Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘prayer’

I HEART my Neighborhood

So far in this series, we’ve been looking at the vision and possibilities of a neighboring movement.  I don’t know about you, but I get EXCITED when I think about people coming together and seeking the good of those in their own community.  Neighboring is in the spirit and DNA of Oak Cliff; just imagine what would happen if more people were intentional about the “art of neighboring.”

But before we get ahead our ourselves, it must be said: Neighboring is not easy.  Just the fact that we have to talk about neighboring means that personal and cultural values oppose such efforts.  Busyness, privacy, selfishness – these and other issues block the natural flow of neighboring.

Loving your neighbors and working toward real connection involves decision and energy.  Therefore, over the next few posts, I’ll be sharing some “commitments” of neighboring.   To connect, celebrate, and create  is the goal.  Consider:

Connect ::  I will connect with my closest neighbors, developing a block map and moving toward relationship.

Celebrate ::  I will celebrate my neighborhood, joining or helping create gatherings in my community.

Create ::  I will seek God’s design for my neighborhood, praying for and creating common good projects for the benefit of all.

Neighboring may not be easy, but it is life-giving.  Count the cost and make a choice to neighbor.  You never know what blessings might be right next door!

For more resources on neighboring, see www.bodyoakcliff.net/neighboring

Advertisements

Mental Illness and The Church

With the recent death of Pastor Rick Warren’s son, mental illness has been in the news. As a high profile Christian leader, the tragedy has sparked debate in the public forum about our care for the mentally ill. It’s good to see such an important issue discussed, awareness raised, and stigma confronted – just not under such heart wrenching circumstances!

Unfortunately, some of the response, especially among professing Christians, has been quite sickening. Judgment, condemnation, and ignorance has trumped mercy, love, and wisdom. It should not be so!

Therefore, this past Tuesday, BODY hosted a previously planned Lunch & Learn forum on mental illness. Joshua Pulis, Program Director at the Well Community, lead a great session on understanding mental illness and how the Church can compassionately reach out to those suffering. Follow BODY’s blog over the next few weeks as we put out some additional resources on this issue (tag = “Mental Illness”).

Until then, keep on praying for the Warren’s. May greater understanding and compassion for those suffering under the burden of mental illness flourish among God’s people!

The One Who Suffers: A Good Friday Meditation

The dying Jesus takes us deeply into the sacred mystery of God’s passionate heart.  Take some time to fix your eyes on this broken man nailed to the tree.  Remember that he is the image of the invisible God, the One in whom God was please to dwell.  The tortured, ravaged figure strips our talk about God’s love of its empty clichés and familiar sentimentality. As we stand at the foot of the cross we catch a glimpse of how God in Christ absorbs the very worst we can do, bears it sacrificially in his own body and then responds with life-giving forgiveness.

Trevor Hudson *

Have you been betrayed?  Let down by friends? Suffered at the hand of your enemies?  Scorned for your beliefs?

Have you felt the burden of sin and shame?  Experienced the loss of one you love?  Been faced with chronic illness, even the prospect of death?

Are you experiencing these even now?  

Consider… 

_______________________________________

When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it.

Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.

Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”betrayal-kiss-judas-jesus

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?”

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they said.

Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people.

Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in.

“You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter.

He replied, “I am not.”

It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.

Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.

“I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.”

When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded.

“If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

Meanwhile, Simon Peter was still standing there warming himself. So they asked him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?”Peter_deny_Christ

He denied it, saying, “I am not.”

One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.

Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”

“If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”

Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”

“But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.

Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

“What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”

They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face.

Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”

As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!”

But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.”Ecce-Homo-Antonio-Ciseri-1880

The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”

When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”

Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”

When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon.

“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.

But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”

“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.

“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.

Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”

Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.

Nolde - Crucifixion

“Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.”

This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, “They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.”

So this is what the soldiers did.

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

John 18:1 – 19:42

_______________________________________

Contemplate the crucified Christ hanging on the cross. Trying to comprehend the meaning of what we see stretches our capacity for understanding to its limits. God, we gradually realize, not only understands our pain, but shares it. The suffering God, nailed to the tree, participates in our suffering. It is this truth that keeps the light of faith flickering in the darkened hearts of the grieving, that renews hope in the oppressed, that empowers loving in hearts that have been betrayed and broken.

– Trevor Hudson *

He was betrayed and let down by his friends.  He suffered at the hand of his enemies and was scorned for his beliefs.

He felt the burden of sin and shame and experienced the apparent loss of the One he loved, facing death itself.

Therefore, know that you are not alone, but deeply loved and known by the One who suffers alongside each and everyone!  

He Qi - Crucifixion

(* Discovering Our Spiritual Identity: Practices for God’s Beloved, by Trevor Hudson)

Ash Wednesday: Caught in a Thicket?

