Have you ever held a restless baby, like a child around 8 or 9 months old?
Let’s say you’re carrying him upstairs to change his diaper. While on the steps, the baby pushes back from you with hands and feet, he arches his back, he lunges right, lunges left, squirming in all directions at once. You fear you’ll lose hold, and you try to get the baby’s attention, trying to catch its eye, trying to calm it with soothing words. Nothing works.
And the whole time, the baby’s unaware that if he actually wrestled free, he’d fall down the stairs and get banged up. The baby doesn’t realize that the safest thing for it to do is be calm, relax, and just be still in your arms.
Sometimes while praying, I feel like that baby. My mind pushes away from God, it lunges in multiple directions at once. God tries to get my attention, tries to catch my eye. But my mind keeps squirming away.
Do I have a solution to offer? Nope. I guess I just felt like whining about how my prayer time went this morning. I hope yours was better.
Please try praying this prayer for yourself, from your heart. First, get an image of Jesus in your mind’s eye, maybe from a movie you’ve seen or a piece of art. It doesn’t matter. Then, with that image, picture the Spirit of Jesus within you, inside your body, there with your soul and personality. Like the two of you are sharing the same body. Now …
Dear Spirit of Jesus, here within me,
Help me feel the fruits of your presence.
Help me feel your love, your joy, your peace, your patience,
Help me feel your kindness, your goodness, your faithfulness,
And help me feel your gentleness and self-control.
With you within me dear Jesus, I can feel protected from the chaos of the world around me.
I can feel isolated, separated from the world.
Yes, I feel safe, and calm.
I feel your peace, and freedom.
The world is still there, always there, noisy, painful, angry.
But at least for this moment, I’m free of it all, here with you.
I know the world will suck me back out as soon as I look away from you.
But whenever I look back inside, to you, I will find you there, always waiting for me.
With you, I’m never alone.
Dear Jesus, when I leave this time of prayer and return to the world, as I must, please help me bring the fruits of your presence with me.
Please help me bring a bit of you with me.
Come with me back into the world.
It’s hard for me alone.
But with you, I can glorify you and our Father with what I do and how I live.
Dear Jesus, dear Lord God, your Spirit here within me,
Dear God. Dear Jesus. There is so much pain in our world, so much suffering. I try to pray for it all. It’s too much for me. Too overwhelming. I start to pray, I try to bring it all within my mind to then offer to You, and I soon find myself drowning deep in the depths of all that pain. Crushed. I can’t do this. I can’t handle it. I can’t wrap my mind around the world’s pain and suffering.
CJ, don’t try. Let go. Don’t focus on the pain. Look only to Me.
Oh Lord. My dear Jesus. You know the pains. You can handle it. Since all that pain is too much for me to begin to pray for, I offer you my self. I give you me. Please, as always, I pray that your Spirit dear Jesus will live through me, love through me, heal through me. In whatever way You will, help ease the pains of the world, through me. Your will be done, in me.
Your will be done in me. Oh Lord, that thought makes me smile. A moment of true peace, and even joy, in the midst of the world’s misery. Wow. I love you.
Do you start your day with some quiet time and prayer? Do you sit in a comfortable chair, get that first cup of coffee warm in your hands, close your eyes, and look for God or Jesus in your thoughts? Well, no matter when or where you pray, the next time you do, consider trying to picture things from God’s point of view.
Like the father waiting for the prodigal son to return, our Father is always waiting for us to return to Him in prayer. Picture Him quietly waiting for you in heaven, as you bow your head down here on earth. He gazes at you and smiles. Then he reaches down and lifts you to him.
Maybe you picture God lifting you up and setting you on his lap, as a father filled with love for his little child. Or you picture Jesus lifting you up and setting you on a seat before him, so close your knees are touching his. He reaches across and takes your hands in his. And with or without words, the two of you share your feelings with each other. Then, see where your prayer time goes from there.
That’s where the best prayer time will be, with you and God together again.
And if you care to try something else that may be new, instead of filling your prayer time with telling God what you desire, quiet you mind and ask Him what He desires.
Peaceful protests are a good lever for change. Unfortunately, as we have seen, criminals and anarchists who don’t care about change are hijacking peaceful protests. The criminals just see an easy opportunity to get away with looting. I don’t pretend to guess what motivates the anarchists—it looks to me like they just enjoy stirring up trouble.
