praying shelter: how we bring safety to our streets

You can’t possibly have missed it, the news is everywhere. Facebook is alight with grief and opinions, the talk shows are full of hype and outrage, and the celebrity news anchors are still speechless but that hasn’t stopped them from sharing clichés and propaganda.

praying shelter: how we bring safety to our streets

And none of this is about race or racism. It’s a problem, but it’s not the root issue: there’s always a Thing behind the thing. And that is what needs to be dealt with, or the other thing will just keep happening.

The Thing behind the thing is multifaceted. We could call it evil, but that’s also cliché – what we have is a culture of fear and pride, people insecure in their identities and their mission. And as a result they are unsafe.

Unsafe. As in, they might not be safe, but also, they might not be safe to others, either. People who have forgotten they are the Beloved are afraid, and afraid people do stupid things.

The enemy seeks to kill, steal, and destroy and his primary weapon is fear. But his other weapon is distraction.

The enemy attacks, distracts, tries to keep us from praying on the offense against his schemes – and sometimes it works. But if we are alert and aware of it, we can use it to divert our focus to something more powerful, like going from simply praying against an attack to praying for the hearts and repentance of the attackers.

We stop hacking at the branches and start attacking the root, because two can play that game and God’s already declared us the winners. We can do more than thwart enemy plans. We can also cause his players to defect to our side.

We can let people know they are safe. We can let them know they are loved. We can remind them they are the Beloved.

I don’t mean this in the vapid, politically-correct kind of way that throws around the word “love” like it’s the latest trendy hashtag and we can’t disagree on anything without calling it hate. We can and should disagree. We can and should hold firm to our deepest beliefs even if it offends people. And we should be safe to do so. We should be loved and loving whether we agree or not.

This is not rocket science. This is maturity.

We can’t make everyone feel safe and loved. But we can pray against fear, pride and insecurity. We can pray for people to have mature identities instead of just impassioned knee-jerk ignorance.

We can pray safety into our streets like there’s no tomorrow. Because for some tonight, there’s no tomorrow.

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We can pray deep and wide: deeply and often for our neighborhoods and our families, and wide and scattered over the intersections and businesses of our cities. In His authority we can cover these places with safety.

We can pray for government buildings, sidewalks, and bus stops. We can pray security into people as we pray over their homes, their workplaces, their driving routes.

Because all of these lives matter. Yours and mine and theirs.

We can pray shelter over each other, flinging it wide, everywhere we go.

in pieces: why we need to remember we are the Beloved

It happened when a six-year-old was crawling on the kitchen counter to get a cup out of the cabinet. She slipped and dropped the cup, which landed on several other dishes next to the sink, including Vince’s favorite mug…the handle of which immediately broke into three pieces. Did I mention it was handmade pottery?

in pieces: why we need to remember we are the Beloved

She knew it was her fault – an accident, a sad loss, but not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things. But when it came to apologizing, something flipped.

“I didn’t break it!” she insisted. Technically, this was (sort of) true…the cup she dropped is what did the breaking. And yet she was the one who dropped it.

We went round and round with the logic of this, but the real battle wasn’t logic. The real battle was two-fold, part of which was admitting the truth — because if we admit the truth we must also admit responsibility for our part in it. The other part was fear clouding her identity, and she forgot that she is more valuable to us than a broken dish.

Sometimes we need to be reminded that we’re the Beloved so we can be secure enough to face the truth.

It’s imperative that we teach this to our kids. If we don’t, we’ll end up raising a generation of middle-aged juveniles who would rather be willfully out of touch with reality than admit their own mistakes. And we really don’t need any more of those.

Avoiding truth and responsibility are both rooted in fear, and given enough time they distill into narcissism. We think of narcissism as something that values self over others to an extreme measure, but the truth is that it’s the essence of insecurity.

And our culture is full of it. We diminish our own value out of insecurity, and then entirely eliminate the value of others in self-defense. Like a bully who picks on the weak to hide his own fear, the nation that justifies slaughter and harvesting of body parts for scientific advancement is a nation steeped in its own self-loathing.

We don’t need to look to ISIS for atrocity. We have evidence of the most barbaric acts on video, in our country, against our most vulnerable, for profit. It has occurred without the influence or design of any religion. It does, however, have the backing of an inflated government and a culture drunk on its own narcissism and insecurity.

