Joys and Concerns

This is a special  Sunday — the day we celebrate the cornerstone of our faith, the Resurrection of Our Lord! He paid the price on Good Friday so we might have life everlasting in communion and fellowship with Him.

As we build this community prayer platform, with help from the #PrayerWarriors team, we ask the Lord to listen to our petitions with full confidence they not only are heard but acted upon by God according to His holy will. These requests are on my prayer list and I hope you consider putting them on yours as you place your petitions before the Lord Sunday.

Of course we can’t begin our petitions without expressing the greatest joy. He Is Risen! He Is Alive! He Is With Us!

We thank You God for giving us the greatest gift, Your Son. Why? Because You so loved us!

But amid the joy, there are some sorrows facing us mortals as we battle our own demons and illnesses. They can wear us down, but we know — because of Jesus — we’re not alone. You walk along side of each and every one of us. Or as Fatima notes, the happiest moments of her life are called “answered prayers”.

Lord, Erica noted today is an on the sofa day though it’s beautiful as ever outside. She notes she has to listen to her body and physically, mentally, and financially is just drained. Still, she trusts fully in God with all her mind and heart for answers/provision.

Germaine asks for prayer for our Christian family in France.

Grandma is refusing medication and walking a thin line. If she doesn’t take this medicine she will go into a coma and possible never wake up.

MaryLee asks for prayer for someone very close who has just been hospitalized, and in the CDU ward. She is asking for big healing prayers, positive vibes, and anything else that will help her get better and out of the hospital.

Kari’s mom is fighting for her life right now. She is a mother of six and a grandma of five. She’s been battling this for almost tree years and doctors say she doesn’t have a lot of time. She is in ICU on life support and in need of a liver.

Bentley is battling a very rare cancer called neuroblastoma for the third time. He just had emergency surgery done to his spinal cord after his tumor was growing larger and larger and now Bentley’s insurance company has denied their third appeal for possible life-saving treatment recommended by his doctors because “the service is not medically necessary.” Bentley’s mom said the treatment would cost $85,000 a dose and he would need two doses. With tears in her eyes, Krystal , his mom, explained they are running out of time and options.

Andrew continues to battle pain and challenges in his struggle with cancer, while Jim and Joe are battling financial battles. They ask for people to look up with them.

We come to You, Lord, because prayer is the least yet the greatest thing we can do for each other. When two or more are gathered in Your name, we confidently know You are with us. What better company can we have? You reign and we trust You! We may be broken and battered but know You heal and quiet the soul. You are the source for all that happens in our lives. We thank You for the progress being made. We thank You for the many blessings we have received this week — some we unfortunately didn’t notice. Nonetheless, those blessings are ever-present in our lives. We thank You for healing. We thank You for slowing us down. We thank You for providing us our daily needs — no more and no less. We thank You for being with us, listening to us, walking with us on this journey. We thank You for the support of our family and friends … for seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary — sunrises, sunsets, flowers, kids laughing, adventures, good news amid the bad news. We also know we can come to You with our concerns and they will be heard. Through Christ all things are possible. We lift up those family members and friends who are battling various physical, emotional, financial, career or spiritual issues and ask not for Your guidance and healing (although that would be welcomed) but to keep reminding us we are not alone in our battles. Specifically we lift up Erica, the people of France {and throughout the world}, Grandma, MaryLee’s friend, Kari’s mom, Bentley and his family,  Andrew, Jim and Joe. We pray for the families of all those You have called home. We grieve … You celebrate. We pray for obedience to Your Will so Your “Son” Light shines through us through the power of the Spirit. And we come to You through the confidence of the words taught by Your Son Jesus.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Keep your joys and concerns coming. They have been and will be included during my prayer time and I trust they will be on your lips as well as you approach the altar. All it takes is a couple of keystrokes under the “Contact Me” button on the top bar {or to the right if you’re not a follower yet}. I hope it becomes your best friend as you navigate around the site so we can all be viable prayer warriors. You can also comment or reach me at wisdomfromafather@gmail.com.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Never let go of your hope.