But there is one lever for change that is not so easily hijacked—your vote. I don’t know if there’s much our federal elected officials can do to fix problems such as the one that’s shattering our nation right now. But I do know there is something state and local officials can do. So, along with our peaceful (hopefully) protests, we should tell our local elected officials that unless they implement tangible and effective change by this November, we’re going to vote them out of office. I bet that will help get something done.
The best legacy for George Floyd and all victims of such crimes should not be violence, looting, and division. I think the best legacy that we could honor them with is to have all of us, regardless of race, come together around effective and long lasting change that will ensure that crimes like this never happen again. And in keeping with what I normally post about, more powerful even than our vote would be all of us praying together.
And yes, this is not the typical type of thing I post. But like many of you, because of what’s happened, and the violence that has come on the heels of violence, well, it’s stirred up too much anguish for me to keep bottled up. So I’ve added my small voice to the cries of all those who are also saddened, along with the groans of our country and society that seems to be trembling on the knife edge of survival (maybe that’s what the anarchists want—to push us all over the edge).
I was just reading about what it means to pray in Jesus’ name, in the book, Abide in Christ, by Andrew Murray. And I finally saw a deeper, clearer meaning.
To pray to God in Jesus’ name is as if Jesus Himself is asking Father God on my behalf. Yet instead of Jesus asking for me, Jesus has said I can go directly to God and use His name. It’s almost like he says, “You have my approval to ask the Father.”
I’ve known this before, but today I think Jesus opened my mind to the deeper meaning, which is: Before Jesus will give me his approval to use his name, he needs to be willing. What I need to do is first go to Jesus and ask Him to bless my request. And I completely believe that Jesus will bless all prayers that glorify Father God.
And Jesus will show me how prayers can glorify God, and how to change errant prayers so they will then glorify God. Then, I can go to the Father with Jesus’ blessing and say something like, “Father God, in Jesus’ name and with His blessing, I humbly ask you for (insert request here).”
So today, I did just that. And what a GREAT time of prayer it was! I’ve never felt so certain that a prayer will be smiled upon by God and granted in some way. And now I’m excited to see the outcome.
Give it a try. It’s great!!! And if at first it feels awkward to go to Jesus and ask for his blessing, well, maybe the two of you just need to become closer friends. And the beauty of going to him with requests like that is the more you meet him in this way, the closer you will become.
So much violence… so much hatred… too much. Seems like the world is falling apart. Lots of people, like me, are trying to help by recommending we all look to God and Jesus for comfort and answers, and peace. What can I add that hasn’t already been said? Nothing. So with regard to what all compassionate folk are recommending, enough writing. I’m just gonna go do it. “Dear Jesus, I’m hurting and I need your help…”
“It isn’t necessary that we stay in church in order to remain in God’s presence. We can make our hearts personal chapels where we can enter anytime to talk to God privately. These conversations can be so loving and gentle, and anyone can have them.”
Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God
Dear God, dear Jesus… you know Terrie’s condition. You see the Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma that is rapidly killing her. You see her now, in that hospital bed.
I don’t know Terrie as well as you do. In fact, I haven’t seen her for many years. But because of your love that fills me now, I too feel love for Terrie, like a brother for a sister. And I love her husband, as a brother. And I love her children, as a father. Unfortunately, I’m feeling this love more profoundly only now – now that I’ve heard about Terrie’s pain and suffering.
Lord, as you know, Terrie enters my mind a lot these days, ever since we heard of the relapse. Today I just felt like writing my prayers, and sharing my prayers with anyone who might like to join us in prayer.
Dear Jesus, as I feel your presence within me now, please pour your presence into Terrie, and throw out the evil disease that possesses her, and fill her with your love and peace. I know you love Terrie, and maybe you are ready to bring her home to heaven to live with you. But I also know you love her family. For her family, please heal Terrie so she can remain with them a while longer.
But no matter what dear God, your will be done. I give all my trust to you. Thank you dear Lord. Thank you dear Jesus, for sending your Spirit to be with Terrie now. She may not feel you there with her, but you’re there.
It’s Sunday morning – time to get ready to go to church. Do you have a church to go to? Do you have a way to get there? If not, maybe do as I’m doing on this Sunday. Instead of looking to others for “church,” look within yourself.