It’s not that these videos show how wrong abortion is – abortion is wrong whether it is done for profit or not, whether it happens in the third trimester or not, whether the baby is wanted or not. What these videos reveal is how debased we are as a culture that it takes something this barbaric to wake us up to the evil of it.

If we deny what is so clearly shown here, we are willfully out of touch with reality – because if we admit the truth, we must also admit that we are responsible.

Our culture is responsible. Our silence is responsible. Our turning away, not wanting to be made uncomfortable, is responsible.

And I want to say, I’m sorry. We have dropped it, we have caused breaking, we have allowed a culture to grow up around us that divides the unborn into pieces for profit, and doesn’t even care if the heart is still beating or not.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

While no life is perfect, every life is beautiful and has purpose beyond being relegated to a bunch of line items for Planned Parenthood.

Sometimes we need to be reminded that we are the Beloved. You, reading this. Me, typing this.

This one, with this face.

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He was only six months younger than this one, with this face.

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We see a culture rising up out of this that knows what it is to take responsibility. We see generations who are willing to look reality in the face and say No more of this, not on our watch. We see families and churches stepping in to do more than say they are pro-life but are also showing that they are pro-child – adopting, fostering, providing, and praying. We have a culture that is moving from the relative comfort of shaking their heads in disgust over headlines to stepping into the front lines to stand up for children, born and unborn.

When we know we are the Beloved, we’re not afraid of the truth. Insecurity is no match for people who know they are image-bearers. And those who recognize their own value are those who also value the lives of others – not as a commodity for personal gain, but a person with inherent value — because they are also the Beloved.

behold, we live

God, it’s been a bruising day. Our community, our church body, our family have endured some pummeling. The enemy has been angry and threatening and on the warpath, and we’ve felt it today.

behold, we live: victory in the face of onslaught

The grieving, for all different reasons. For loss, for choices, for mistakes – it’s way past bedtime as I type, and I still hear a child crying, needing and yet refusing comfort. We pray for the sorrow that leads to repentance, to life, to salvation.

We pray for comfort for the mourning, those who have lost loved ones in sudden heartbreak. God, for Your comfort, protection, truth, and peace. For deep sleep tonight, and Your words to come as hearts are resting.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

– 2 Corinthians 4:6

God, I pray that the morning would bring hope and joy in the face of what seems impossible.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.

– 2 Corinthians 4:7-9

We pray encouragement and truth into hearts that are hurting. We pray renewed vision and hope into those who have been shattered. We pray freedom for the captives.

We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise.

– 2 Corinthians 6:3-8a

We pray for truth and justice to triumph over the manipulation of the enemy. We pray for healing for the sick, for sound minds in the vulnerable, and for compassion in the powerful.

We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

– 2 Corinthians 6:8b-10

We pray for wisdom in change, for maturity in conflict, for calm in chaos. We thank You for these things, for Your word, for Your truth, for Your victory. Because victory is here.

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This is day 24 of Without Ceasing: 31 Days of Relentless Prayer. Find the other posts here. To get new posts right in your inbox, subscribe here.

about time

We finally did something we’ve been looking forward to for weeks. We’ve been waiting for fall, with its cold days and hot tea, and then waiting to finish the book we were already reading (the last one in the Borrowers series, which was sorely disappointing – boo hiss) and then waiting for a quiet afternoon between work and school hours.

about time: what we do with the days we're given

But finally, it was time. We started reading Lord of the Rings to the kids. I would fist-pump the air in enthusiasm, but that would be decidedly non-Elvish.

There were rumors of strange things happening in the world outside; and as Gandalf had not at that time appeared or sent any message for several years, Frodo gathered all the news he could.

– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

We have read it before, some of us more than once, but this is the first time all of us have read it aloud together. It is for fall – for starting in fall, at least – and then to revel in for the rest of the winter as we trek through all 1200-something pages on cold nights and snowy afternoons.

You probably know this story – the fate of Middle Earth rests on the destruction of the One Ring, and Frodo has it. He is a wealthy hobbit with a coveted home in the Shire, and he can refuse to take on the task and pass it on to someone else, or ignore all the signs and warnings and pretend life is just fine for as long as possible. But he accepts the mission (you knew that) and he goes all in – giving up his home, his community, and his comfort.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

And we wish certain things hadn’t happened in our time, also. I wish I didn’t have to explain to our kids what abortion is, what human trafficking is, why their brother acts the way he does sometimes, or why their sister has misshapen toes and FAS. There are a million different whys I wish didn’t need explaining, and a million different missions I wish didn’t need funding. I wish they didn’t need to exist. But they do.

