A Worldwide Prayer Movement

•November 19, 2008 • Leave a Comment

“A Wopersistant1rldwide Prayer Movement”

The book Red Moon Rising by Peter Greig and Dave Roberts is about a 24-7 prayer movement that was started in Chichester, England. It was published in Eastbourne, England by Kingsway Publications in 2005. The book is 255 pages. The main author of this book Peter Greig was a graduate from a university in London. After graduation, Greig decided to backpack through Europe with a friend. One of the stops on their trip was Cape St. Vincent, Portugal. This spot is where Greig found that his life would change forever. Not able to sleep, he climbed out of his tent and sat on the cliff of the mountain and began to envision different countries before him like Portugal, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Russia, China, etc. During his visualizing of the countries, he started to pray out loud for each one of them. As he was praying, he started to feel sensations go through his body and felt some kind of spiritual excitement which led to a vision. He visualized different countries laid out before him with an army of young people rising out of each one awaiting their orders. God placed different people and experiences in Pete’s life like visiting Hernnhut a place established by Moravian refugees. Along the journey, he found himself influenced by different profound figures from the past like Count Zinzendorf, John Wesley, and Charles Spurgeon. The Holy Spirit worked through different experiences and people to bring about a worldwide prayer movement having begun with Greig.

The main thesis of Red Moon Rising is that prayer is essential in our lives. Prayer is the one thing that brings us back to God and brings us into community with others.

“Prayer brings incredible answers to deep needs. It can lead to genuine breakthroughs in calling people, villages, and cities back to God. But the most important thing that any prayer, or prayer room, form Alaska to Australia can provide is a place where people can be alone with their eternal Father, a place where you and I can study His features, find comfort in His love, learn to recognize His quiet voice, seek His advice, and pour out our childish hearts to Him. In the prayer room, we pick up God’s mannerisms; we grow in His likeness. We actually become the answer to many of our prayers. And of course that’s the greatest miracle of all!” (Greig 71)

A prayer room is a place that is setup for people to be able to express themselves in different forms of prayer, for example, art, writing, meditation, etc. These places allow people of all different ways of life to feel safe to express themselves in different forms through prayer and have a space created that is dedicated to God. Today these prayer rooms have spread all over the world, and have been places where people have reignited their relationship with Christ or turned their lives over to Christ. In these prayer rooms, there is someone praying 24-7-365. The 24-7 prayer movement has become a powerful way for people to be in relationship with God, with others, and to witness to those who have not heard the Good News.

These prayer rooms are places to connect with others, have fun, pray, be creative, listen to the Word of God, and connect with God. One of the most powerful things is prayer. Prayer is where we are able to bring our needs before God and listen for what God is trying to say to us. Each of us has a different way of prayer that works for us. The prayer room gives people the chance to express these prayers in different forms. Truly, I believe that we are able to pray in all different places and ways because God is everywhere. God surrounds us, is with us all the time, and lives within us. Personally, sometimes I just need a place to go that I do not feel vulnerable but am still able to connect with others. The only place that I have never felt vulnerable was in church. But outside of church, I do not feel this. It is hard to witness to others and express myself through prayer when I feel vulnerable. It seems that these prayer rooms, create a safe haven for all different kinds of people, and people become united through Christ in prayer. As we go to these places of prayer and are able to leave behind our vulnerability, we are able to open our hearts and minds and share our stories with others, start witnessing to those who have not yet heard the Good News.

Meditation on the book of Jonah

•November 4, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Reading the book of Jonah one may find many answers to different problems in our society. Most people are familiar with the beginning of the story when Jonah rebels and flees to Tarshish after God calls him to go to Nineveh. As children we grow up hearing the story of Jonah and the whale. This story’s conclusion usually ends for most people when Jonah is spit out of the whale onto shore. We think…wow! God is amazing and gracious! How great of God to have mercy on a rebellious child like Jonah. But there is so much more to this story besides bringing God’s child back to Him and the idea of grace. There is a vast amount of deep theology embedded in the story of Jonah.

Really we need to look at the whole picture to understand what is actually happening here.

The enactment of the story of Jonah narrated in Hebrew (it will be translated into English).

