Today I Saw God
I've often thought about what would happen if every Christian in the world, or even just in the United States, would pray at the same time in the name of Jesus. Could we actually see a mountain move? In my heart, I believe that yes, we could. I don't know if I am a rare bird in 2017 or if others agree, but it's worth a try, isn't it?
This week marks the 65th year that the United States will hold the National Day of Prayer, which was brought to us by an Act of Congress in 1952. As you might imagine, this annual event has had its share of controversy. In fact, according to "The Christian Post," "In 2010, one judge ruled the observance unconstitutional only to have the decision overturned in 2011via a unanimous rulingfrom a three-judge appellate panel."
In a nation where organized religion is losing members every year and the fight for equality is often translated to a fight for less public observation of God, I find it both amazing and encouraging that this tradition has endured. This event is a call for people of different religions to pray for our country and for its leaders.
Years ago I worked for a faith-based nonprofit that hosted a reception the night before the National Prayer Breakfast, which is held in early February. The venue for the event was buzzing with activity, and sightings of modern day saints were plentiful. Joni Eareckson Tada, Billy and Franklin Graham, Chuck Colson and dozens of senators, high-powered executives and more crowded the halls and private receptions. I consider it an honor and a privilege to have participated in this small way for such an amazing event. It was inspiring and humbling to see people of all walks of life stopping to put a hand on a shoulder and softly speaking a word of prayer and encouragement to one another.
Today's event, the National Day of Prayer, draws 40,000-45,000 groups across the U.S. who gather and ask that we all pray for our country and its leaders from 7:30-9 p.m. (EST). If you are inclined to join in this amazing event (another wonderful example of our country's religious freedoms), the next question is: What exactly will you pray for?
So many of my dear friends are on opposite sides of many of today's political positions from where I stand. If we want to move a mountain or two, we can't ask for competing positions all in the name of Jesus. Instead, we need to search our hearts and seek God's will for our nation. We need to ask God to guide our country's leaders to hear his voice and be instruments of unity, healing and perseverance.
So take a few minutes this eveningperhaps with your family or friendsto pray, whether it is for five minutes or the full 90 minutes. Let's see if together we can raise our song of prayer and petition to God and, just maybe, move the mountain of wavering faith and trust in the power of God through the mighty name of the risen Lord, Jesus!
The post If We All Prayed at Once, Could We Move a Mountain? appeared first on Today I Saw God.
Here we are, America. It's been less than one month since we got a new president. For many, Facebook has become a place we visit with fear of what our friends and family might say about their approval or disapproval of President Trump's first few weeks in office. But the truth is, it's time to take a deep breath. It's time to remember that the same people you are avoiding today are the same people you were having barbecues with this past summer, making friendly small talk with at back to school night or inviting over for dinner just weeks ago.
Over the past three election cycles I have turned one of the three FM radio station sets in my car into "news central." I rotate between NPR, WTOP, WMAL, WHUR and 99.1 Bloomberg to try and hear the actual facts that lie buried in each station's spin on a story. It is a fascinating learning experience, and I encourage you to try it some time. What I've discovered is that very few facts are reported on a regular basis. Instead, reporters and radio hosts share their emphatic perspectives on a single action without providing any real insight into why those on each side of an issue are so irrationally upset. Even a show's callers support the craze of that view, with very few exceptions where the host welcomes callers with other opinions.
I have close friends on both sides of many of today's issues. Friends have said things to me that still sting at my very core months later, and friends continue to surprise me by spreading venom against one view or the other. It all leaves me feeling a bit hopeless really, because I believe that most of us actually share many of the same core views about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I believe that most of us love our country and want to see it continue to thrive and unite. But we have somehow become accustomed to taking sides instead of choosing to have discussions to seek greater understanding. So I've realized that I have some forgiveness to do. I need to forgive those that have said things that hurt me because of perceived differences in our belief systems. And I need to ask for forgiveness to anyone that I may have offended.
When I feel hopeless, I seek wisdom in scripture. In Luke 17:1,Jesus said to his disciples:"Things that cause people to stumbleare bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come." And later, in verse three he says, "So watch yourselves." That phrase, "so watch yourselves," really caught me off guard. It doesn't exactly sound like a phrase you might hear 2,000 years ago. It sounds like something you might have heard your mom say when you were a teenager. But like a caring parent, Jesus tells us not to push our own earthly desires so hard onto others that it causes them to stumble. I think the stumbling that we are to watch for refers to something that makes one waver from God's desires for our lives. The problem here, of course, is that not everyone knows what God desires of us. But during these times of quick emotional reactions, in person, on email and in Facebook, the advice is clear and simple: "So watch yourselves."
My favorite chapter in the Bible is Psalm 51, and in verse 10, it says, "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." So join me in trying to avoid causing anyone to stumble, in watching ourselves and in cleansing our hearts in humility and forgiveness. By doing so, we can all turn back to our God as our Lord and Savior and not the latest protests or administration.