Would it be easier to not adopt? Not to give? Not to go? Not to follow the call He’s placed on us? Yes. Honestly? Heck, yes – but only in the short term. Long term, it would lead to destruction, and that short-term ease would be dearly paid for by those who are counting on us not to shrug our shoulders.

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

– Philippians 2:4-7

Oh, my friends – you who have adopted, and then adopted again, have pivoted the direction and destiny of those kids, for good, forever. You who have slept on hard beds and eaten weird foods in a strange country have changed the future of that nation by bringing hope and healing. You who have emptied an account you were saving for a vacation in order to give to the hungry and heartbroken have planted seed that will grow, proliferate, and scatter.

Jesus, I pray for Your encouragement on those who have given up home, comfort, and community. I pray for wisdom, peace, and protection from doubt and misgiving, and victory in every battle. And I pray courage into and over those whom You have called, that they would not waver in their decision between easy and eternal.

Our hands, and many of yours, are in the mud all the way to our elbows. Our hands are dirty, the grit is under our nails, and we know we weren’t called to easy. We were called to abundance.

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This is day 23 of Without Ceasing: 31 Days of Relentless Prayer. Find the other posts here. To get new posts right in your inbox, subscribe here.

 

before Jericho

One kid is napping and five kids are out with Vince, on a quick errand to get coffee and a new toilet seat (lest you were under the impression that life here is glamorous). He’ll be gone for forty minutes; I have forty minutes to write today’s post before they get back because the rest of the day is full.

Forty minutes. And at least half of that time is spent in thinking, tinkering, trying to figure out which direction we’re going before we even get to lift off. No pressure. Forty minutes, got it.

before Jericho: how a transitional generation prepares for victory

He’s getting coffee because something went horribly wrong with our coffee maker this morning, leaving the coffee ruined and putrid. And I guess you could say the same thing about the toilet seat…but I digress.

Forty minutes, I have no idea where to start. I just started reading Joshua the other day, which excites me because I have this feeling that Jericho is going to make an appearance in at least one or two posts soon.

But I’m not at Jericho yet. I’m at this part:

At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the sons of Israel a second time.”

– Joshua 5:2, ESV

Oh.

And also, yuck. But necessary, I get it – this was the transitional generation, whose parents had shrunk back at the opportunity to take the Promised Land. This was their time take hold of it, but first they had to deal with this. It wasn’t glamorous. It was the clean-up operation before the clean-up operation.

So it was their children, whom he raised up in their place, that Joshua circumcised. For they were uncircumcised, because they had not been circumcised on the way.

When the circumcising of the whole nation was finished, they remained in their places in the camp until they were healed.

– Joshua 5:7-8, ESV

The task was huge. Joshua might have looked across at the nation in a daze, wondering where to start – sort of like how we look across at the news and events around us. It’s that deer-in-the-headlights stupor, knowing the times are urgent, the dangers are imminent, and the needs are many.

You must believe that God is separate from the world and that some of the things we see in it are contrary to His will. Confronted with a cancer or a slum the Pantheist can say, “If you could only see it from the divine point of view, you realize that this also is God.” The Christian replies, “Don’t talk damned nonsense.” For Christianity is a fighting religion. It thinks God made the world….But it also thinks that a great many things have gone wrong with the world that God made and that God insists, and insists very loudly, on our putting them right again.

– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

The issues are delicate and lives are at stake. We plunge in with caution – quick to obey, but careful to clean up our own hearts before all else.

God, show us what to focus on first, right in front of us. Protect us from being overwhelmed and stupefied, and give us a calm simplicity to just do the first thing, and then the next thing, in simple steps, in consistent prayer, in steady progress.

We are the transitional generation; our nations will pivot their direction largely due to our obedience or lack thereof. We must know where we are headed and how to prepare for it.

But first, coffee.

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This is day 15 of Without Ceasing: 31 Days of Relentless Prayer. Find the other posts here. To get new posts right in your inbox, subscribe here.