Throughout the story we are able to find that God is omnipotent. Jonah in the beginning of the story flees and buys a ticket to sail to Tarshish. Jonah goes under into the belly of the boat and falls asleep. He is awakened abruptly by the sailors to find that they have cast lots to find out who is responsible for all the calamity, and it falls upon Jonah. The sailors ask why he is creating trouble for them and ask him a few questions. Jonah says to the sailors that he is a Hebrew and worships the Lord who is the God of heaven, maker of the sea and the dry land. In this statement, we find that Jonah is affirming God as Creator and having power over all creation. Throughout this story God as Creator and having power over all creation is affirmed by the repetitious use of the word minah meaning commanding or appointing. God hurls a wind over the sea and then calms the sea. This is also seen through the images of God appointing the fish, the plant, the worm, and the winds throughout the story of Jonah. God uses His power to create space and time for people to come into a deeper relationship with Him and creation. God created a space (the belly of the whale) to save Jonah and to give him time to pray and meditate. Now this is not to say that God will send great storms into all of our lives that will produce large fish to swallow us and give us time to stop and pray. But it does say that we each need to be aware of the presence and power of God in all aspects of our lives, in every place we go, and with each relationship we make with others because God has provided spaces, experiences, and time for this in each of our lives. God is creator over all the earth and his omnipotence is found throughout creation: the sky, the wind, the land, the sea, the roaring waves, all living creatures, the breath of all creatures, all the vegetation of the earth, etc. We should be able to find the image of God dwelling among ALL of creation/nature for God is the sustainer and redeemer of all things.

We then move on in the story to find that Jonah is spit out of the belly of the whale. God is merciful, gracious, and abounding in steadfast love. At this point, Jonah has had time to pray and think about what God has called him to do. Jonah decides to follow God and go to the city of Nineveh. Jonah proclaimed the prophecy of God to the Ninevites, saying that they shall be overturned. The Ninevites gave up their evil ways, repented, and looked to the Lord God, and God had compassion on them. One would think that after seeing the Ninevites repent and believe in the Lord, Jonah would be pleased that the Lord worked through him to save a nation. Jonah is still angry though!! Here we see Jonah proclaim to the Lord that He is compassionate, gracious, and abounding in steadfast love but still protests and tells God he would rather die right now than live! Jonah goes east of the city and made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen. At this point God creates a vine to provide Jonah with shade. Then God created a worm that chewed the vine so that it withered. Go provided a scorching wind and and the sun to blaze upon the head of Jonah. Jonah would have rathered died than lived. God says to Jonah do you have a right to be angry? For you did not tend to this vine or care for it, but allowed it to die. How do we understand this scene?

There is an ancient view that the world is seen as a garden and in this garden are trees, the nations of the world. If we go back to Scripture, we find references to ancient nations referred to as trees in the garden of God. For example, Isaiah 5 (speaks of a vineyard and vines growing) , Ezekiel 31(speaks of Egypt as a tree in the garden of God) , and Daniel 4 (speaks of Babylon as a tree in the garden of God). God may be trying to say to Jonah that this plant that grew over you to give you shade and save you from the scorching elements of creation, you missed it once it was destroyed. Nineveh is like a tree in the garden of God and gives shade. Just as Jonah missed the plant and its shade, so God would miss Nineveh if it were to have been destroyed. (Dr. Boogart’s Interpretative Reading of Jonah4)

God is the Creator of all nations, and has given life to all creatures. Even though God chose Israel to be the “chosen people,” he also anointed all people to be the rulers over creation and to carry out His purposes in the world. I do not mean that as rulers over creation, we should do what we want with creation, but we should protect, preserve, and care for all of creation. In order to do this, we must live in communion with one another and with all of creation. As God created all that exists in the whole of creation, so as creatures we are meant to coexist and live in mutual interdependence with one another. Migliore in his book Faith Seeking Understanding states that “The world was created by God not as an assemblage of solitary units but for life together, and its structure of existence-in-community reflects God’s own eternal life in triune communion.”1 We are humans created in His image and live only by the relation to Him and by the sustainment of Him. As we come to partake in the Lord’s Supper today, we think of coming together in fellowship around the table to feast together as creatures sustained and redeemed through the ultimate sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ and united in Christ.

This morning we have learned a few major points about God and Creation through the story of Jonah.

We are able to learn from the story of Jonah that each of us needs to stop and listen to God’s Word and his calling for us. We should pay attention to how God is creating spaces and time to worship Him and follow in His Word around us in our every day lives. We learned that the world is like the garden of God and we (the nations of the world) are the trees that make up this garden. God has appointed all of creation to carry out His purposes for the world. As trees that grow in this garden, we should be merciful, gracious, and loving to one another as God has and continues to show us compassion and love.

1Migliore, Daniel, Faith Seeking Understanding [Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.], 104.

Faith, Hope, and Love

•September 6, 2008 • 1 Comment

 

Blue Like Jazz seems to be a spiritual autobiography of Donald Miller, the author of the book. This is not only a spiritual autobiography, but a testament to experiences that he has had with non-Christians finding God and turning their lives over to God. He has been an inspiration to others who struggled with understanding God, sin, and guilt through his personal experiences. This book starts out with how Miller came to be a Christian. He speaks of his struggles with understanding God, the image of God, faith, sin, and guilt. Throughout the book he covers areas of conversion, faith, change, redemption, belief, the church, confession, community, and love. I feel that I am able to connect with Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz experiences and teachings. This book has helped me grow spiritually and understand some of the things that I have felt or learned throughout this semester of seminary and my internship.

