must fulfill His promises. By being students of the word of God, we cooperate with Him and pray His will into existence. (Matt. 6:10) There is a whole other book, or many more books here, but trust me; the requirements to cooperating are minimal on our side. “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) The Creator of everything initiates and we respond. When we respond He rewards. “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6 emphasis mine.)

Back to the vine…We have been grafted in to the life of Christ. He offers us a fruitful life. A vine does not work to produce the fruit. It is the giver of life who flows through the vine and the branches to produce the fruit. We cooperate. Jesus began John 15 with.”I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.” We don’t even tend the vine! We cooperate and are rewarded!

Be encouraged! It is easy to look in places that distract from the truth. I know! But We are continually invited into the presence of the living God. God is in you. (Col. 1:27; Eph. 1:13….) We will never be left alone! (Heb. 13:5; Matt. 28:20) Go after the promises to abide and have your prayers answered!