Find a quiet place to be alone, but not truly alone. As Paul said, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19)
The one true Church, the Church that Jesus built, is not a building or a manmade organization. The true Church is the body in which the Holy Spirit of Jesus lives… my body, your body, the collective bodies of all who choose to believe and accept the gift of Jesus’ salvation and presence.
Manmade church can be great – I’ve grown a lot by going to such a church. But it’s not the true Church that Jesus built.
Do you want to go to Church today? Then quiet your mind, close your eyes, and look inside yourself … to the Spirit of Jesus within you. That’s where you can truly worship and praise Him. And maybe even sing a song for Him. I bet He’d enjoy such a one-person choir.
“But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.” (Hebrews 3:6)
“And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:22)
One of my favorite times of the day is early morning, when it’s still dark outside, with my cold hands warming around a hot cup of coffee. My mind starts out wandering, never stopping long in one spot. My thoughts are looking for Jesus, within me, yet my spiritual attention deficit disorder (SADD), keeps scattering my thoughts, hindering my efforts to find Jesus.
But soon the coffee gives my wandering mind the strength to wrest control of my thoughts and focus on my search for Jesus. And He’s always there waiting for me, in the midst of my thoughts.
We sit there together, while I sip my coffee. Closing my eyes to block out the distractions of the world, I look inside, to Jesus. And we just hang out together. Sometimes I talk. Often I try to just quiet my mind and listen. This quiet time with Jesus is my favorite time of the day. And I’m so grateful.
Instead of judging my friend and their annoying behavior, I decided to pray for them. Often, when I pray for someone who makes me annoyed or angry, I’m actually praying for myself. I ask for patience and understanding.
As I went through my day, frequently praying for my annoying friend, I realized I was truly praying FOR them, instead of me. I kept thinking that they are annoying for a reason – some pain in their life, perhaps. My prayers became filled with a compassion for my friend, rather than annoyance. And then the surprise opened up before me.
I started feeling a strong connection with my friend; some kind of spiritual connection, I believe. And I believe that connection was through Jesus. His vine and branch image came into my mind, where Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Our mutual connection with Jesus connects us to each other, spiritually. And I now believe that compassionate prayers FOR someone will strengthen those connections.
I’ve been reading The Good and Beautiful Life, by James Bryan Smith, just finishing the chapter about judgment. I learned a seismic truth while reading this chapter and then talking about it in our small group last night.
Smith gives a quote by Philo of Alexandria, who said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” Being judgmental can come so naturally for me. It’s often irresistible. But when I look at my target, and realize that the behavior I wish to judge may be battle scars – my judgment melts into compassion. And given time, compassion feels a lot better than judgment.
Where judgment can lead to criticism, compassion leads me to prayer. And from my experience, prayer is far more helpful than judgment. Where feelings of judgment eat at my soul, compassion and prayer feed my soul. And my hope is that prayers will lead to healing of battle scars.
The most effective lessons are the ones you figure out yourself.
Almost daily, I earnestly ask God to show me how to do something, like solving a writing problem in the book I’m working on. Though I feel His presence with me, and at times, He does seem to give me the answer, He doesn’t solve all my writing challenges.
It just occurred to me that maybe God has a good reason for not showing me the solution to all my problems. Like any good parent or teacher, maybe God is telling me that for some problems, I need to figure out the solution myself.
Here are some of the ways I used to feel around Christians; see if these sound familiar to your experience:
I felt like Christians were constantly judging my behavior and actions.
It seemed to me like Christians thought they were better than everyone else.
I felt like Christians disliked me and everyone else who wasn’t a Christian.
I thought Christians were flat-out weird whenever I saw them praying in public, and I’d stay far away from them, as if I didn’t want to catch whatever sickness they had.
The worst was that I always felt like Christians were trying to pressure me to convert and take on their beliefs. Just leave me alone and let me be how I want to be!!! – that’s how I felt.
Than I became a Christian. I remember my sister saying, “Oh no, are you now a Jesus Freak?” The answer was yes. Yet even though I had become crazy about Jesus, I sure didn’t want to become creepy. Ever since I decided that I really like Jesus and believe in Him, I’ve been searching for the truth of what a real “Christian” should look like. In other words, how would Jesus have Christians appear to non-Christians?