The first chapter in Blue Like Jazz is about Miller finding God in his life and defining his image of God. When Miller was young, he states his image of God as “To me, God was more of an idea. It was something like a slot machine, a set of spinning images that doled out rewards based on behavior and, perhaps, chance.”1 I believe a lot of people can connect and understand this idea of God. Growing up, I know that I had an idea of God like this. I believed like Miller that if something good or nice happened to me it was God making it happen and when bad things happened to me, I would go back to God and ask for things to change and become better. This image of God as I grew older, started to feel distorted. My relationship with God seemed like a one way street. I asked for things and he either gave them to me or did not. This semester while taking Spiritual Formation, my image of God started to change. Now I look back and think to myself what a distorted perception of God. Not only do I believe this was selfish, but it also confines and prescribes to God. How do I have the right to tell God what I need/want and when and where I need/want these things. Now my image of God is that God is like a parent. The relationship is mutual. There is this nurturing loving relationship between God and us.

Another section of Blue Like Jazz is about faith. In this section, Miller speaks of a conversation with his friend about faith in God. She is having a problem believing in God. Miller states, “I think Laura was looking for something rational, because she believed that all things that were true were rational.”2 This is common among people in post-modern culture. We try to explain everything through logic and rational terms. Most people have the concept of seeing is believing. God is not like this. We can not actually physically see the being of God. We can see what he has created like the trees, flowers, animals, and humans. God created all of these things and said that they were good. Through nature and relationships, I believe that we are able to find God and believe in Him. Having faith is not something that is easily explained and defined. Miller tells of his experience of watching penguins on TV that helped him understand his faith. The male penguins are the ones that nest the eggs for a month while the female penguin goes back to the ocean and fishes, so that she may come back and provide food for her family. The female penguin has this radar that tells her when the baby is being born and to come back to the family. Miller states, “I have a radar inside me that says to believe in Jesus.”3 I believe this is a good post-modern way to think about faith. We each have something inside us that gives us the intuition to believe in Christ. We struggle to understand what is happening and why we should believe in something that is not explained rationally. I think this helped me to think about how I thought about faith. Faith is something that I have always had a hard time explaining to others. Faith is something that is felt, not seen.

This semester in my internship, I have worked with people that were not always familiar with Christianity or had been hurt by the Church. Explaining faith to these people has been a challenge, but I think Miller has helped me to think about what faith is and how to understand it in my life and to share it with others. Miller states, “I don’t think you can explain how Christian faith works…It is a mystery…And I love this about Christian spirituality…It can not be explained, and yet it is beautiful and true…It is something you feel, and it comes from the soul.”4 Faith is still something that is so mysterious and beyond putting in words. God is great but we are limited in our knowledge of Him and may never fully understand.

Another section in Blue Like Jazz is about grace. The concept of grace has always been something that I have struggled with. The reason I struggle with this is because I think why should God be gracious to someone who is a sinner and turns from Him to do things that are of darkness instead of light? I do believe in grace, but it is hard to understand why we deserve it. This is a mystery to me. This semester, I have learned a lot about grace and forgiveness. In Preaching and Greek class, I was assigned the passage of the Prodigal Son. I memorized and internalized this scripture and finally preached on it. My main theme of the sermon was grace. This is when I finally started to understand why we receive grace from God. Miller tells about a conversation he has with a friend. His friend tells him, “you are not above the charity of God.” Miller reflects and asks himself the question of who am I to think myself above God’s charity. His friend later tells him, “Your life is not your own, but you have been bought with a price….our role in our relationships with God is to humbly receive God’s unconditional love.”5 Miller’s conversation with his friend has helped me to deeper understand that God’s love for us is unconditional. We are to love God because he loves us. We are not able to gain the unconditional love of God through self-discipline but by accepting God’s unconditional love for us. God is like a parent, he will love us unconditionally no matter what we do, but we need to return this mutual love i which we will find righteousness.

