Praying for Chicago

pc-77-east-garfield-parkWednesday night I went to a PrayChicago event, where church members and leaders from all over the Chicago area gathered to pray together. PrayChicago announced a partnership that night. They’ve joined with Prayercast (a great ministry that makes short prayer videos for nations and groups around the world–I really suggest checking out the Prayercast website) to create 77 prayer videos for Chicago, one for each neighborhood. They are releasing a new prayer video each day for the next 76 days (it started yesterday), and each video is accompanied by an informational page on that neighborhood’s history and particular prayer points.

If God has laid Chicago on your heart, please join me in praying for each of its unique neighborhoods over the next couple months. Just go the PrayChicago website, scroll down, and click on the “sign up for daily Chicago 77 updates.” You’ll receive an email each day with a link to the daily prayer video.

If you’d like to check out the videos before you subscribe, go to the Prayercast site, where you’ll find LOTS of prayer videos, for many, many countries as well as for Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods. Just look at the options in the top menu bar. Maybe you’ll decide to pray for a country a day, too.

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Link Leads: global awareness; “winning=success”?; the Syrian crisis; heart-changing prayer

My feet in two of their favorite places: in boots (that means fall is here!) and on the trail!

My feet in two of their favorite places: in boots (that means fall is here!) and on the trail!

In “How to Raise a Global Teenage Girl,” Beth Bruno writes about raising a globally aware daughter, but her wisdom applies to raising/teaching all children and even to becoming more globally aware ourselves.

I love this piece by Jenny Rae Armstrong, in which she begins “In Defense of Participation Trophies” but then continues on to challenge our culture’s “success” mindset which has all too often become part of our Christian worldview as well.

And what I saw next to the path--these ginormous mushrooms growing right next to a drainpipe.

And what I saw next to the path–these ginormous mushrooms growing right next to a drainpipe.

Meant to post this piece a while ago, and I rediscovered it in my draft posts. “On the Refugee Crisis” is written by Fatima Bhutto, who lived in Syria as a refugee when she was a child. This gives her a very interesting perspective on the many Syrians who are now fleeing their homeland. She ends the piece with this: “In a connected world, how can anyone close their doors?” Beautiful writing.

This last link is to Natasha Robinson’s homepage. Please feel free to visit her wonderful blog and other offerings, but take a look at the prayer she has on the homepage. I’m praying it today.

Open Doors link

I simply have to share this story published by Open Doors, an organization that empowers and supports persecuted Christians worldwide. The title of the story is “Iranian Jailer Transformed because of Faithful Prisoner.”

Noushin (name changed for safety), a house church leader in Iran, was terrified she would be imprisoned for her faith. She was afraid she would buckle under duress and reveal the names of her fellow believers or deny Christ. But when she was imprisoned, she experienced the peace and direction of the Holy Spirit in ways that amazed not only her but the man who interrogated her.

Please follow the link above to read the entire story, and if you’re a follower of Christ, remember He is in YOU as well. You have the same Holy Spirit indwelling you.

the truth that keeps me out of the cave of despair

My body returned from Scotland last Thursday night. It has taken my mind longer to return. It was ready right away to be with my kids, to celebrate PJ’s 9th birthday (how is it possible that my YOUNGEST is in his last year of single digits?), and ease back into the cycle of cooking/washing/straightening. My grey matter was clearly not up for all the other parts of my normal life—i.e. meetings/appointments/a packed schedule—because I didn’t even realize I’d missed a significant meeting at church on Monday evening till I checked my email later that night and saw a note from the team leader wondering about my absence.
My mind moved—in one short minute—from gradual re-entry to high alert.
And into guilt, too, of course.
How? How could I have so completely forgotten a meeting I’d been very excited about only a month before? How could I have gone an entire weekend without checking my full schedule for this week?
So complete was my plunge into alert mode that I was unable to sleep. At 2 a.m. I finally slipped from bed to read in the bathroom, hoping my mind would shut off. It didn’t work. I returned to bed, but no sleep came. I prayed, working my way through the phrases of the Lord’s Prayer, but I kept circling around to guilt and then to the busy-ness of the week ahead.
“Oh, Lord, help me to get past this and rest,” I asked, and my understanding of my guilt and frustration began to shift. I realized what was really eating at me was concern for how I would be perceived by the other members of the team, was embarrassment, was shame at having to admit I’d simply forgotten. This self-preservation and focus was what was keeping me awake.
Still, even though I could name my issue, sleep never came. I finally got up, went upstairs, and found my younger three already awake in the living room. “Can you pray for me?” I asked them. I explained my missing the meeting, my lack of sleep.
“Of course,” they said. Maddie prayed that I would have peace and strength for the day; Jake—who is quite familiar with guilt—prayed I would not be “down in the dumps, would not live in the cave of despair.” (I’m not being imaginative; those were his exact words!)
It was such a good wake-up call (pardon the pun!). As the day went on, I found myself grateful for two seemingly paradoxical reminders: 1. I am NOT as free as I sometimes think I am from guilt, perfectionism, and people pleasing. I am still in the process of being set free and that’s okay; and 2. In Christ, I AM free. He accomplished my freedom, and He is at work in me—and HE is greater than my sin! He will triumph!
I am grateful the second truth is far deeper.
“And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you. Philippians 1:6, Amplified Bible