 

 

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Five Minute Friday — Next

Here we go. I’ve carved out my five minutes for this week’s Five Minute Friday exercise. Kate Motaugn (in the Community section at www.fiveminutefriday.com) supplied this week’s prompt — NEXT — and turned it over the FMF crew to expand and embellish. And, of course, we meet and greet at her place to share and network. It’s fun, fun, fun and keeps our neurons sharp.

Ready to join in yet?

Okay, here’s another take from Five Minute Friday: A Collection of Stories Written in Five Minutes Flat. Don’t listen to me. Listen to Elizabeth.

“The FMF community is a welcoming, fun and caring group of writers. They have helped me stretch and grow both as a writer and a person. The challenge to write about a single word for only five minutes is an excellent exercise and God has revealed thoughts to me that I don’t think I would have come up with otherwise.”

There you go. Now to this week’s task. The timer is set. Let’s GO…

The band of 12  just had a celebratory dinner with their Leader. They broke bread, shared a cup of wine. They also didn’t understand fully what was coming next, but for this night they were together in solidarity.

Then came the morning. Their Leader was railroaded at a mock trial, beaten, tortured and ultimately killed in a most horrific way. For our band of followers, the question was, what’s next?

Their world had just crumbled. The Messiah … the Savior from Rome’s heavy hand … the Deliverer and His message was now in doubt. They were huddled together in an upper room, afraid for their lives as they pondered what was next. Should they continue this ministry and risk death like their Leader? Should they quietly go back to their homes and hope the neighborhood forgives and forgets their dalliance with this treasonous leader? What’s next?

They weren’t expecting what actually happened next. They weren’t expecting an empty tomb. In fact, some … STOP

actually wondered what happened to His body. They saw Him tortured. They saw Him die. They saw Him entombed. They thought His body may have been desecrated further by the Romans at the bequest of the Pharisees or somehow stolen.

What happened next was the Resurrection! The empty tomb! The fulfillment of Jesus’ life! What happened next was the establishment of a portal back into the heavenly fold we were designed for.

What happens next for you and me? Do we chalk up the Easter season — the Easter miracle — as a poignant story for the moment and go back to our day-to-day lives Monday morning? Or do we see the truths Jesus taught while He walked on this earth? Do we gather them in our hearts and minds? Do we translate those words into actions — sharing His life through our actions?

What’s next?

Well, Jesus told them on the mountain in Galilee and by extension us what’s next. I will be you always. [Matthew 28:20]

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. — Maya Angelou

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Final Lenten Thoughts

There is no biblical mandate for the observance of Lent, although the model is in commemoration of the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert before beginning His public ministry, during which He endured temptation by Satan. This whole Lenten observance was first established in the church in the 800s as a way to persuade Christians of the day to set aside some time for reflection on the upcoming tridiuum — Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday — reflection, repentance, self denial and prayer. I’m going to try and touch on those four thoughts — reflection, repentance, self denial and prayer.

We all have a purpose. Often, we don’t know what that purpose is or at least, recognize it. But we all have a purpose … something that makes us us, creations of God.

You see, it’s not really our purpose. It’s God’s purpose for us. That’s what we don’t quite understand. He has put us in our circumstances for a reason … perhaps to witness to someone or receive witnessing from someone … perhaps to slow us down or speed us up … perhaps to let us grow or help someone else grow. He has a purpose for us, right here, right now.

I’ll be honest, when I was younger — much younger — I didn’t realize what my purpose — His purpose — was. I generally went through the motions plying my trade and connecting with my little circle of family and friends.

But I’ve learned to recognize there is a greater purpose in play. All the good times, all the bad times, all the laughter, all the tears were designed to hone my spirit into recognizing His purpose for my life.

I still don’t always get it right. I sometimes get the “my” and “His” mixed up, but as I’ve aged, I have come to realize everything I do impacts someone else. Everything I say impacts others. Everything I write touches others — often unknown to me.

It’s our responsibility to use the talents we are given — the talents. There is no job too small done right that doesn’t honor our God. It’s not just our jobs. It’s our purpose. It’s His purpose. And it isn’t just our work or career. It’s our relationships. It’s how we deal with other people … those we love and those we aren’t quite as fond of.