Another section in Blue Like Jazz is about love. This section is about loving other people. Today, in our post-modern culture it is hard to love others sometimes. Individualism seems to be the main priority in life. How can this benefit my needs? Often times, we do not care about others and will do things to others to help improve ourselves and our situations. In this chapter, Miller speaks of living with hippies for a month. While living with them, he found peace, happiness, and contentedness. They care so much about the community. Miller states, “living with the hippies…I forgot about myself…And when I lost this self-consciousness I gained so much more.”6 He found this to be quite an experience, because he would have never imagined that there could have been such loving and caring people outside the Church. In Christian communities, we find ethics, rules, laws, and principles that encourage judgment of one another. This causes stress and anxiety in most people when they feel judged by these things. Personally, I find this judgment that goes on to be against the teachings of Jesus. Instead, we should be trying to heal each other. Jesus tells us about the number one commandment in the New Testament, “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul and to love your neighbor as yourself.” Miller in a conversation with an employee at the camp he worked at states, “What would any of us lose by losing our possessions. Maybe we would gain something, like relationships, like the beauty of good friends, and intimacy? We wouldn’t be losing anything if we lost our stuff, we’d be gaining everything.”7 I do not believe he is saying that we should give up all material possessions, but if we gave up things and learned about love we would find great satisfaction. Materialistic things do not bring about love. Personally, I know what it is like to have someone try to buy your love. My grandfather and father while I was growing up had this image of love. To love someone was to lavish them with possessions. Up until two years ago, they still had this image of love. While my grandfather was on his deathbed, I believe came the point where they realized that possessions do not buy love. Love is something we experience through relationships with God and one another. This was a great experience because for the first time in my life, I heard the words I love you from my grandfather and my father. I believe at this point is when I started to reexamine my image of God.

I have found this semester and by reading Blue Like Jazz, that I am called to the ministry in a unique way. Each person has a unique calling. I have been struggling to find if I am called to work in a church setting or agency/chaplaincy setting. This book has showed me that it does not matter what setting I am called to, but that God has given me gifts of faith, grace, and love that I am able to share with others. This summer, I will be challenged by working in a church setting as an intern. I will be able to look back the words, thoughts, and experiences of Donald Miller and his friends, and apply these things to my ministry within the church setting or where ever I may be in the future. Donald Miller has taught me that we are to love God and others and find relationship with them in various ways. I believe that my true calling from God is to help those who are in need, the poor, the blind, the deaf, and the sick and find relationship with them. As a Christian, I believe that through love these people in need may see Christ within us, and we may experience serving Christ through them.

 

1Miller, Donald. Blue Like Jazz. Thomas Nelson: Nashville, 2003, 8.

2Miller, Donald. Blue Like Jazz. Thomas Nelson: Nashville, 2003, 54.

3Ibid, 57.

4Miller, Donald. Blue Like Jazz. Thomas Nelson: Nashville, 2003, 57.

5Ibid, 85.

6Miller, Donald. Blue Like Jazz. Thomas Nelson: Nashville, 2003, 208.

7Ibid, 212.

I Saw God Today

•September 6, 2008 • Leave a Comment

 

This summer I have been interning at Theresa Presbyterian Church in the Thousand Islands. This opportunity has been one of the most amazing learning experiences. As I started this internship, I was very reserved and nervous about it. After an experience with a church that left a bad taste in my mouth, I told God I never wanted to work in a church ever again. When my dean came to me about interviewing for this internship at the church in NY, I thought to myself I do not think so! Somehow, God led me down the path of interviewing for the internship in Theresa. The pastor and people were amazingly nice, welcoming, and really portrayed lives that were dedicated to serving God. I had to make the decision of staying in Holland with my husband and working for the summer, or venture out of my comfort zone and go to Theresa leaving my husband behind in Holland. After a lot of prayer, Mickey, my husband, and I felt that this was a chance of a life time for me, and I could not pass it up. As I prepared to leave for Theresa with my mom, I was very excited about this experience but still had some reserve about the fact that I would have to preach half the summer. As I arrived in Alexandria Bay, where the pastor’s resort is, that excitement left and fear and nervousness had taken over!! My stomach was filled with butterflies and knots. My mother comforted me and prayed with me. As I pulled into Pinehurst Resort, Pastor Bob came out to greet us, and we went into the house to meet the family. As I met his family, I already knew that this was going to be a welcoming and loving church!

The next day, we moved my stuff into the Manse in Theresa which is about a block away from the church. The Manse is extraordinarily big in size and really nice for one person to be living in! Downstairs there is a living room, family room, study area, bathroom with a laundry room, a dining room, and a kitchen. Upstairs there are four bedrooms and a full bathroom. As I settled in and unpacked, I got to spend time with my mom. I still was overwhelmed with the housing that I was given to live in for the summer!

The first week I spent a lot of time with Pastor Bob getting to know him and together we planned out what I would be doing for the summer, when I would preach, and expectations of me for the summer. Then came the first Sunday at the church! I was so nervous and fearful that this would be like the last church I served in. Oh boy was I wrong about that feeling! During the worship service, Pastor Bob introduced me to the whole church and allowed me to tell a little bit about myself. After the service, we had coffee time, which tends to only happen on special occasions, and the people gave me a wonderful warm welcome to Theresa! This church reminded me of the church I grew up in in NC and brought back so many wonderful memories. I knew my first Sunday that this church was going to teach me so much and change my heart about serving in churches.