Justice in Mountains Beyond Mountains

I just finished Mountains Beyond Mountains, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder’s true account of the life of Dr. Paul Farmer, an infectious disease (ID) specialist. Here’s part of the inside-the-front-cover blurb:

“In medical school, Paul Farmer found his life’s calling: to cure infectious diseases and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most. Kidder’s magnificent account takes us from Harvard to Haiti, Peru, Cuba, and Russia as Farmer changes minds and practices through his dedication to the philosophy that ‘the only real nation is humanity.’”

Though I found the accounts of worldwide medical politics fascinating, what gripped me most was Farmer’s dedication to the patients right in front of him. Many accounts reminded me of the stories my family-doctor father told at the dinner table. He, like Farmer, saw every person as a patient, someone to be helped. What also grabbed both my attention and my heart was Farmer’s insistence that we must treat the poor as if they are our own sister or brother, child or mother.

This insistence has often put Farmer at odds with medicine on a grand scale. The World Health Organization and other international medical entities, understandably so, want to impact the greatest number of lives with the limited funds they have, which means that those who suffer with resistant strains of a disease often get ignored. Dr. Farmer disagrees with this practice, in part because of his theory (which has been proven time and again through his and other’s clinical studies) that resistant strains, when untreated, eventually enter the general population, and the problem then multiplies. Better, though more expensive in the short-term, to make great efforts to find every person in a region who suffers from the disease, treat every case, no matter how complicated, and systematically eradicate the disease in that area in all its forms.

But the greater reason Farmer treats every patient he encounters is because of this belief: “The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that’s wrong with the world.” If you visit the Web page of Partners in Health, the organization Farmer, with others, founded, that quote of his is at the bottom of nearly every page.

This belief means Farmer is holistic in his approach to patient care. Well-fed people, living in decent housing, are less susceptible to infectious diseases, he argues. Therefore, in the process of administering medical treatment, he works to improve the nutrition and living conditions of his patients. He has poured out his life in order to accomplish this level of individual and community healthcare in some of the poorest places around the world.

The book is a good read. It’s also convicting. The title Mountains Beyond Mountains refers to a Haitian proverb: “Beyond mountains there are mountains,” and means that as you solve one problem, another presents itself, and so you go on and try to solve that one, too.

The proverb is so very true, and it should impact all of us, not just those who, like Farmer, are on the front line of the battle against poverty, disease, and injustice/oppression. The rest of us, though, can feel like we have no ability to impact the battle. What is the point, then, of thinking of it at all, of reading books like this? Kidder wrote: “The world is full of miserable places. One way of living comfortably is not to think about them or, when you do, to send money.”

Yet for those of us following Christ, “not thinking about them”—even if we do send money—is not an option. Paul Farmer is quoted as saying, “[Many people] think all the world’s problems can be fixed without any cost to themselves. We (Partners in Health) don’t believe that. There’s a lot to be said for sacrifice, remorse, even pity. It’s what separates us from roaches.”

We Christians don’t believe that either. We are called to think and pray and care to the point that our own comfort eventually becomes secondary.

Still, it can sometimes feel like an abdication to simply send money or even to pray.

As long as the prayer and the giving impact our hearts, it’s not.

At a different point in the book, Kidder said of Farmer, “Lives of service depend on lives of support. He’d gotten help from many people.”

