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. 
The length of the SUPVs has grown in nature over the past couple of years, and now it’s pretty much a full-blown devotional, with specific prayer requests included. May it bless you as you read it.   
 
 
 

October 28, 2015

“As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.  If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

                                                                                    1 Peter 4: 10-11

 

I hope you all know that I try to stay away from preacher platitudes and all, but I am grappling with how to start this SUPV about the giving of time and talents without coming across as too judgmental or self-serving, too hypocritical (“why have you signed up for only one timeslot at the Pumpkin Patch, Laura?), too Church Lady-like (“well, isn’t that special?”), and a whole host of other adjectives that describe someone I don’t want to be like. So…I’m going to share a commonly told story that apparently is a riff on a poem written by Charles Osgood called “The Responsibility Poem”. The name of this story is “Nobody Did It.” To wit:

This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to do and Everybody was asked to do it. Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody would do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.


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October 21, 2015

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

 Cast your burden on the Lord,
And He shall sustain you;

                                                      Psalm 55:22 

I was struggling the other day, overwhelmed and overloaded at the challenges I’d been facing in dealing with some family issues, as well as a number of work-related issues. I felt like a fishing bobbin, floating around at the mercy of the waves of chaos around me, helpless to do anything but react to the strength and power of the waves. I felt a bit battered, and wondered just how long the valley was going to be this time. Yes, I knew I was not alone, and yes, before you say it, I did know that I am supposed to be thankful for trial, as our friend James reminds us in the 2nd verse of his very first chapter: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” I think I can probably speak for most of us when I say that it’s one thing to actually count it as joy when it’s happening; it’s another thing to know that you’re supposed to but fall short of it in practicality and reality. All too often, I feel that I fall on the latter.

 

Logically I knew that a couple of the particular things were issues I was not going to be able to figure out, nor would I be able to come up any viable options. I was very much at my wit’s end. I’d start to pray but the more it seemed I dwelt on the troublesome issues, the larger they became. (I know, I know—it’s now that preacher platitude of “don’t tell God how big your fears are—tell your fears how big your God is!” comes to mind. It didn’t bring me comfort at the time, I’m afraid to say). My mind wandered several times throughout that prayer, and I struggled unsuccessfully to reel my thoughts back in, apparently preferring to wallow in the hopelessness of my fears.


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October 14, 2015

Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

                                                      Psalm 37: 4

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

Matthew 6:33

 

My older son, Greg, whom most of you would remember, graduated college this past spring with a Computer Science degree from UTSA, and has been working for USAA since June. He had planned to move out of the house into an apartment closer to work the first weekend of the month; the apartment wasn’t ready, though, until this Thursday. So I spent Thursday afternoon and all day Friday moving my son out of my house into his own apartment. I’m proud to say that I stopped crying Friday afternoon (it wasn’t a continual crying session but one that would come and go when there was a lull in activity, like sitting in traffic surrounded with crates and laundry baskets of clothes and groceries), but I can’t take the credit—it was the comfort of Lamentations 3: 22-23 (paraphrased): “His mercies are new every day.”

It was before my morning prayers that Thursday, when I had my only bit of down time when the house was quiet, that I was ruminating on how the household dynamics were going to change. Greg’s little dog Oreo, a rescue terrier whom he’d had about 18 months, jumped on the sofa next to me and promptly presented her belly for “scritches” (you know…scritch, scritch, scritch…”). I started to tear up, knowing that the opportunities for belly rubs would soon diminish, as would shared TV viewing of Modern Family and the Dallas Cowboys with Greg. In an effort to redirect my thoughts lest I get too emotional, I took a deep breath to clear my mind and prepare for communion with Him. It was either right as I bowed my head and started to pray, or a nanosecond before, the thought of “What are the desires of your heart?” came, unbidden, into my mind. The Psalm 37 reference of “….and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” came to mind at the prompting of the first question. “Oooh! What an opportunity I have!”, I thought at first. “Is this where I tell Him that I’d like everything to be as it was before….before the boys got older and still needed me? Or was this the chance to ask for Him to make good now on those future plans I understood Him to have shared with me? Do I pray, unselfishly, for my loved ones? Or, was this where I turn into a Miss America contestant and ask for world peace? Thoughts tumbled in, one after another, as I pondered the question, and I considered each one quickly, almost as if I had a time limit in which to answer.


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September 30, 2015

And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” Moreover God said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.’ 