For all who call themselves “Christian,” here’s some advice from the experts (note, I like to put Jesus’ words in red, since He’s the best expert on the subject):
“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” (1 Corinthians 8:9)
“Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.” (Romans 14:13)
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1)
“Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.” (Romans 14:1)
“But you – who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 4:12)
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37)
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men… But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.”(Matthew 6:5, 6)
“Make every effort to live in peace with all men.” (Hebrews 12:14)
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)
“Be merciful to those who doubt.” (Jude 1:22)
All Christians should pay attention to the advice of the experts.
It’s difficult and often dangerous out in the “real” world. As I raised my children, I protected them, fed them, taught them, cared for them, and loved them. I did my best to create a safe, joyful and loving environment at home. Yet they left.
Well of course they left; that’s the way of our society. Raise your children and then send them off on their own, to fend for themselves and put what you taught them into practice, hopefully.
It’s part of our nature to want to go out on our own, and live independent of our parents. We want to make our own decisions and direct our own life, without having to report to someone else. And along with this comes the responsibility of dealing with our own problems, on our own.
Of course for many of us, mom and dad are no farther away that the other end of the telephone, and they are often willing and able to help us deal with our problems. We may have left them when we moved out of their house, but they never really left us. Loving parents make themselves always available to help and guide their adult children.
Where am I going with all this? Well, I think this little scenario illustrates our history and relationship with God.
Humanity, in the persons of Adam and Eve, were lovingly raised by God, who offered them a home with Him, forever. He would protect them, feed them, teach them, care for them and love them. But the independent nature kicked in. Adam and Eve wanted to leave home and go out on their own, make their own decisions and direct their own lives.
I know some self-proclaimed atheists who make a case that all of the world’s problems are evidence that there is no God, for how could a God possibly allow so much evil. The truth is, God does not allow evil, in His home. But humanity struck out on their own, into the cold, cruel, evil world. We left God to go out on our own, spurred on by our prideful ego, which told us we were smart enough to live independent from God.
Yet we are not alone in this cold, cruel world. God is always just on the other end of the phone, lovingly willing to help us deal with our problems. All we need do is call, and listen.
One of my past posts solicited the following comment: “Since Mary is the immaculate mother of Jesus and he was unable to deny her wishes on Earth (see wedding feast of Cana) she is the ideal intercessor!” I don’t know if this one comment represents the view of the entire Catholic Church, but it sparks some issues I would like to talk about.
First I would like to discuss this idea of Jesus taking direction from His mother, supposedly being “unable to deny her wishes.” Then I will try to compare the Catholic view of Mary with the biblical view (they are not one and the same). My intention is not to demean Mary in any way, but I do plan to focus on the truth; not according to the Catholic Church, but according to God.
Was Jesus truly unable to deny the wishes of his mother? What does the following tell you about Jesus’ relationship with Mary?
“While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:46-50)
Jesus puts all who obey on the same level as His mother. He himself does not elevate her above anyone else. So why does the Catholic Church?
However, do Jesus’ words in the bible indicate that He was inclined to follow the direction of His mother, or did His guidance come from elsewhere? Please consider His own words…
“I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” (John 8:28-29)
“For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” (John 12:49-50)
“The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.” (John 14:10)
“These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” (John 14:24)
“…the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.” (John 14:31)
Jesus follows His Father, not His mother.
Regarding the Catholic view of Mary, one of her attributes is that she is an object of Catholic prayer. One of the most familiar Catholic prayers is directed toward her; “Hail Mary, full of grace…”
Does Jesus call us to pray to His mother? No. Jesus tells us to go directly to God…
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:9-12)
“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)
In addition to being an object of prayer, Mary appears to be an object of worship. For me, it’s difficult if not impossible to separate worship from prayer. After all, prayer is an expression of worship. Praying to Mary is worshiping her.
What does God have to say about our worshipping other than Him? From the 10 Commandments:
“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them.” (Exodus 20:4-5a)
From this point in Exodus to the end of Revelation, we are told to worship only God…
“I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!” (Revelation 22:8-9)
Even an angel is not to be worshipped, and neither is Mary. Worship God!
I do not write this in order to criticize the Catholic Church. I write this out of concern for the souls of all who follow the ways of the Catholic Church. Jesus is concerned too…
“You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” (Matthew 15:7-9)