I tell my kids all the time that we are richer than 98% of the world’s population. (They often finish my quote and say, “We know, Mom. We know.” By the way, you can check your own ranking out at the Global Rich List). It helps our perspective to remember that fact so we don’t simply compare ourselves with the other middle-classers surrounding us and see our wealth as being a means for keeping up.

Kidder spoke on this truth: “How could a just God permit great misery? The Haitian peasants answered with a proverb: ‘Bondye konn bay, men li pa konn separe,’ in literal translation, ‘God gives but doesn’t share.’ This meant… God gives us humans everything we need to flourish, but he’s not the one who’s supposed to divvy up the loot. That charge was laid upon us.”

Yes.

 

NOTE: I’ve been through enough vague guilt trips that I certainly don’t want to lay one on anyone else. So what do we do when we don’t know what to do?

We start with prayer. God knows the resources He’s provided us with and the purpose He has for each one (whether they be time, money, or expertise). God directs us to (or directs to us) the neighbor next door, the local homeless shelter, orphans across the world, persecuted believers, resettled refugees from Syria or the Congo, or the Ebola crisis in West Africa.

Is it easier, perhaps, not to be burdened? Absolutely! But we’re missing so, so much if we stay aloof. We must be bold to pray even when we know it will push us to know God’s heart better—the heart that cares for the entire world and knows each injustice and sorrow.

We can’t know His heart if we don’t pray.

 

LINKS: Here are a few links to U.S. and international organizations that are concerned with justice and health for all:

World Vision

Compassion International

International Justice Mission

Food for the Hungry

Samaritan’s Purse

Feed My Starving Children

Mercy Ships

For smaller organizations, please see the “What I’m passionate about” column on the right side of my blog.

FURTHER READING: To read more about the subject of Biblical justice, follow this link to “A Justice Manifesto,” written by Kelli Trujillo for the July/August 2013 issue of Relevant Magazine. It’s a great big-picture article with excellent sidebars on specific issues and/or ways to get involved.

In the same issue of Relevant, Tyler Wigg-Stevenson wrote “Why You Can’t Save the World.” It’s excellent and a good reminder of the truth that we aren’t called to save the world, just to trust and follow Christ. Saving the world is His job.

PRAYER: Father, as Christ taught us, we, too, pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Our hearts long for heaven, Lord, for Your goodness and justice to be the living reality for all. We pray against oppression, inequality, and persecution. Teach us Your justice and how to live justly where we have been placed. Teach us and then so soften and burden our hearts with Your grace that we do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with You.

In Christ we pray this. Amen.

When praying stretches long

Just for fun--When PJ cracked this nut open, he found a heart!

Just for fun–When PJ cracked this nut open, he found a heart!

If you are praying, like I am, for a loved one to turn to Christ’s open arms, and that praying has stretched now for years, even decades, don’t give up hope. Remember that our God does not save because we turn to Him. Rather He saves because He longs to draw human hearts to Himself, to their right place of belonging in Him. He is not reluctant to save, and His love for our dear ones is far greater than our own.

I have been encouraged by Psalm 107 in this, and I would like to share it. Psalm 107 is a message for the redeemed: it includes the well-known phrase “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.” Less well-known are the words that follows that phrase: “whom He has delivered from the hand of the adversary.”

As the rest of the psalm then describes, God is very creative and masterful in His methods of delivery, no matter who or what the adversary is. Verses 3-5 depict people wandering without a home. Rather than providing them with a home, God allows them to suffer, longing for shelter, until “…they cried out to the Lord in their trouble.” In Charles Spurgeon’s commentary on this psalm, he wrote, “Not till they were in extremities did they pray…(but) supplications which are forced out of us by stern necessity are none the less acceptable with God.” Is your loved one trying one thing after another to find satisfaction, and each thing fails? This disappointment may very well be the means of causing them to cry out to God for help, though, at first, they may cry out against Him.

Verses 10-12 speak of people in direct rebellion against God. They “spurned the counsel of the Most High.” God again used difficulties to bring them to a place of helplessness, but in that place they, too, cried out!

Verses 17 and 18 speak of those who are sick because of sin, but I also see in these verses a description of depression. These people take no joy in anything; they want to die. Yet in verse 19, they, too cry out.