                                                               Exodus 3:14-15

 And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

                                                               Isaiah 9:6

 “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

                                                               Matthew 1:21

 

Shakespeare’s Juliet asks Romeo, “”What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Here, she conveys to Romeo the level of importance she confers on his last name—it is of little significance to her that his last name is Montague. He is the object of her love, not his name.

 

Names today, at least in Western culture, can carry some artifact of tradition (family names) and cultural references (the naming of one’s son, for example, after a most excellent Hall of Fame Dallas Cowboys quarterback, or the middle name of little Luke Tiberius Smith (awesome, btw, Angie & Bryan)), but I contend that they don’t carry the same significance as they did, say back in the times of the Bible.


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September 23, 2015

“But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.”

                                                                        John 21:4         

“For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.”

                                                                        John 20:9

 We were in the study of the Holy Spirit Sunday school about a month ago or more, and I’d made a comment about the disciples that in retrospect I wish I hadn’t. I don’t recall specifically what I said, but the gist of it was “my goodness. They walked with Him day and night and still didn’t get it? Out of everyone in the world to understand, I would have expected that they would.” Oh, how judgmental of me! I was later humbled by the Lord for thinking that, because couldn’t I say the same thing about me? I walk with Him day in and day out, and there are so many things about His inspired word and promises that I fail to see and understand.


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September 16, 2015

For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: 

“For yet a little while,
And He who is coming will come and will not tarry

 Now the just shall live by faith;
But if anyone draws back,
My soul has no pleasure in him.”

                                                      Hebrews 10:36-38

 Remember the concept of the genie in Aladdin’s lamp—that if you were the lucky soul who rubbed the lamp the right way, he’d come out and grant you three wishes (“and no wishing for more wishes!”)? There are websites dedicated to debating the perfect wishes, many a mother-in-law or ex-wife joke about them, and wonderful stories and Disney movies about Aladdin’s relationship with his genie. So, in that vein, I’m going to ask you to think of your three wishes, but prescribe that one of them has to be for the Stone Oak Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Okay… now think…prepare your answers… ready?

 Focus now only on the single sincere wish for our church.  There are hundreds of responses that could have been generated… were any of these yours:

 Different Sunday School classes or Bible studies?

 Jazzercise classes in the evenings?

 Shorter sermons? Longer sermons? Dramatic demonstrations of the sermon? No sermon at all?

 Shorter service? Longer service?

 Black Ivory coffee in the church coffee pots for consumption during and after Sunday School? (you know,  a brand of coffee produced by the Black Ivory Coffee Company Ltd in Northern Thailand from Arabica coffee beans consumed by elephants and collected from their feces. It runs about $1,100 per kilogram).

 More folks to attend?

 Others in the church to step up into leadership positions instead of the same ones who always do, so that we can avoid burnout?

 A food pantry or other cause that we could for the community?

 A coffee shop and bookstore in the narthex?

 Increased tithes and money in the coffers?

 


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September 2, 2015

Praise the Lord!

Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
Who delights greatly in His commandments.

His descendants will be mighty on earth;
The generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches will be in his house,
And his righteousness endures forever.
Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness;
He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous.
A good man deals graciously and lends;
He will guide his affairs with discretion.

 Surely he will never be shaken;
The righteous will be in everlasting remembrance.
He will not be afraid of evil tidings;
His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
His heart is established;
He will not be afraid,
Until he sees his desire upon his enemies.

He has dispersed abroad,
He has given to the poor;
His righteousness endures forever;
His horn will be exalted with honor.
The wicked will see it and be grieved;
He will gnash his teeth and melt away;
The desire of the wicked shall perish.

                                                      Psalm 112

 I am a member of Generation X, that age demographic classified by those born in the mid sixties to the early eighties (give or take a few years on both ends). I remember hearing about the proverbial “Me generation”, a term that referred to the baby boomer generation with its self-involved qualities that some have attributed to that generation (according to Wikipedia. Not me, I swear!). Writer Tom Wolfe coined the nickname in the 1970s, with another writer furthering its use by commenting on the rise of a culture of narcissism among the younger generation. Per Wikipedia, “the phrase caught on with the general public, at a time when “self-realization” and “self-fulfillment” were becoming cultural aspirations among young people, who considered them far more important than social responsibility.” Trends such as discos and hot tub parties, self help programs and books (I distinctly recall I’m OK, You’re OK being in my parents’ library), New Age spirituality, and health and exercise fads are all hallmarks of the Me generation’s focus on self. When I was younger, I didn’t understand the reference—jogging suits and leisure suits worn with Qiana nylon shirts with oversized collars didn’t seem to be too bad of a thing (though I have to say that I can still recall the now cringe-worthy robin’s egg blue and the light yellow ones my dad wore once or maybe twice—don’t say anything to him when he comes to visit, okay?!?), and when you think about it, is self-realization a bad thing? Perhaps the Me generation deserved to be focused inward, given all of the things that had happened in the world in the sixties and seventies—Vietnam, civil rights movement, riots, unemployment, fuel shortages, President Nixon resigning—that seemed to be a large amount of unease and uncertainty.  

