Prayer Shaming

Prayer

In the wake of ongoing acts of terror that have become almost daily events in places around the world, it’s heartening to see responses of young people. Although perhaps a bit naïve in some respects, they are to be commended for speaking out about such important matters as prayer.

This past week I saw a Facebook posting from a group of Catholic High School students. It uses the increasingly popular format of numerous individual students, each holding one sheet of paper, with printed words that, viewed sequentially, form a message. The title of this one is “prayer shaming.” Each line represents the content of one or more hand held pages.

The secret of Christian living is love. Only love fills the empty spaces caused by evil.
Our generation doesn’t remember life before September 11 but we’ll never be able to forget life after it.
What’s terrifying about San Bernardino, Newtown, and so many others…
…is the shattering sameness of them.
It seems like every week there’s another report of death and destruction.
Many ask, “Where was God when that shooting happened?”
Until we realize that we’ve told God to leave.
So many have told God that he’s not welcome in public, on TV, in schools.
We’re told our “thoughts and prayers” shouldn’t be with the victims…
…that “prayers” should be reserved for “forgiveness.”
It’s as if a new trend is sweeping the country – “Prayer shaming.”
Football players are glorified for drugs and immoral actions.
But a football player talks about his faith and he’s judged.
On college campuses students are told to hide their faith so they don’t “offend” anyone.
So today, we as students of East Catholic High School – and as Americans – are taking a stand.
We encourage people of all faiths to stand together, and to pray.
Pray for the victims.
Pray for the families.
Pray for our First Amendment, that lets us all pray freely.
Pray for safety.
Pray for peace.
Pray that God is allowed back into our lives, without the prayer shame.
And pray that we may once again become one nation, under God, indivisible…
…with liberty and justice for all.

Possible or even probable collateral naivety aside, I say, “Right on, young friends in Christ!”

Troubles and Worries

Worry

Today’s quote is from Edward Everett Hale: “Never bear more than one kind of trouble at a time. Some people bear three kinds—all they have had in the past, all they have now, and all they expect to have in the future.”

This quote reminds me of the game of golf. It’s so hard to forget the terrible shot you just made and tempting to worry about the one you’ll be facing after the one you’re fixin’ to make.

But here’s the reality. You can’t undo the shot you just made. It is what it is. If it’s in the cactus, it’s in the cactus. Deal with it! And you don’t know what shot you’ll be required to make after you get out of the cactus. So all you can do now is just be sure you get out of the cactus!

Life is very much the same. What happened yesterday or last year or 50 years ago, happened. It cannot be undone. Deal with it! If it was the result of sin, ask God for forgiveness. And trust his promise written by the apostle Paul: “Through the blood of his Son, we are set free from our sins. God forgives our failures through the riches of his grace (overflowing kindness).” (Eph. 1:7)

And there’s no way to know what’s gonna’ happen in the future, so there’s absolutely no positive result to be gained by worrying about what might happen tomorrow. Just take care of today.

Jesus gave that advice a long time ago in his Sermon on the Mount. He was talking about the futility of worrying about life, food, drink, or clothing. He told his listeners about God’s provision for the flowers of the field and the birds of the air.

And then he said: “So do not worry … your heavenly Father knows you need these things. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matt. 6:31-34)

God’s peace be with you!

Reasons to be Joyful at Christmas!

Christmas OrnamentLast week I invited readers to submit their reasons to be joyful at Christmas. Here’s a summary:

  • Singing carols from the Karaoke channel.
  • Christmas cards that renew friendships from long ago.
  • Carolers’ smiles and contagious children’s joy!
  • Heart-warming flowers of the season (poinsettias, amaryllis).
  • Grandchildren walking with the Lord!
  • Family eating, singing carols and opening presents, with no iPhones or iPads allowed!
  • Being blessed by precious memories.
  • Remembering that God is still at work revealing His Son, Jesus, to us.
  • Knowing Christ is with us and we are never alone, regardless of our circumstances.
  • Giving and receiving from those near and dear to us.
  • Loved ones, by God’s grace, successfully battling cancer and other dread diseases.
  • Sensitivity for people who have a difficult time at Christmas.
  • Grandkids whose faces light up when seeing a tree full of presents.
  • Special late night candlelight worship services on Christmas Eve.
  • Silent night, holy night! All is calm all is bright! Thank you Lord!
  • Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given!
  • His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!
  • Preparation, giving, family time, joyful memories of childhood.
  • Embracing those who live alone or experience grief of any kind.
  • Welcoming the future, confident my Lord will lead in a time of uncertainty.
  • Offering support to those suffering from illness, abuse, or addiction.
  • Acceptance of those who are “different” from me.
  • Enjoying good food and drink (in moderation, of course).
  • Giving to help eradicate world hunger.
  • Seeing everyone pitch in the day after to restore normalcy.
  • Recalling the blessedness of another Christmas with precious family time together!

And here are a few of my own:

  • Worshiping and celebrating Christmas with family, including my 99 year old mother!
  • Watching family members read my personal Christmas letter to each of them, check enclosed!
  • Thanking God for peace in the midst of pandemonium, tranquility in a season of terror, freedom in the face of oppression, light in the darkness, forgiveness in a manger in Bethlehem!
  • Knowing that a thousand times in history a baby has become a king but only once in history did a King become a baby!

A very Blessed, Christ filled and Merry Christmas to you all!

The Gaza Strip

Credit: Ariel Schalit

Credit: Ariel Schalit

What used to be a relatively rarely known term in America has recently, at least to a somewhat larger degree, become a household term: The Gaza Strip. Although Terry and I have been to the Holy Land on multiple occasions, we have not yet visited Gaza. And unless things change significantly for the better, we most likely never will.

You’ve no doubt read and heard about current hostilities between Israel and Palestine. This conflict goes back many years and basically boils down to the age old questions of land ownership and independent self-governance. More details are available from numerous sources, including http://www.globalissues.org/article/119/the-middle-east-conflict-a-brief-background.

For centuries what is now called the Holy Land has been the venue of seemingly endless battles and wars. Biblical stories of the Old Testament relate victories that made warriors into kings and defeats that destroyed property, enslaved people and devastated families. And, except for the Jordan River Valley, a fertile region irrigated by the waters of the Jordan River, the land itself is mostly barren. Compared with many other parts of the world, it’s hardly worth fighting for.

Yet the fighting continues, with mortar fire from Hamas militants in Palestine’s Gaza Strip and southern Lebanon coming within one mile of Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, the most populous city in Israel. Israeli retaliation has taken the lives of hundreds of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, with a population of 1.8 million in a space half the size of the city of Austin, Texas. Victims are both military personnel and innocent civilians.

So far, Palestinians in the West Bank, principally Bethlehem, the city of our Savior’s birth, are being spared the direct violence. Yet our friends at Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, including Pastor Mitri Raheb, are understandably concerned about future prospects of a peaceful settlement of the hostilities.

In my prior life as president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod I met with Rev. Dr. Raheb and Right Rev. Dr. Munib Younan, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and president of the Lutheran World Federation. Both are Palestinians I find to be reasonable, honorable men who pray and work for what seems to be the elusive dream—a negotiated settlement resulting in two states and lasting peace.

If you haven’t already done so, please join me in praying for peace between Israel and Palestine, and for the safety of people in the Holy Land, including Jerusalem, Bethlehem and the Gaza Strip.

God bless you and have a wonderful week!