Verses 23 and 24 describe those who are very much the opposite. They are busy with work and making money. They have experienced positive results, and they don’t see these as gifts from God but as effects of their own efforts. It takes a storm in their lives to reveal to them that their own wisdom and capabilities cannot save them. They, too, cry out.

And God, in each situation, draws near and delivers.

My own grandfather, a self-made man with a lot of rebellion in him, resisted God his entire life, despite the prayers of my grandmother and mother. But on his deathbed, this man, who had always insisted he would choose his own destiny, was confronted with eternity, and he cried out.

I am grateful for the story of the thief on the cross next to Christ. His cry, just before death—much like my grandfather’s—was answered, and we have that answer written down in Scripture. “This day you will be with me in Paradise,” Jesus told him, and this gives me certainty my grandfather received the same answer. What a gift!

We may be praying for a rebel, a wanderer, one struggling with mental or emotional issues, or a very successful person.

God is willing and able to draw each one.

Keep praying that they will cry out. (Galatians 6:9)

And be assured that God will answer.

Applying George Costanza’s “Opposite technique” to my prayer life

I could say that this picture fits this post because I took a shot of the bottom side of the leaf rather than the  top, but that would be cheesy, right?!

I could say that this picture fits this post because I took a shot of the bottom side of the leaf rather than the top, but that would be cheesy, right?!

Dave and I were Seinfeld junkies in the early years of our marriage. One of our favorite episodes was “The Opposite,” in which Jerry tells perennially down-on-his-luck George that every impulse he has is wrong, and George decides to do the opposite of his impulses. A few minutes later he meets a very attractive woman and tells her, straight up, “My name is George. I’m unemployed, and I live with my parents.” (Usually he said he was an architect [not true].) Amazingly, she agreed to go out with him.

It’s a funny, funny episode (as most of them are), but the reason I bring it up is that I’ve been trying to apply this idea to certain areas of my prayer life lately.

I’ve been practicing “the opposite” technique on my natural impulses of guilt/comparison/criticism.

When I’m reading an article in Voice of the Martyrs (a magazine about the persecuted church) about believers who have lost everything but who are still sharing Jesus’ love with their neighbors, my first impulse is to think, Oh, they’re so much more spiritual than I am. I’m just not strong enough in my faith!

When I hear about people who work for the International Justice Mission, serve in shelters for battered women, deliver Meals on Wheels—you name it—my initial response is, I should be doing more.

When I see a woman who looks like she has it all together, my gut instinct is to compare, and my confidence gets beaten down in the process.

And when I see a woman who’s clearly struggling, deep down in me there’s also a bit of comparison going on—comparison that makes me feel better about myself.

When I’m picking up all the debris my children leave strewn across the floor and every available surface, there’s generally some silent fussing going on. (Sometimes it’s NOT silent!)

I used to read the verse about “praying without ceasing” and think, “How?”

But if I turn all my guilt/comparison/criticism into PRAYER and add to that my daily-sometimes-hourly cries for help, well, then that’s pretty un-ceasing!

So, when I hear the next radio piece about Mary Frances Bowley’s work with survivors of sexual abuse and prostitution, I will not waste my time feeling bad about the work I’m doing or guilty for not doing “more.” Instead I will pray for Mary Frances, for the girls at Wellspring Living’s safe house, for the many staff who work with them, and for those trapped in sex trafficking around the world.

When I am tempted to fuss about the messes my children have made, why not pray for them instead? I may still be frustrated, but I will have lifted my kids up to God as eternal souls.

What a better use of my time and energy!

Now I definitely want to avoid making this rote and mechanical, something I “have” to do, but, honesty, “rote and mechanical” often describes my complaining/comparison/guilt.

It’s simply a default pattern, a harmful one.

I need a new pattern to follow.

From ____________ to prayer.

Thank you, George!

And Jerry, of course!

NOTE: I think this kind of “new” practice/pattern is part of what Scripture refers to as the “renewing of our minds.” Here are a few verses that have to do with our souls and minds becoming “new.” Because these are pretty well-known verses, I looked them up in the Amplified version to make their messages fresh.

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].

Ephesians 4:22-24 Strip yourselves of your former nature [put off and discard your old unrenewed self] which characterized your previous manner of life and becomes corrupt through lusts and desires that spring from delusion; 23 And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude], 24 And put on the new nature (the regenerate self) created in God’s image, [Godlike] in true righteousness and holiness.

