They Gave Willingly, Joyfully, and Sacrificially

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MalawiA poignant memory from our Church of the Resurrection mission trip to Malawi was at an elementary school in a remote village.  Our team packed up the van in the morning with peanut butter sandwiches and bottles of Fanta for lunch before setting out to the school.  We received a joy filled welcome from the 600 school children and the head master before starting our health screenings. When it was time to break for lunch, our team went to the van to eat our sandwich. It was at that very moment when the concept of true hunger became disturbingly real for me. There was neither a morsel of food nor a drop of water anywhere in sight for the school children or teachers. Then I learned that the children most likely did not eat breakfast in the morning and might or might not get a bowl of boiled maize for their evening meal. The van driver took us further away from the school, but large groups of children followed us, peering into the windows to watch us eat. Needless to say I not only lost my appetite, but also became deeply troubled by the injustice of it all.  I was frustrated that that these beautiful faces were suffering with hunger and malnourishment and I couldn’t fix it. Turning to Christian   tradition for help, I found that fasting could be an appropriate response to this injustice.

Fasting is a spiritual discipline in which Christians sacrifice their natural desire for food in order to spend time seeking God regarding a specific issue. The intention is that all the time that would be spent acquiring, preparing and consuming food will, instead, be spent in the presence of God through prayer, worship or meditation on the Word. Fasting allows us to see how little we absolutely need in a consumer world. Also, the heightened sense of awareness obtained through hunger serves as a reminder of the purpose of the fast, which is to replace the feeding of the needs of physical hunger with the feeding of one’s spiritual hunger by drawing closer to God.  In addition, we become sympathetic with those who are genuinely hungry through fasting.

I believe that our vision to touch 10,000 inner-city children by our school partnerships over the next twenty years actively addresses hunger and other consequences of poverty.  This week I invite you to consider fasting one day this week as you pray about making your sacrificial commitment to this vision.  If you are healthy, a traditional fast is to abstain from food upon waking up, and then to break the fast with a light dinner that evening. If that is not a possibility, then skipping one meal or fasting from electronics all day is another option. We would to hear about your experience with the discipline of fasting. You can join the conversation by leaving a comment on our prayer blog. 

–Nancy Pauls, Pastor of Prayer

Click here at www.cor.org/prayervigil to sign up to pray at the 49 hour prayer vigil preceding Commitment Sunday.

 

The House of the Lord, the House of the Church

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This weekend in worship we will hear the plans and aspirations for our permanent sanctuary.  A sanctuary is a sacred or holy place.  It is a place where we gather as God’s people to encounter God and from which we are sent to be salt and light in the world. According to dictionary.com, a sanctuary can be any place of refuge or safe haven or a tract of land where birds and wildlife, especially those hunted for sport can breed and take refuge in safety from hunters.

Contemplative Christian prayer is a spiritual practice of silence in which we can find refuge from the demands of our daily life and rest in God. Contemplative prayer is silently abiding in the Spirit with the goal being our transformation in Christ. This simply means growing deeper in the love of God and neighbor, so that we might be salt and light in the world. Rev. Dr. Robert Martin, Dean of Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C teaches that contemplative prayer is necessary for incarnational leadership. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:16-17, Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?… For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” So it makes sense to me that we can also find sanctuary by silently abiding with the Spirit who lives within the sanctuary of our being.

This week I invite you to practice the spiritual discipline of contemplative prayer, or silence. Find your favorite place to sit and imagine God sitting in a rocking chair across from you. All you need to do is show up and say nothing, just be silent.  Really, that is all you need to do for twenty minutes three to five times this week. If you are utterly sincere about surrendering to the Godly nature of the present moment, something will happen. It might not happen immediately, but pay attention to what is awakening during the week.

We would to hear about your experience with the discipline of silence.  You can join the conversation by leaving a comment on our prayer blog.

–Nancy Pauls, Pastor of Prayer

Click here at www.cor.org/prayervigil to sign up to pray at the 49 hour prayer vigil preceding Commitment Sunday.

Seeing God’s Vision, Dreaming God’s Dreams

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2.9.14 – Seeing God’s Vision, Dreaming God’s Dreams


Prayer Tip:

My granddaughter Anna likes bugs. How I can possibly be related to someone who willingly picks up an insect is one of the mysteries of the ages, but Anna, age 6, thinks those six-legged creatures are fascinating, and she is constantly on the lookout for a new insect friend. Walking down the sidewalk with Anna is an experience. Suddenly she will stop and say “Look!” and there in the grass will be a praying mantis, or a ladybug or some other critter that I would never have seen in a million years. Then, of course, we have to stop and pick it up, make friends with it and examine and comment on its many attributes before we send it back on its way. The funny thing is, for days after I’ve spent time with Anna, I see bugs everywhere. I notice the ants climbing up the curb, the grasshopper sitting under the bush, or the cricket on the porch steps, though I never would have before. What’s more, I feel compelled to stop and look at them (I’m still not so much about picking them up, but I can watch them with interest). They really are amazing pieces of God’s creation. Spending time with Anna has changed the way I look at things.

C. S. Lewis said, “…prayer doesn’t change God, it changes me.”

If we want to see what God sees, if we want our vision for the future to match God’s vision and experience the joy and excitement of living in the middle of God’s plan for us, then we have to invite God into the picture, to change us. That’s what daily prayer does—it invites God in to make changes and turn our vision into God’s vision. It takes time, just like walks with my granddaughter, and focused attention to change the way we see the world around us.

This week, as we explore God’s vision for our church, let’s make a commitment to spending that focused time every single day in prayer, asking to see our church, our community and the world around us the way God sees them—the needs, the opportunities and the plans God has for us. There are so many things to see!

Bless us Lord, this day with vision.
May this place be a sacred place,
a telling place,
where heaven and earth meet.

-Traditional Celtic Prayer

– Jennifer Creagar

 

Transformation

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“…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.”  –Galatians 5.22-23

“Create a clean heart for me, God; put a new, faithful spirit deep inside me!” –Psalm 51.10

One of the goals of cultivating a prayer life is to grow closer to Christ in the spirit.  Another goal of prayer is transformation. Transformation means conversion, change, renovation, or makeover. To me, transformation means increasingly seeing the world through God’s eyes. Ideas that used to be hard for me to grasp were like trying to read the newspaper without my reading glasses.  Now, through prayer and God’s grace, I can see more visibly from God’s perspective. Transformation also means, to me, a gradual warming of the heart.  My heart used to be like a frozen over pond, one that you could ice skate on. Now it is like a pond with such a thin layer of ice, you wouldn’t dare to walk on it. The water is bubbling up and pouring out through cracks on the surface. A test to see if I am actually growing closer to Christ is to ask myself questions based on the fruit of the Spirit. Such as, am I more loving and less angry then I was five years ago?  Am I more at peace and less anxious than I was five years ago?  Am I more generous and less stingy than I was five years ago? As you ponder these questions, you can even substitute ten or twenty years as your measurement.

This weekend at Church of the Resurrection we are concluding our Souper Bowl food drive. Years ago I would pull out two or three dusty cans from the far recesses of my pantry, but now I go to Costco with joy and select a case or two of healthy food to bring to church. That is what transformation looks like, and I am grateful for God’s work. Together, as the Body of Christ, we have great capacity to be used by God to transform our community and change the world.  This week, I invite you to repeat the above scriptures two or three times at the beginning of your prayer time.  Together, as we continue to grow closer to God through prayer, we will continue to see Christ’s living presence all around us and everywhere.

–Nancy Pauls, Pastor of Prayer


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