It’s taken me a while to realize that. We’re all interconnected. Everyone we meet — in person or through the virtual media — is a fellow journeyman (or woman) on this walk through life. We touch each other in ways we can’t imagine. They touch us the same way. We share ideas (or reject ideas) and our personalities shine through. Well, that’s not entirely true. It’s not our personality. It’s the personality forged by the strengths and the weaknesses and the smiles and the tears God has given us.

Be unique. Shine. But also reflect on the thought our mission, our purpose, after all, is to reflect the work of our Creator. It’s not to forge our own path for our glory. It’s to forge a path for His glory.

That, of course, is step one. Step two is change or repentance. As we’re pondering what we do — or don’t do — in our spiritual/communal lives, we must take action. As we become more in tune with God’s plan in us, we have to take the steps to assure we’re marching to the same beat as our Lord.

Our experiences help us learn — sometimes to our regret — congregations can become so wrapped up in the form of faith, they forget the substance of faith. Going to church becomes an obligation rather than the celebration it was intended to be … a celebration of praise and thanksgiving to our Father for the gift of His Son through the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives … a celebration of repentance for our transgressions against God and our fellow man … a celebration of prayer and fellowship with others and ourselves … a celebration of our faith as told through Scripture … a celebration of our victory in Jesus Christ through the actuality of Eucharist.

Next is self-denial. During this time, it’s traditional to “give up” something — like chocolate, candy or ice cream as a kid (or as an adult). As we matured, it may have been “doing” something like extra devotional reading.

Often we do things or don’t do things only because that is what is expected. It becomes rote. It becomes routine. And the intent becomes blurred and eventually disappears.

That’s the danger we face. We don’t look at the whys anymore. We don’t challenge ourselves. Take the time this season to look for those answers. We’re not getting into heaven because we gave up chocolate for Lent. We’re giving up chocolate for Lent to recognize what Jesus gave up just by coming here to save us and allowing a portal back into heaven. Ponder that over the next few days.

Of course, our Lord was always in prayer. He was always cognizant of His Father and His Father’s will. And, yes, He didn’t particularly welcome the trials and tribulations He would have to endure during His ministry, but He turned it over to the Father. Thy will be done.

You know, I think sometimes God must get bored up there in heaven. I know I would, listening to the same old rhetoric over and over … words spilling from the lips, rote-style. “Heavenly Father this …” or “gracious God that …”

I think prayer is something else. It’s communication. It’s simply talking with God … from the heart, not the mind, from the soul, not the lips. Sometimes it’s just being in His presence without any words.

I’ve always had an open line to God. I’m not a “formal” pray-er. In the middle of a traffic jam or when in the solitude of my distress I might internally or externally scream out at God. “What the heck is going on?” I might cry, perhaps not that sedately. I can talk with God one-on-one like a friend … and I know God speaks to me as a friend. And we all know how caustic and sometimes blunt a true friend can be, cutting through all the garbage in our lives and touching our very souls.

I said it before and I’ll say it again. This week, stop praying.

Well, that got some attention.

But I am serious. Stop praying … and start talking to God from your heart. The heart is our emotional fountain. Let God know your emotions. He knows them anyway. He knows our heart. He knows our motives. He knows the truth … better than we do. Don’t masquerade your emotions with platitudes. If you’re angry with God, let Him know. But if you’re happy with God, share that joy as well with words of praise, not because that’s what should be done, but because that’s the way you feel.

Let’s be honest. Trust is extremely difficult. Our faith does get shaken. Our focus does get diverted. We retreat into ourselves or we lash out at others. We get hurt. We get disappointed. We get disillusioned. We can’t make sense of the violence or abuse or illness or even the death of someone close.

Truth is we don’t have to. There is a greater Power who has all the answers. My job — your job — isn’t to figure out the answers. My job — your job — is to trust in the God who has been there through the good and bad times. Isn’t it exciting to know we have an anchor in the storms of life?

And finally, we are told in the Gospel how Jesus was tempted after His fasting, reflection and prayer. So, don’t get discouraged when you become tempted after moving closer in step with Jesus. Satan, the great deceiver, doesn’t care about you or me. It’s his goal to derail any efforts by anyone who tries to have a deeper relationship with the Lord or spread the good news of the gospel.