Throughout my time at Theresa Presbyterian, I have visited and spent time with the people from the church, studied Scripture, put together worship services, wrote sermons and preached, attended meetings, taught crafts at VBS, worked with the youth group, and led a prayer/bible study. At times, I have felt that I have not done much, but I look back and realize everything I have participated in. This church has had so much to offer and teach me! They not only taught me, but they challenged me to step out of my comfort zone. I believe that preaching is not my strong point, but this experience has challenged me to work towards bettering my preaching. I not only was challenged to better it, but to be more creative in everything I do. One thing I have constantly been reminded of is that it is not about me but about GOD!

One of the most amazing things I have learned while at Theresa is that a pastor is to be a person who is dedicated to serving God and living out their calling while following the ways of Jesus Christ. Not only is he/she to serve God but to serve the people of the church. A pastor should have a certain transparency about him/her and be able to show love and compassion for the people while being able to intellectually stimulate and challenge the congregation through God’s word.

As my time here is starting to diminish, I look back and thank God for the wonderful loving church, people, and mentors he has blessed me with. I thank God for the love for church that he has helped me find in my heart again!

As I write this, I am listening to the song I Saw God Today by George Strait. This song has really touched my heart and stimulated a lot of thoughts in me. I look back at all the memories I have of my time in Theresa and think to my self at how much I saw God present in my life and others lives! At Bible study this week, we talked about God’s presence in our lives. Sometimes we go throughout our daily routines and do not think about where and how God is present in that moment. This song really reminds me and makes me think that I need to stop and think about when, where, and how God is present in my daily life. God is present with us at all times, but there are precious moments that will make us believe and feel God is here right now with us. Throughout my days, weeks, and months at Theresa Presbyterian Church I have found the love and blessings of God, and truly am able to say I SAW GOD TODAY!

As I get ready to finish my last two weeks at Theresa Presbyterian, I am joyful for all that I have been blessed with while here. But there is another feeling of sadness and hurt because of having to leave this church that has blessed me and filled my heart with so many gifts. I have truly enjoyed my time spent here. I am ready to go home to Holland, so that I may be reunited with my husband and friends, but I am not ready to leave behind this family that I have come to know and love!

Unanswered Prayers

•March 27, 2008 • Leave a Comment

“Unanswered Prayers”

by Garth Brooks

Just the other night at a hometown football game
My wife and I ran into my old high school flame
And as I introduced them the past came back to me
And I couldn’t help but think of the way things used to be

She was the one that I’d wanted for all times
And each night I’d spend prayin’ that God would make her mine
And if he’d only grant me this wish I wished back then
I’d never ask for anything again

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

She wasn’t quite the angel that I remembered in my dreams
And I could tell that time had changed me
In her eyes too it seemed
We tried to talk about the old days
There wasn’t much we could recall
I guess the Lord knows what he’s doin’ after all

And as she walked away and I looked at my wife
And then and there I thanked the good Lord
For the gifts in my life

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because he may not answer doesn’t mean he don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

Some of God’s greatest gifts are all too often unanswered…
Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

 Unanswered prayers….when I was younger, I believed that if I prayed God should and would answer my prayers. Then I believed prayer to be me expressing my needs and wants to God, and Him answering these things if He so pleased to do so. I thought well if I had been good enough, God would answer my prayers and if I had been bad God would not answer my prayers. Now I look back and think to myself what a distorted perception of prayer, don’t ya think so? Not only do I believe this was selfish but it also confines and prescribes to God. How do I have the right to tell God what I need/want and when and where I need/want this? After reading Martin Luther and Brother Lawrence on the topic prayer, I have come to believe that pray is not only when we bring our concerns, sins, and needs to God, but that we have to put them in His hands and listen for God and praise Him with Thanksgiving.

