Family in Prayer

What is S.U.P.V.?

For those new to our church, website and this blog, here's what it's all about: SUPV stands for the Straight Up Prayer Vigil. It is a virtual prayer vigil that happens every Wednesday (God willing). The Straight Up refers to the times of 6:00 a.m., noon, 6:00 p.m., and midnight--you choose whatever time works for you--and you pray for our church, those on prayer list, and prayer requests that are included in the blog post or are sent by email, normally at the beginning of the week for that Wednesday.

Interior and exterior

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

                                                           

Matthew 11:28-30

 

I had worked with a lady by the name of “Sharon” a while back when I went from the operations area into the project world. I was overwhelmed and drinking from the fire hose; she was patient, soft spoken, and charming. She took the time to show me what she had been working on and helped me understand how it would integrate with what I was starting to work on.

 

I eventually became more comfortable in my role and went on to another organization; Sharon changed roles and our paths rarely crossed. I kind of lost track of her, except for very occasional updates from a mutual friend and co-worker. She seemed to be doing fine.

 

A couple of days ago one of my best friends with whom I work asked me if I had ever worked with Sharon. Her face was pained as she asked, and I told that her that I had, and anxiously asked her what was wrong and why she asked. She said that Sharon had committed suicide only days before, and showed me the GoFundMe campaign that Sharon’s daughter had set up. I was shocked by what I read. You see, Sharon had battled alcoholism for what seemed to be most of her adult life. A quote from her daughter’s GoFundMe write-up embodies the pain: “However, despite her often zealous and confident exterior, Mom harbored a sinister side that severely affected her and her family on a daily basis…The truth is beneath her charming wit and good humor laid a deeply troubled soul.” The write-up alludes to her suicide, its emphasis being more on telling the reality of her life so that others who may be struggling with the same thing can perhaps identify with what Sharon went through and take an opposite turn.

 


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Muck and gunk

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned

                                                        Romans 5:12

 

But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.
Philippians 4: 12

 

I was so excited when I came home from a business trip to San Francisco back in January to find that the city had given us a green bin for compost material that they would pick up every Friday with the recycling. You know how I am about recycling—I was downright giddy at the thought of organics recycling! They will allow you to put in lawn clippings, food scraps, food-soiled paper, teabags, coffee grounds, and the like. So I dutifully filled it with all of the stuff I was never able to before and rolled it to the curb every Thursday night. I virtually clicked my heels and squealed at the thought of banana peels and avocado pits no longer filling a landfill.

 

As the weeks progressed, however, I started seeing more flies hanging around my beloved compost bin, and it smelled horribly every time I’d lift its lid to deposit yet another food scrap or filled coffee filter. With each day closer to Friday, more maggots would appear on the walls, and more flies would vie for the opportunity to come into the house (I started finding myself yelling at family members to “shut the darn door or flies will come in”, while on the flip side finding glee when I was able to kill a fly with the whip of a kitchen towel. I know, it’s weird). Even after the bin was emptied, flies still remained.

 

I finally got up the gumption to clean the darn bin when the flies got to me. I used the garden hose to rinse out the dishwashing soap I’d poured in. The force of the water dislodged some, but not all, of the gunk that had accumulated at the bottom. The cart is almost 4 feet tall, and there was no way in God’s green earth I was going to crawl in it to clean it—simply wasn’t going to happen. The gunk that did come out and onto the lawn was smelly and gross, and attracted flies as it sat there in the hot sun. Blech. I finally got a long dowel rod, wrapped a rag around it, reached in with the cart on its side, and vigorously scrubbed the bottom and walls, extracting more grime and smelly gunk. After a few more rinses, I felt that it was as clean as it was going to be. I vowed to clean it more often so that gunk extraction was not a habitual thing for me. How dorky is it that I walk by my dear green bin and smile at the fact that it’s not buzzing with flies due to its fetid and decaying contents?

 


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Best and Worst Descriptors

I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 

Philippians 4: 12

 

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

                                                            1 Samuel 16:7

  A couple of months ago two of my colleagues and I interviewed four people for some positions in my department. We added our own interview questions to the standard “Tell me about a time where you…” Our favorite question was “If I were to talk to your current team or manager, what would they say about you?” It was intended to allow the interviewee the opportunity to share their qualities with us, but I noticed that it at least caused each interviewee to pause a bit before answering (after all, we can reach out and actually ask their current manager or team). I’m hopeful that the question allowed for some introspection and some honest answers.