 

 

 

One Cry

Here is a Web site to check out on the topic of big, bold prayer: http://www.onecry.com.

The OneCry Web site says this about itself: “OneCry is a movement of believers who are urgently crying out to God to revive the church and transform the culture. It isn’t an organization, program, or event. It’s a movement of like-minded people, churches, and organizations who agree that our nation needs a dramatic turnaround—but not the kind that comes from different politics, more education, or a better economy. Instead, it’s a cry to God for spiritual transformation of our hearts, homes, and communities. We believe that extraordinary things will happen as we turn from sin and seek God together!”

Tomorrow night (October 30) from 8-10 EST there is a OneCry radio prayer summit being aired by more than 300 stations. If you want more information on it, visit the OneCry Web site and scroll down to the bottom. You can view all the radio stations airing the summit or listen to it through the Web site itself.

“Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.”
Oswald Chanbers

 

Krishnan and Hurnard on prayer

A friend who lives in Indonesia sent me a link after my last blog post: http://vimeo.com/8467883. It’s a video of Sunder Krishnan, pastor of Rexdale Alliance Church in Toronto, Ontario, speaking on prayer at the Urbana Conference in 2009. It’s titled “Pray Big and Pray Bold,” it’s about praying for our everyday requests in the same power that was exercised by the early church in Acts 4, and it is AWESOME! I listened to it today as I ate my lunch. It would not load the last four minutes of the video, and I’m hoping that’s not a permanent problem as I’m planning to watch it again later (maybe while I fold laundry 🙂  ). Here’s the link to the Youtube posting just in case: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ZRT5q1DuMg.

I also have a quote to share from one of my favorite authors, Hannah Hurnard. If you have not read Hind’s Feet on High Places, I recommend it. That’s her best-known book, though she has also written other excellent ones. As I read and re-read Hinds’ Feet, I find myself thinking–and sometimes saying aloud–“Yes! That’s exactly how it is. That’s what my soul WANTS to say–without knowing how to say it.”

Anyway, here’s the quote by Hurnard that I wanted to share: “It is not that prayer changes God, or awakens in Him purposes of love and compassion that He has not already felt. No, it changes us, and therein lies its glory and its purpose.”

In our lives, Lord, be glorified

Last week I posted about prayer, about praying BIG, or at least praying for God’s BIG. That doesn’t come naturally for me. My “self” generally takes over and my focus is on the here, the now, the pressing. If I could see, as Elisha’s servant was enabled to, the great spiritual forces and battles taking place, I know my prayers would be different (2 Kings 6). So I pray for increased sight, for enabled vision, but in the meantime of this life’s limitations, I practice praying BIG solely on faith. I pray in the  belief that the glory of God is the best thing for all of us, and when His glory is accomplished, then ALL will be right and well.

The other morning, as I was busy with the “small” of picking out clothes and putting on makeup, I began singing an old praise chorus. “In my life, Lord, be glorified, be glorified. In my life, Lord, be glorified, today.” (Here’s a link to a performance of it on Youtube if you’re not familiar with it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4gquuJRoYI). I sang the verses, which substitute the words “my home” and then “Your church” for “my life,” but then I got specific, putting in my husband’s name, my children’s names, Water’s Edge church, Wheaton Academy, then specific countries: the U.S., China, Japan, Africa, starting with the ones with which I’ve had personal connection. It was such a small exercise, but it focused my prayer time and as I sang I imagined what it might look like for God to be glorified in Dave’s life that day, through Wheaton Academy that day, through the house church movement in China that day. Specific AND Big.

I continued the verses in open moments, chopping veggies for the crockpot, driving home from carpooling, folding laundry. At some point it turned to a different song:“ We exalt thee.” I sang this years and years ago in Argentina, as I washed dishes in some incredibly hot water with the Argentine woman who cooked dinners for the church family. I taught her the English words to the song; she taught me the Spanish, and we sang together while we scrubbed chicken bits off plates and scoured out the giant pots she had used for soup that night. At some point in our singing the image of humanity gathered around the throne of God, singing all together, came to my mind and it became more real to me than it ever had before. And somehow, after a day of singing now, off and on, for God to be glorified through as many people and groups as I could think of, I was pulled back to the that image and to that song. I got a glimpse of my–of our–biggest purpose.

In our lives, Lord, be glorified.