It's already Decemberhow did that happen?! Just a minute ago, I was packing a U-Haul to take my son to his new apartment at college, and now I have to finalize my plans for Christmas before it's too late!
As my calendar slowly fills for the month (company holiday party, nonprofit fundraiser, professional networking events, holiday celebration nights out with friends, dinner parties), and I save a few late nights for shopping, wrapping and baking, I wonder, when can I fit in Jesus? Despite attempts to try and simplify the celebrations that come with the weeks leading up to Christmas, the joyful, festive sights and sounds in the air make it difficult to be still and focus on what the whole world is celebrating.
Any nonbeliever can tell you that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus this season, but some may wonder what our cherished traditions around carols, extravagant decorations and Santa have to do with this mysterious holiday that is so grand that even the department stores get in on the act.
A few years ago, I took the time to consider whether my deep love of family Christmas traditions, beautiful decorations, Christmas carols and festive gatherings of friends and family were just part of a meaningless lifelong routine or if they were in any way connected to my equally deep passion to honor the amazing gift to mankind, the Savior of my soulthe birth of Jesus, the Christ. The good news is I see the connection as clear as if the Star was shining over my head, and I hope that I am able to express the connection to all I encounter during this, my most favorite time of year.
When I decorate my tree, each ornament tells a story, and I am reminded of the rich blessings I have through my family. As I trim the banister, I always take extra care to make sure my guests are greeted with enough sparkle to make them smile but also with a balance of serious sophistication to speak to the awe and humility I feel at the magnitude of this holiday.
We have at least eight nativity scenes spread around the house to ensure a constant reminder of the big event. When I entertain over the Christmas season, it is to extend warm, joyful hospitality in hopes that my guests feel as loved as I do just because of Christmas. When I sing, I sing as loud as I can because I can't contain the joy that fills me with the familiar tunes and cherished words. When I shop, I take forever, because I want the recipient to see the personal touch behind the gift just like God, choosing an adorable baby to capture our attention. Christmas meals are served on the finest linens and china I have because I feel the presence of Jesus at the table with us.
I secretly wonder sometimes why there is so much talk about the stress people find during the Christmas season because I approach it as if I am preparing to have the Son of God come to my house. And although I want everything to be perfect, I know that once the guest of honor arrives, I can just sit at his feet and soak in his presence.
The last people that should be miserable at Christmas are Christians. If friends and family ask why you do so much to prepare for Christmas, consider telling them it's because the King of Glory is coming in a few days, and you want him to know how grateful you are that he choose you to come and save. We should be shining as brightly as the famous Star of Wonder, so that we too can lead others to the sweet baby Jesus, the greatest gift of all.
I write this while sitting in beautiful Hilton Head, South Carolina where I am helping out my parents for 10 days as my dad recovers from surgery. Dad is closing in on 86 years old. Frankly, surgery is not something you wish on anyone of this age, and yet, it was the only option. He's gone from shuffling around, to walking with a cane, to relying on a walker, to barely lifting his foot as the pain in his knee went on for almost six months. During the last two weeks leading up to the surgery, my Dad had a near-death experience with a semi-trailer truck, had a dance with MRSA, had his identity stolen, had his bank account hacked and drained, fell backward and hit his head on the kitchen floor and dealt with a few heating and plumbing issues at home, just for good measure. While I haven't had anywhere near the streak my Dad has recently, I have gone through my share of bad things, including the recent sudden passing of my cousins' son and our beloved family dog, Abby.
Just to add to our troubles, the night before the surgery, I was driving my parents down a rough two-lane road with deep swampland on either side of me. It was pitch dark, and the traffic was heavy. We were less than 15 minutes from our destination in Savannah, Georgia when I saw something large blocking the entire width of my lane. With cars on my left whizzing in the opposite direction and an endless line of cars behind me, I had no real option to slow down. As my headlights hit the object squarely, just a few feet away now, I realized it was an alligator! Going to the right, off the road, was too risky as it meant possibly sinking into marsh or rolling the car on its side, so instead I headed into oncoming traffic to avoid the ancient beast. I ran over his massive tail and vaguely recall my parents' screams as I watched headlights coming right at us. "Not tonight God," I pleaded in my head, and as sure as I was that I was about to hit this car head on, we swiped each other toe-to-tail, and landed safely on what few inches of shoulder there was to catch our breath.
After all that happened, this terrifying moment somehow didn't surprise me. In fact, I even burst out laughing once the shock wore down. As the saying goes, "What it rains, it pours." It's just how things tend to golots of bad things get wrapped up in one lovely package, more like a storm than just plain old rain.
But a front row seat to a thunderstorm does something interesting; it shows you the positive side of the dark cloud. So many people were praying for us the night of the alligator incident: my parents' church members, our small group at church, my family and friends, co-workers; the list goes on. After that incident, we were far more grateful to know we were saved by the grace of God through prayers of intercession, than we were worried about how long or how much it would cost to fix the car. As each little issue we face gets closer to resolution, we see God's hand bringing people forward to bless us or to be blessed by the conviction of our faith. Even the sweet, loving remarks written on our Facebook photos from the hospital provide a source of comfort and care much needed by all of us.