One must have faith in prayer. Martin Luther says this “Faith makes prayer acceptable because it believes that either the prayer will be answered, or that something better will be given instead.” This is the main point of what I would like to focus on. One day in Spiritual Formation class as we were meditating on prayer, a memory came to my mind. I’m not really sure how and why I started to think about when my paternal grandfather was dieing. As I stood next to the hospital bed with my weak dieing grandfather in it, I held his hand and prayed to God that he would give my grandfather strength, healing, and renewed life. After a week of sitting by my grandfather’s bed side and watching his health deteriorate, my grandfather passed away. Throughout the next week, we attended wakes for him a few times a day for a couple days, and finally had a military funeral to honor him for fighting in the Battle of the Boulge. This was one of the most difficult and mentally draining times in my life. I felt that I had to be strong because the rest of my family was fighting and it seems just there to see if they could get anything out of the death of my grandfather. My emotions were all over the place, and I couldn’t seem to makes sense of much at the time. Well during this time, my father seemed to start opening up to me more. Crying was not something I normally found my father doing. During the funeral, my father just leaned over and cried with me. This is one of the moments in my life I will never forget, I felt so closely connected with my father. At the hotel during this time, I experienced my father telling stories of my grandparents (I did not know my grandmother- she passed away before I was born) and remembering the joyful times in life. These great moments that I experienced during this grieving period, I believe really strengthened my relationship with my father.

So as I meditated about prayer, I thought about unanswered prayers. After struggling to find what it means to pray, I believe that all prayers are answered just maybe not in the way we want or expect them to be. I can really relate to this song Unanswered Prayers by Garth Brooks. The song is about a guy when he was younger prayed to marry his highschool flame. Years later, he is married to someone else and runs into this highschool flame. After reflecting on the good times with her, then does he realize the gifts in life that God has blessed Him with. My story is not about a highschool flame, even though I got one of those too, but is about praying for the life of my grandfather, but in the end receiving a strengthened renewed relationship with my father. As I reflect on this memory, I prayed that my grandfather’s life be restored at that particular time, I was restricting God. When my grandfather passed away, I believed God never answered my prayer. If I had only read Martin Luther, and heard Garth Brooks song sooner this all would have been clearer. I believe that my prayer was answered just not in the respect and time that I wanted. My prayer was heard and received by God in the end, just God had a different way of fulfilling my prayer!

Thoughts on Dead Man Walking

•March 21, 2008 • Leave a Comment

On Saturday nights, we enjoy koinonia with our fellow neighbors at the Bowerman home. I really enjoy this time to get to know everyone and hear there thoughts and beliefs. I look forward to this time every week. I find peace, comfort, and strength through fellowship with my seminary family. One week we watched Dead Man Walking and ever since this film had been in my thoughts. In undergrad, I was introduced to Christian Ethics. This class absolutely stimulated and blew my mind. It was a great course and the professor knew how to play devil’s advocate well. We had to write a 10 page paper on a ethical issue. While most of the students were picking homosexuality the hot topic lately, I chose something that no one in the class chose euthanasia. Euthanasia is the practice of helping another take there life. Doctor Jack Kavorkian is famous for this. In the US, it is illegal but in other countries it is legal. Well I did extensive research on this topic because during this time, the case about the lady on life support in Florida was the big story in the news. I went in with no idea what i believed about this topic. While I was writing the paper, I thought I came to the conclusion that it was ok to help euthanize, but by the end I was completely against it for several reasons. One main reason is that I do not believe that as humans we have the right to take another person’s life even with their consent. I believe that our time of passing is in God’s hands. God created us and I believe that he should take us. From ashes to ashes and dust to dust. Another reason is that if we legalize euthanasia I believe it could be abused. I think that this would start to give people the right to euthanize people for the fact that they may not be able to serve a purpose in society anymore, for example, elderly people, handicapped people, etc. Well the point of this is that it started to make me think about the death penalty. The death penalty is different than euthanisia but seems to be along the same lines. The major difference is that with euthanasia the patient actually consents to the euthanizing whereas the death penalty there is no choice in the matter. Well these thoughts came back to me while we were watching Dead Man Walking. This movie is a great movie but very powerful and moving. I know I have been told that I am to emotional and humble, but that is how God created me. By the end of this movie, I was in tears. The plot of the movie is that a man was charged with rape and murder of a young couple. The man was sent to death row and started sending letters to a local church. A nun at the church decided that she would visit him and talk with him. Over time they tried to appeal his sentencing to death row. The relationship between the convict and the nun started to grow over time. In the end, his case was not appealed and he was going to be executed by lethal injection. He requested that the nun go through his last week, days, hours, and minutes with him. She counseled him and prepared him for his return to God. The nun ended up losing friends and being mocked and tormented by people she loved and cared for. She struggled but knew that this was what she had to do. This man went through his last week with her and found Jesus Christ in his life and repented for what he had done. They prayed together, sang, and worshipped with each other. She was with him through his last moments and praying for him.

There is something about the last moments that the nun spent with this man. This was an emotional and spiritual time for both of them. For the man was truly lost, but at this moment he was found. He had started to repent and find his faith in God. I think sometimes horrible situations can illuminate God’s presence in the world and our lives. This man knew his death was creeping upon him slowly, but found comfort in the fact that God will welcome him with open arms. God forgives us and loves us. The heavens rejoice for when one sinner that was lost is found and reunited with God.