My boss shared with a couple of us this afternoon that her high school daughter had applied at a Starbucks in Seguin, and that one of the questions the manager asked her was to describe herself on her best day using only one word. Her daughter thought about and replied, “Fearless.” When asked for a one-word description of herself on her worst day, she replied, “Pessimistic.” Pretty self-aware, I’d say, for a 17 year old.

I then joked with my boss and a co-worker, saying that on my worst day, my one-word answer would be “ChickenLittle” (see what I did there?), because when I am overwhelmed with things that I can’t control, I react in fear and great stress. Neither my boss nor my co-worker disagreed with my assessment, so I know that there are tons of growth opportunity there!


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Born of the Spirit

Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

                                                            John 3:5-8

 

“Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’ “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed so you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.  Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. ‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

                                                            Matthew 25:24-30

 

I’ve written devotionals in the past about the role the Holy Spirit plays in salvation—in convicting a person to repent of his sins and accept the exquisite present of salvation that Jesus Christ’s death offers us. I’ve even preached a sermon in which His transforming power has changed my life. But I’ve never gone as far as to raise the question here in written word, about how and why some people are convicted and some aren’t, as I hadn’t wrapped my mind fully around that yet. I don’t think that I accept election or predestination, but I know that there are a number who do. I did not explore how I theologically felt, as I think I was worried about what I would find? Suffice it to say, I didn’t write about it because I didn’t have any definitive answers, and I didn’t want to lead anyone astray. I will admit, though, that the question has been rolling around in my brain for a while, and that I’ve quelled the need to answer it thus far.

 

Until late last week.


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Discipleship and Purpose

“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you;

                                                            Matthew 28:18-20a

 

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”

                                                            Luke 9:23

 

The concept of discipleship has been on my heart lately, and I’ve been chewing on the idea of how to start it for a while, but have come up dry with how to start out a devotional on it (that’s part of the reason there was no devotional last week). I’d shared this struggle with the Thursday night prayer group, and Dell read me a letter that he’s had in his Bible for a long time. We all agreed that it was a perfect way to begin this devotional. So with many thanks to Dell, and more to the Holy Spirit, I’d like to share this with you. It was attributed to a young African pastor in Zimbabwe, and was found among his papers after he was martyred.

 

“I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I’m a disciple of His and I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.

My past is redeemed. My present makes sense. My future is secure. I’m done and finished with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap living, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, or first, or tops, or recognized, or praised, or rewarded. I live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by Holy Spirit power.

My face is set. My gait is fast. My goal is heaven. My road may be narrow, my way rough, my companions few, but my guide is reliable and my mission is clear.

I will not be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed.

I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice or hesitate in the presence of the adversary. I will not negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won’t give up, shut up, or let up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and preached up for the cause of Christ.

I am a disciple of Jesus. I must give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until He comes. And when He comes for His own, He’ll have no problems recognizing me. My colors will be clear!”

 


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Celebrities

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. 

                                                            Psalm 103:8

 

…Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.  For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

                                                            Isaiah 43:1-3

 

Have you ever met a celebrity—whether it was a planned and expected meeting, like the opportunity to meet a politician or movie star at a gala or event, or if it was a random encounter, like running into David Robinson standing in line at a Sombrero Rosa (a Taco Cabana-like restaurant from years back) or Robert Horry at Ajuua, a Mexican restaurant over on the North side. My encounters are the latter ones, if you couldn’t deduce that. I did not approach either of them, because I figured that they were just people who wanted nothing better than to just eat without anyone bothering them (my co-worker, though, thought nothing of approaching Horry and asking him for his autograph. Horry obliged while the rest of us at the table sat embarrassed for our co-worker. Oh well.)

 

I’ve heard of some celebrities being unbelievably kind and generous with their time and willingness to pose for pictures and sign autographs. I’ve also heard of those who are quite the opposite, causing an unfortunate experience with their unfortunate fans who happen to run into them.

 


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Surrender

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

 

                                                           Galatians 2:20

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 

 

                                                            Luke 9: 23-24

 

He must increase, but I must decrease. 

                                                           John 3:30

 

I was reading a non-fiction book in which the author relayed a story about a time in which he was out with a group of friends at the lake, and one of the friends started to drown. I can’t for the life of me recall if it was the author who had been a lifeguard or his friend, so I’m going to attribute this to the author, but as the story goes, the author did not jump in immediately to save his drowning friend, despite the shouts from the group he was with. Precious time seemed to slip by, and yet the author waited, until it seemed almost too late. It was at the point where the young victim finally stopped flailing and kicking that the author jumped in and saved him, bringing him back to the shore. The group was able to revive the young man, and he seemed to have no lasting effects. After the excitement wore off, one of the persons in the group asked the author why he waited so long to try to save the victim, the author explained that he’d been taught in his lifeguard training that the instinct to live is so strong that the victim would have panicked and potentially latch on to the young man, putting himself and his potential rescuer in danger, possibly creating two victims that day. Instead, he waited until the victim had no fight left, thus ensuring an easier rescue for all involved. The victim had to basically surrender himself to the possibility of impending death before he could be saved.