 I’m going to ask you to read the scripture above—Psalm 112—through the lens of someone from the Me generation. Go on, I’ll wait… …. ….

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September 9, 2015

O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself;
It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.

                                                      Jeremiah 10:23

 There are many plans in a man’s heart,
Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand.

                                                      Proverbs 19:21

 Back in 1986, Janet Jackson came out with a song entitled “Control”, and the lyrics to one of its verses and the chorus are as follows:

Got my own mind

I wanna make my own decisions

When it has to do with my life, my life

I wanna be the one in control

 

I’m in / Control

Never gonna stop / Control

To get what I want / Control

I like to have a lot / Control

Now I’m all grown up

 

Now Janet “Miss Jackson, if you’re nasty” Jackson was twenty years old when that song came out, catapulting her to pop icon. The song was a declaration that she wasn’t going to just stay in the shadows of her older brothers, she wasn’t going to be managed by her father Joseph Jackson any longer, she was a young adult who took charge of her own music career. Songs from the album of the same name spoke of self-empowerment, and gave young women a rally cry. No longer did one have to march to someone else’s drum; she could make up her own mind and do whatever it was that she wanted to do, now that she was all grown up.


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August 26, 2015

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

                                                      Acts 2: 42-47

Look up the word “fellowship” in a dictionary and you’ll find that the first definition is something like “friendly association, especially with people who share one’s interests.” Sounds congenial and light, hmm? The fellowship that Luke refers to in the second chapter of Acts, though, is the Greek word κοινωνία, or koinónia (koy-nohn-ee’-ah). It is defined literally as partnership, with sub bullets of:

  • contributory help, participation;  
  • sharing in, communion
  • spiritual fellowship, a fellowship in the spirit.

Those have a little bit more “oomph”, don’t you think? A little bit more of a commitment, involvement, a lot more skin in the game?  

The second chapter of Acts, you’ll recall, starts with the Holy Spirit coming down at Pentecost. Those in the room were filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues. To dispute the accusations by some in the crowd that the apostles had been drinking, Peter addressed the crowd by citing the Old Testament words of the prophet Joel and by talking about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. He witnessed to the crowd, and Luke records that “about three thousand were added to their number that day.” (v 41). 3,000! 


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August 19, 2015

So confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness. Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain and there was no rain on the land for three years and six months! Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the land sprouted with a harvest.

                                                               James 5:16-18

 I can pray this because his divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness through the rich knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence.

                                                               2 Peter 1:3

  First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people, even for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. Such prayer for all is good and welcomed before God our Savior, since he wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

                                                               1 Timothy 2:1-4

 

“Lord, feed the hungry and bring peace to all of mankind. How’s that?” says Bruce Nolan, the main character in the movie Bruce Almighty, played by Jim Carrey. The scene is near the end of the movie, in which Bruce has been endowed by God, played by Morgan Freeman, with His divine powers. Bruce has allowed the powers to get the better of him throughout the entire movie, using them to get ahead in his work as a television anchor person. After losing his girlfriend Grace, he realizes his mistake, and surrenders his life to God in the middle of a rainsoaked highway. He is struck by a semi and wakes up in heaven. God gives Bruce a set of prayer beads that Grace’s preschool class had made him and tells Bruce to use them to pray. So Bruce says a safe yet glib prayer. God’s response? “Great, if you want to be Miss America.” God chides Bruce to really pray and asks him what he cares about. “Grace,” Bruce tells him. God asks him if he wants her back. “No,” Bruce responds after some thought. “I want her to be happy, no matter what that means. I want her to find someone who will treat her with all the love she deserved from me. I want her to meet someone who will see her always as I do now, through Your eyes.” God’s reply? “Now THAT’s a prayer!”

 


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