I’ve never been a member of a liturgical congregation. But somewhere along the way, I picked up a love for Lent, the season in the Church of reflection and repentance in preparation for Easter. It begins (today) on Ash Wednesday and continues for the 40 weekdays leading to Easter Sunday.

With Santas and trees making their advent around October, the Christmas season rarely catches us off guard. But in my experience, there have been years when Easter sneaks up on me, coming and going without much of a thought. Lent challenges us to begin early, to journey toward Holy Week full of intention and with ready hearts.

A favorite painting captures the invitation of Lent. In 1999, I had the privilege of attending an exhibition of the work of Mary McCleary, a Texas artist whose primary medium are mixed media collages. Her works are fairly large and filled with spiritual and Biblical themes. One of her works, “Ash Wednesday / Waller County”, impacted me that day.

The work depicts a boy caught in the darkness of a thicket of brambles. We don’t see his face, only his backside, but we know his gaze is fixed, looking ahead. Out in the distance is an open area on the horizon, a clearing full of light and promise. The painting seems to ask the viewer, “Why is he in the tangle of branches? Is he hurt? Will he make it out?”

McCleary’s painting captures both the reality and promise of Lent. In truth, we are all caught up in the “thickets” of life. The Bible describes these snares as sin. The writer of Hebrews captures the idea, describing sin as “everything that hinders” and “so easily entangles” (Hebrews 12:1). Sin ensnares and holds us back from God’s best, trapping us in a life less than fully human and fully alive.

Lent calls us to reflection and to examine our relationship with God, ourselves, and those we love. As the Psalmist teaches us to pray, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24). We are summoned to notice, examine, grieve, confess, and repent – all for the sake of life.

But thanks be to God, our Lenten journey does not end with morbid introspection, but always beckons us forward. May we never forget that we are headed to Easter and the assurance made manifest in Jesus and on the cross.

As Paul riffs in the book of Romans: “With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us?” (Romans 8:31b-32 – MSG).

As in McCleary’s work, we are invited to the “clearing,” to the place of light. And rather than having to find our own way, God has made a way. He frees us of our bonds, clears our path, and leads us toward home!

Therefore, I encourage you to start today. Begin a Lenten journey. Assess where you are and head toward the light.

Pray for victims of Human Trafficking

You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more. – Psalm 10:17, 18

Human trafficking is the recruitment and transport of a child or adult for the purposes of sexual exploitation or forced labor. Sadly, there are more people enslaved today than at the height of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Human trafficking snapshot

  • There are approximately 27 million slaves in the world today.  (National Geographic, 2003)
  • In 2005, cases of forced labor were documented in 112 countries worldwide.  (U.S. Department of State, 2006)
  • Nearly 2 million children are used in the commercial sex trade, where they routinely face sexual and physical violence.  (UNICEF, 2006)
  • The illegal industry of worldwide, human trafficking generates about $9.5 billion dollars each year.  (Trafficking in Persons Report, 2005)

I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy. – Psalm 140:12

If there is a situation that breaks the heart of God, it is the enslavement of His children. Join us as we pray for an end to this injustice, and for its victims.

  1. Pray for action: Dear Lord, just as You helped Moses and Aaron as they spoke boldly to Pharaoh on behalf of the Hebrew slaves in Egypt, help us speak up for modern-day slaves around the world.
  2. Pray for prevention: Dear Lord, most of us will never experience the kind of extreme poverty that millions of people live with every day. Help us to be understanding and compassionate toward their needs. Help us to love them in the way that You love them. Give us the will to make things better.
  3. Pray for protection: Dear Lord, You are a strong tower and a mighty fortress. Help Your rescued children feel safe and begin to heal. Protect them from those who seek to harm them.
  4. Pray for restoration: Dear Lord, Your Word shows that You bring new joy and hope where previously there was only shame and fear. We ask this for our brothers and sisters, who desperately need to accept that they can be made new.
  5. Pray for justice: Dear Lord, You demand justice for those who have been wronged. Give strength to those who investigate and prosecute traffickers. Encourage them when they are weary. Give courage to survivors when they are asked to testify against their former captors.

Specific prayers:

  • Please pray that God will bring awareness to the Body of Christ around the world concerning modern-day slavery and the biblical mandate for Christians to seek justice.
  • Please ask God to inspire and equip local government authorities to combat slavery.
  • Please ask God to comfort all who are held in slavery and awaiting rescue. Please also pray for the full restoration of those who have been rescued.

* Adapted from a World Vision resource

Happy Anniversary!

The Oak Cliff House of Prayer is celebrating its one-year anniversary!

Catherine Wood, a life-long Oak Cliff resident, helped put together the house of prayer last fall.

The faithful gather at Cliff Temple Baptist and pray appointed shifts for Oak Cliff.

If you are intersted in knowing more, check out their website at ochop.org or contact Catherine at info@ochop.org.