I have learned through the years, the more obstacles we face when attempting to walk closer to the Lord or presenting issues of faith generally means the devil is working overtime to block the message. That was evident when I had my mini-stroke a week before a three-week date on the short side of the pulpit in New York. Something in those words must of had Satan shaking. And I’ve seen Satan’s gnarled hands at work many times before, now and since, especially as we come closer to God’s will in our lives. That’s how Satan rolls.

But the amazing thing is, we’re not alone. Jesus was tempted too. He was promised the lies of Satan.

Jesus didn’t need those promises. Neither do we. We have the Light in Jesus. He is the S-O-N shine — that’s S-O-N.

So, whenever you are tempted or discouraged or disillusioned because of delayed prayer or sudden challenges, wear the circumstance as a badge. It means you’re on the right track and caught Satan’s attention.

God’s will. God’s purpose reflected through us. May it be so this Lenten season and throughout our lives.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Don’t ever forget … for even a day … how very special you are.

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Midweek Mirth

One of the misconceptions about being a Christian is non-Christians think we don’t know how to have fun or have a sense of humor. Trust me, if the Big Guy can have a sense of humor when it comes to dealing with us mere mortals, so can we.

The difference for Christians is we don’t have to debase ourselves or others to generate a smile. Laughter at life or ourselves is a gift from God.

So, let’s smile a little!

Rewards

One Easter a preacher and a taxi driver both died and went to heaven. St. Peter was at the pearly gates waiting for them.

“Come with me,” said St. Peter to the taxi driver. The taxi driver did as he was told and followed St. Peter to a mansion. It had everything you could imagine from a bowling alley to an Olympic size pool. “Oh, wow, thank you,” said the taxi driver.

Next, St. Peter led the preacher to a rough old shack with a bunk bed and some broken down furniture. “Wait, I think you are a little mixed up,” said the preacher. “Shouldn’t I be the one who gets the mansion? After all I was a preacher, served at church every day and preached God’s word.”

“Yes, that’s true,” St. Peter rejoined, “But during your Easter sermons people slept. When the taxi driver drove, everyone prayed.”

And now for the bonus…

What Price a Sermon?

One Easter Sunday, Rev. Jones announced to his congregation, “My good people, I have here in my hands three sermons — a $100 sermon that lasts five minutes, a $50 sermon that lasts 15 minutes and a $20 sermon that lasts a full hour. Now, we’ll take the collection and see which one I’ll deliver.”

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: The longer one carries a problem, the heavier it gets.

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That Tomb Is Still Empty

As a way of sharing, I came across this engaging video this morning and just have to share it. I found it on a blog I follow, Courageous Christian Father, and had to share it. It is the story of Easter as told by Levi and Lia Mullen. The video is the first of four in the series.

I love the simplicity. I love the depth. Good job, guys! Thanks for the lesson!

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Take the time to wish upon a star.

 

 

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Instant Messaging: What the Kids Type and Mean

Do you know what your kids or grandkids are saying when they use instant messaging?

Of course not! They have a code that’s intended to leave you in the dark.

This is an old list from Kim Komando, but for instance, if a child types a message that consists solely of a number, such as 5, that means his/her parent is in the room. When they double that number up, such as 55, that means the coast is clear.

Here are some other codes the kids use when instant messaging:

POS: Parent is over my shoulder, so watch what you say.

POP: Parent is on the prowl and could walk in any moment.

SOS: Sibling over shoulder who will tell on me.

ASL: What’s your age, sex and location?

TTYL: Talk to you later.

BRB: Be right back.

HHOK: Ha, ha, only kidding.

MOATM: Music on at the moment.

LQ: Laughing quietly because someone is in the room.

G2G: Gotta go!

CTN: Can’t talk now.

Any updates you would like to add to the list?

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Have health and hope and happiness.

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Palm Sunday: An Easter Parade Worth Pondering

What are your thoughts and memories of Palm Sunday? Little children (maybe you, or your own children) waving palm branches, singing hosannas, strains of All Glory Laud and Honor, and the ubiquitous image of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey to the praise and adulation of his followers?