Some people believe that people in jail like this man should not be forgiven, should not receive grace, and deserve justice! I struggle with this. Maybe I am too humble, but I believe that there is no ranking when it comes to sin. I do not believe that we can judge others, for we are sinners also. I do not condone these actions of violence and crime, but I do believe in mercy. For in the parable of the prodigal son, the father welcomes the son home even after everything he had done to break kinship with his family and faith. This reminds me of this situation in the fact that the father shows grace, mercy, and love for his son. Stand in the father’s shoes and try to feel what he was feeling at this moment when his son returned to him. I believe in others and pray that the Holy Spirit descends upon them, so that they may experience Christ in their lives even through dark nights. For in Luke 15, the Pharisees and scribes grumbled that Jesus welcomed and ate with sinners. Jesus welcomed those who were lost because these people who sin and repent are the ones that need him the most not the most righteous that do not repent.

Today, there are few people who minister in jails and places like this. I hope one day that this type of ministry will bloom, and we will see more ministers/people in these places preaching the Word of God and walking alongside of those who are in need of finding/hearing Jesus Christ in their lives. Even though I have never gotten to experience this type of ministry, I would like to one day. I am not so sure if I am strong enough to do this, but I hope that if I ever do attempt this ministry that God will give me strength, fill me with the Holy Spirit to speak His Word, and someone who can listen.

A Dialogue with Mother Teresa’s No Greater Love

•March 11, 2008 • 2 Comments

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 Mother Teresa is a well known woman throughout the world by Christians and non-Christians for her faith and selfless work among the poor in Calcutta, India and throughout the world. Mother Teresa was a nun among the Sisters of Our Lady of Loreto. After a period of time she felt that God had called her to serve the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, India. Mother Teresa started the order, the Missionaries of Charity. This led to young women to turn their lives over to God and to serve among the poor. Throughout Mother Teresa’s life she served among the poor in the streets of Calcutta. No Greater Love is a testament to the experiences she had while serving among the poor and her inspirational teachings and faith in God. No Greater Love covers areas of prayer, love, giving, suffering and death, work and service, being holy, and poverty and poor. Mother Teresa has been an inspiration to me since I started community college. I had heard of Mother Teresa before I started community college but did not know much about her or her teachings. After reading about her works and teachings, this is when I felt my spirituality start to deepen and take shape. This is what led me to read No Greater Love during my first semester at Western Theological Seminary. I feel that I am able to connect with Mother Teresa’s teachings and work. This book has helped me grow spiritually and understand some of the things that I have felt or learned throughout my first semester of seminary and teaching church. Not only did I grow spiritually, but I felt after a semester of mixed emotions that this really helped me confirm my call to ministry.

The first chapter in No Greater Love is inspirational words from Mother Teresa on prayer. Mother Teresa writes, “It is only by mental prayer and spiritual reading that we can cultivate the gift of prayer.”1 Mental prayer is when we open our hearts and mind to hear God speak to us. Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in what we feel we need to say or tell to God that we forget to listen to Him. Prayer is a time when we can go before God and open ourselves to listen to Him. I believe that we can pray prayers of thanksgiving, confession, and need to Him also. But mental prayer allows us to quiet ourselves and let “God pour himself into us.”

Most Christians have heard the prayer of the people during a worship service. Sometimes it is referred to as the long prayer…the longest prayer usually in the service. I remember as a child wondering why the minister had to say such a long and drawn out prayer, could he not keep it simple and short? I remember almost falling a sleep sometimes in those prayers. I am not saying that praying long prayers is wrong, but sometimes I believe that we can get caught up in the words and lose the essence of prayer. Mother Teresa states, “Be more childlike, more humble, more grateful in prayer…let’s not pray long drawn out prayers, but let’s pray short ones full of love.” 2 A few times this semester at my teaching church, I was asked to say the prayer for the people. I thought to myself how on earth will I be able to say such a long prayer in front of people especially when I have an anxiety problem with praying in front of large groups of people? I was anxious about saying the right things and it being long enough. In truth, I found that I was worried over nothing. I found resources that had prayers for the people that I used and were not always long. The prayers that I picked I felt that I could pray with love from my heart to God with the people of the congregation. As I read the prayer aloud, I felt that I read it with reverence and confidence. Through these prayers I felt that I lifted up prayers to God with my heart and soul. In these prayers, I would allow a time for silence between pieces of the prayer. According to Mother Teresa, we should “Listen in silence because if your heart is full of other things you cannot hear the voice of God. But when you have listened to the voice of God in the stillness of your heart, then your heart is filled with God.”3 Through silence we can really let our hearts and minds open to what God has to say to us. This silence allows God to fill us and enter into a relationship with us. This has helped me to remember that through prayer, I am united with God. Sometimes I get caught up in the business of school, family, friends, and teaching church that I forget to be silent in prayer with God, so that I may unite and strengthen my relationship with God. These words of Mother Teresa have helped me and reminded me of what prayer is about.