 

What a fitting analogy for our humanness and salvation, don’t you think?

 


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Through His Eyes

O Lord, You have searched me and known me. 
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.

 

                                                            Psalm 139: 1-4

I was praying the other morning and started thinking about Jesus’s contact with the woman at the well. Her initial reaction at His knowledge of her (“Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet…”) seemed to be guarded, even though He had revealed very personal information about her. It wasn’t until He revealed Himself to be the Messiah that she truly reacted to His revelation of her past. John tells us that she “then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, “Come, see a Man who told me all the things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”..)

 

I have a penchant for empathizing with people, wondering what they felt or thought during certain experiences. During this encounter with Jesus, her curiosity had to have been more than just piqued to have Him, a Jew, ask her, a Samaritan woman, for a drink. She had to have been taken aback when He validated her statement of having no husband and then adding that she had had five husbands already, but she seems to have hidden it well. But when Jesus reveals Himself to her as the Messiah, she sees Him for who He is. Can you imagine the joy in her heart? Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the One Who would give her everlasting life, looked at her and saw her as she truly was: the daughter of the High King. I imagine that He looked at her, despite His weariness and her sin, with eyes of sincerity and of love. He offered her acceptance and hope, and she ran to share it with others.

 


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He Loves Us Anyway

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

                                                            Romans 8:38

 

I was praying the other day for my friend “Brian”, hoping for him to not be upset with God, or rail against Him, or anything like that due to the recent death of his beloved wife (okay, I confess, I was worried that he might have that reaction. I know it’s silly to worry about that, as it may not even be a thing, and even if it were, there wasn’t anything I could do about it…other than pray). It got me thinking about the writers of some of the comments I have read on Christian blogs, comments that are a vitriolic cocktail of rage, condescension, and pain. It hurt my heart to think of His heart hurting at the intensity of the feeling behind them (in hindsight, I’m now wondering if I attribute too much to the pain of the words, given that He knows if that person will accept Him later—that is, later of us, at the same time for Him—okay, now I’m getting myself in too deep in these theological waters. *waves hands, looking for Jesus, her lifeguard Who walks on water*)

 

My mind wandered from mulling over His hurt over the comments to the time in my life when I turned my back on Him. I know I’ve shared some of this in my sermonette and testimony, but for those who don’t know or recall, here it is, in a nutshell: got married at the tender young age of 18 to a young man who became addicted to drugs and who was verbally and (a little) physically abusive. I begged and pleaded for Him to change my husband but nothing changed. After a while, I gave up hope, helpless to do anything to change my situation, but darned sure I wasn’t going to set myself up for disappointment any longer by praying to someone who did not answer my prayers.

 


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Spiritual Gifts

There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.

 

But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body.

 

Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 

 

                                                            1 Corinthians 12: vv 4-12; 18-20; 27-30

 

In our adult Sunday School class, we are studying
The Mind of Christ 
by T. W. Hunt, in an effort to understand how to become more like Jesus. We had a discussion a couple of Sundays ago about the 1 Corinthians 12 reference about each of us being a part of the body of Christ (though I cannot recall exactly how that tied in to the book!). I recall commenting that in the metaphor of the body Paul writes about, each body part knows exactly how to be—the eye knows how to be an eye, the toe knows how to be a toe, and so forth. I think the point I was trying to suggest is that the analogy breaks down, to a certain degree, when not everyone in the Church knows how to be the part of the body for which they were designed. (I’m referencing the church universal, not necessarily Stone Oak Cumberland Presbyterian church, though it might apply here, too. I’ll let you conclude on your own).

 

And when I talk about being designed as a certain body part, I’m talking with respect to spiritual gifts. Paul’s analogy is a beautiful one, one that speaks volumes and is easily understood. It isn’t by accident that this chapter introduces the concept of spiritual gifts, in its focusing of unity in diversity, and diversity within the unity of the body. Paul is writing to the Corinthians about divisions within the church, resulting most likely from an overemphasis on certain spiritual gifts being more important than others. Possession of certain spiritual gifts does not make one any more important, more prestigious, or more valuable than anyone else in the body, Paul writes. Each one of us is given at least one spiritual gift from the Holy Spirit (“
But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills”), 
and each is important to the edification of the body.


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