Back in 1914, the Morton Salt Company put a little girl holding an umbrella on their trademark blue salt cans. Her iconic umbrella has been shielding her from driving rain for over 100 years. The accompanying slogan, "When it rains, it pours," was developed to communicate the unique feature of magnesium carbonate, which prevents salt from clumping in humid weather; meaning, quite literally, that when it rains, Morton Salt still pours. Even through the driving rain, there is still some good pouring out, adding seasoning to our lives.
Likewise, without the loving protection of God's love as my umbrella, I may find that the only thing I see when the rain is pouring down all around me, soaking my shoes and socks, is a cold shiver I can't shake. But through life's never-ending showers, I find that God still pours out blessing upon blessing, despite the driving rain.
Over the holidays, our home was brimming with joy and laughter, a continuously messy kitchen sink and the rustle of wrappings. All of the chicks were back in the coop as I like to say, and it was heaven on earth! We had some family game nights, competitive family card games and even an adventure to an escape room in D.C. where we were forced to work together to unlock the clues (and the door) to our room.
Butlast week, my youngest adult child packed up his car and drove off to head back to college. My husband and I cried, as we have done as each child takes flight from the nest, even for a short while. It is always bittersweet when someone leaves you, regardless of the circumstances. The time you just spent together makes you miss them even more as they head out the door; you are keenly aware of the unique and wonderful person that loved one is, and you feel the emptiness of their absence even as you are still in their presence. It's an emotionally charged moment.
Having recently studied the apostle Paul and learned more about his life and his travels, I imagine the pain and loss he must have felt when Jesus was no longer with him. He not only knew Jesus was the Son of God, the Truth, the Life, but Paul undoubtedly also knew what made Jesus laugh or the meaning of a glance his way while sharing a parable. The very God that made the sunrise and the sunset with all of its glorious colors, the God that made such an intricate and sustaining system here on earthtrees that can go barren and blossom with vibrant color over and over with each passing season, and something as small as an mosquito having a role in the circle of lifeyes, that God, walked here, on this earth right next to Paul. And then he died, rose again and ascended into heaven. While I don't mean to compare the infinitely more meaningful and memorable departure of Jesus to my son driving off with a carload of boxes, the point is that both left a hole for those standing back, both were filled with emotion none-the-less.
Paul was able to muster up his courage to go on, leaning into the trust, hope and love that he had not only in the teachings and miracles of Jesus Christ but also in honor of the man, the person that he came to love so deeply. Oh, it wasn't easy for Paul. He encountered hardships of all kinds including beatings, illnesses and imprisonment, but his love for Jesus and the need to spread the good news was all the motivation he needed. The life story of Paul is one I feel a personal connection to, not because I too have had any level of suffering that even begins to compare but because I have met and ministered to people that have.
I worked for a prison ministry for seven years, and in that time, I learned so many valuable lessons. I learned that people go their whole lives struggling against the pressures and realities that come with trying to make a life for yourself that is sustaining and fulfilling, and they have to make choices every day that impact the next step in their journey. Many choices get made without a conscious decision; we just act on the next step on the path we've set ourselves on. And it is not until all choices are taken away from uschoices of when and what to eat, what to wear, where to sleepthat we are forced to realize that every choice that impacts our lives starts with choices of the heart and head. I look at Paul like so many of the men and women who unselfishly volunteer in prisons all over this country every day. They too met Jesus. Some, like C.S. Lewis, met him with their heads as they worked through a very intellectual process to get to him, and others, like many of the prisoners and ex-offenders I knew, met him with their hearts. But each one that did was touched deeply by a love that motivates them to tell others all about it.
When my children are near, I long to hear every detail of their day, their hopes, their concernsusually to the point of making them crazy with all of my questions. But it's because I want to keep a little piece of them with me, to ponder on what I can do to make a difference for them. When they are far away, I peek at their Facebook pages; I hope for a Snapchat or text; and I reminisce over their childhood activities, sayings or antics so I don't forget any part of the wonderful and unique person each of them is. It's the same with my faith. When Jesus is near, I can't get enoughI want to hear more and more, feel his presence and seek ways to put his spirit into all that I am and do. And when I feel he is distant, I remember those times I felt close and work to get back to those moments.
I feel the love of God when I consider my children. The impact each of them have on me and others is not measured by their academic achievements, their net worth or the titles they hold, it is measured by their kind and spirited souls. They are each their own unique person, each beautifully and wonderfully made, and counted by God, the Father Almighty as one of his own.
When Jesus came to earth, it created a kairos moment, a moment when God chose to act and his spirit was and still is palpable. I believe the birth of a child is also a kairos moment, a moment when God acts, when heaven most certainly has touched earth.