In another section of No Greater Love, is on forgiveness. Mother Teresa in this section speaks of the saints and how they looked upon themselves with horror because they saw the difference between God and themselves. Sometimes we hurt because we do not know ourselves and fix our eyes upon God which means we do not have real knowledge of God. Mother Teresa states, “Knowledge of ourselves will help us to rise up whereas sin and weakness will lead to despondency. Deep confidence and trust will come through self-knowledge. Then you will turn to Jesus to support you in your weakness, whereas if you think you are strong, you will not need our Lord.”4 My first semester at seminary has been very revealing and eye opening for me personally. Each student is to partake in a psychological evaluation. I went into this evaluation believing that I was pretty familiar with myself and things that were going on in my life and emotions. When I went to speak with the psychiatrist, I was shocked as to hear what he was telling me about myself according to results from the test I took. The results really hurt me because I did not believe some of these things to be a problem in my life. I took these results to mean that I am broken and my pieces need to be put back together. I had feelings of depression after finding out the results of this test. I wondered could I be pieced back together enough to do ministry to others? I was then comforted by words that Mother Teresa spoke, “He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your weakness. Believe in Him, trust in Him with a blind and absolute confidence because He is Jesus.”5 Well after reading these words of Mother Teresa’s, I believed that this was a good thing. I have learned things about myself, and this will help me to overcome some of these weaknesses. Through this self-knowledge, I can strengthen my weaknesses and heal. I know that I am personally not strong enough to do this. I need to look to family and friends for support. Most importantly, I must look to Jesus Christ to embrace me with his shawl of love, to support me through this time of brokenness, to guide me, and to help me overcome these weaknesses.

By reading No Greater Love, I feel that this has helped me to understand my calling more clearly and helped me to confirm that my calling was truly from God. This first semester at seminary is a time to find who you are and to help you to define your calling. At first, I knew I was called to seminary by God but was not sure why and how God would use me. I may not be concrete clear on all of this at this point, but I do believe that throughout the semester this has been revealed to me by God in different ways. At times after speaking with people and going through some personal things, I thought may be God has not called me. Through certain parts of my ministry at my teaching church, long talks with my advisor at the seminary, and talks with my friends, I found that I have certain gifts given to me by God to do ministry in ways that others may not. During this semester, I found that I do not feel called at this point to do ministry within a church setting. This made me believe that I was not called to ministry by God. Mother Teresa’s words changed this. I may be called to do ministry in a different setting than a church setting. Mother Teresa states, “We all have the duty to serve God where we feel called. I feel called to help individuals, to love each human being. I never think in terms of crowds in general but in terms of persons. Were I to think about crowds, I would never begin anything. It is the person that matters. I believe in person-to-person encounters.”6 Throughout the semester I have felt this sense of calling to help others and do counseling or chaplaincy. I have had a few people tell me that may be I should look into social work instead of ministry. I admire those who do the work and service of social work, but I believe that God has called me to serve and do ministry. I believe the way that I can serve and help individuals and have person-to-person encounters is through a ministry of chaplaincy. I believe God has given me gifts of compassion, caring, kindness, love, and listening so that I may serve and minister to individuals in need and to glorify Him. Mother Teresa also says, “We must not be afraid to proclaim Christ’s love to love as He loved. In the work we have to do it does not matter how small and humble it may be, make it Christ’s love in action.”7 I feel that some people who gave me the opinion that I should look into social work, may have had a narrow view on ministry. They spoke of ministry in the terms of serving a congregation in a church, where the minister preaches, prays, and serves the needs of the congregation and individual needs. I believe that there are other fields of ministry. Sometimes people forget about people in nursing homes, hospitals, hospice, the homeless, and shut ins. I believe that as a Christian these are the people that need to be reached out to. They may be in desperate need physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. Mother Teresa speaks of small and humble things as being part of God’s work. As a Christian, I believe that through love these people in need may see Christ within us, and we may experience serving Christ through them. “For He Himself said, ‘You did it for me.’”8

1 Benenate, Becky and Durepos, Joseph. No Greater Love: Mother Teresa. New World Library: Novato, California, 2002, 5.

2Ibid, 4

3Ibid, 8

4Ibid, 114

5Ibid, 87

6Ibid, 69

7Ibid, 71

8Ibid, 73disconne

Hello world!

•March 10, 2008 • 2 Comments

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