Well, part of that is right. However, beyond Jesus’ triumphant entry being the kind of block party most people imagine it to be, New Testament scholars Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan educate us otherwise, saying thatJesus was not just the passive recipient of impromptu adoration on Palm Sunday, but rather stagingan act of intentional protest; an anti-imperial demonstration designed to mock the obscene pomp and circumstance of the Roman military. The palm branches they waved were a symbol of Jewish nationalism. The waving of palm branches was actually an expression of hope Jesus would be the one to lead an overthrow of the Roman imperialism.

In their compelling book, The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach About JesusLast Days in Jerusalem, Borg and Crossan also tell us there were actually two processions entering Jerusalem on that original Palm Sunday. As Jesus rode in on the donkey from the east, the Roman governor of Judea (Pontius Pilate, whom we already know we’ll see again on Good Friday) rode into Jerusalem with a battalion of soldiers as he did every year during Passover, an annual Jewish festival that dramatically increased the population of Jerusalem to many times its normal size.

Pilate’s timing was deliberate. It was a show of his power, wealth, and glory — a display of imperial majesty that was, above all, designed to remind the Jewish pilgrims Rome was in charge. It was the height of the PAX Romana, a  peace bullied by power, and with it came a distortion of religion, where religion was co-opted by the dictates of Roman imperial occupation.

Borg and Crossan’s description of Pontius Pilate’s imperial procession sets the stage perfectly.  “A visual panoply of imperial power: cavalry on horses, foot soldiers, leather armor, helmets, weapons, banners, golden eagles mounted on poles, sun glinting on metal and gold. Sounds: the marching of feet, the creaking of leather, the clinking of bridles, the beating of drums. The swirling of dust. The eyes of the silent onlookers, some curious, some awed, some resentful.”

It’s important to remember here, according to Roman imperial belief, the emperor was not simply the ruler of Rome but also the son of God. Crossan notes Jesus, who could have entered Jerusalem any number of ways, deliberately rode in on “the most unthreatening, most un-military mount imaginable: a female nursing donkey with her little colt trotting along beside her.”  This choice of mount, Crossan says, was Jesus drawing on the prophetic symbolism of Zechariah, that the king who rode on a colt, the foal of a donkey would be the nonviolent king who’d command peace to the nations.

So here we have pomp and circumstance on the west side, and Jesus and His followers entering from the east in a show of deliberate mockery that leaned into Jesus’ vulnerable show of non-violent rebellion. This procession of the ridiculous was a ragtag bunch of followers that included tax collectors, fishermen, and farmers, all of whom had been touched and healed by the true Son of God.

Jesus came into Jerusalem that day as a moving display of quiet, non-violent, non-revolutionary power. In sharp contrast to Pilate’s braggadocios chest thumping, Jesus modeled leadership of a new and strange kind of kingdom that put the last first, the first last, and where the meek — not the powerful — inherit the earth. This would be a kingdom that belongs to its peacemakers.

So this year, let’s not consider Palm Sunday as just the starting line in the Holy Week rush to Easter Sunday. Let’s not overlook the critical significance of Jesus’ deliberate and symbolic action. Let’s take a moment to consider, rather than being just a big, spontaneous welcome party by the Jews of Jerusalem, the Palm Sunday parade carried overt political significance as a deeply subversive act directed against not only the well-established Roman oppression, but also the religious leaders and temple authorities who were complicit with it. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem that day was, therefore, much less of a party and much more of a quiet, utterly fearless, unshakable display of a gentle but fierce and courageous commitment to the kingdom of God.

When we begin to view Palm Sunday in this light, we find something radical, incendiary, and dangerous that sets the stage for the Holy Week story of this unfolding confrontation. Jesus rode into town to confront the domination of the poor and marginalized, the top-heavy political oppression, the economic exploitation, and the system of taxation and laws set up to oppress the poor and satisfy the cravings of the rich. Jesus rode into town to confront the religious authorities who used their religious language and practice to legitimize and justify their unjust systems. Each year the Palm Sunday story of Jesus’ counter-procession provides us with an alternative vision of the world. And each year it’s up to us to see it and choose.

In which parade will you march?

This reflection was authored by the First United Methodist Church-Fort Worth (TX) Communications Program headed by Director of Communications Melinda Smoot, and was included in its CONNECT Magazine, a source for the FUMCFW Faith Community, visitors, and guests. Additional information is available at https://fumcfw.org/communications/.

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