A Week of Fasting and Prayer: Day 4- Prayer for the Married yet Sperated

The phone rang in the middle of the night, and she* was going to just let it go to voice mail. Who calls this late anyway? And she glanced at the screen to see who dare make a phone call at 10:46pm on a Tuesday. With an intense urgency, she forgot all annoyance and picked up the phone. It was her best friend, who she knew was having some pretty serious marital issues, and who she had just offered to have call her anytime, no matter the hour, if she ever needed to talk. This must be important.

“Hey girl, I’m sorry to call so late. I just… I just need to tell you that I put him out tonight. I couldn’t take it anymore. I’m tired of crying over someone who doesn’t want us to work. I can’t even look at him without getting so angry, and I can’t hear God’s voice anymore… maybe I’m wrong for it, but I told him to go away and come back in a few days….”

She stood, speechless with the phone in her hand. What do you say to that? What can you say to that? She began to feel her friend’s pain in a way that she never knew before. She felt just as angry with her friend’s husband and just as hopeless. How was God going to change this around? How was He going to work this to good? Her friend was one of the most passionate and positive people she knew, one of the most strong and patient and long-suffering women around, and she felt a deep anguish at the injustice of it all. Why was she being left alone to fight for her marriage? Why was she at the point of giving up when she had followed God and had been faithful? Why wasn’t it working out the way she wanted? Why? Why? Why?

The fuzzy silence on the other end of the line prompted her to speak again. She silently asked the Holy Spirit for words for this situation, and then uttered the words “okay dear friend, let’s pray…”

*For the sake of privacy, the names in this story were not included and some of the details were changed.


splitThe topic of marriages separating is deeply depressing to me. I’m just going to be honest. I know more than a few people who this has been a reality for, and while I have not experienced it first hand, when it has happened to the people I love dearly, I feel that pain with them in very real way. I know that God’s word tells me that marriage is a holy covenant, meant to mirror His divine relationship with us, and that marriage is one of the most effective tools used to show Christ’s love, and so it honestly breaks my heart to see a marriage end or be put on hold for even a short period of time. The Lord puts certain issues and pains in our hearts so that we are motivated to pray for them or do something active about them, and this is one of the major issues He has placed on my heart. It is a burden that I do not take lightly and so I very solemnly dedicate today for these marriages that are separated.

Now, before I go on, I want to be clear that I am not condemning any divorced or remarried people in this post. This is very sensitive topic, and while I personally have decided that divorce is never an option in my own marriage, I know that we live in a fallen world and mistakes have been made to lead to this in many people’s lives. I know divorced people who have divorced for the reason given in the Bible as the only grounds for divorce, and I know people who have divorced for other reasons, and while it hurts my heart when any marriage ends, I do not pretend to know these circumstances that lead to these divorces, and I don’t pretend to have the answers. So please know that this post is not meant to shame anyone. It is only a hope that marriages which desire reconciliation, even if it’s only on one end, will come to be stronger and thriving despite these struggles.

With that being stated, today is obviously day four of my fasting and prayer for marriages. To be honest, I am very weary. I’m hungry, I’m tired, and I feel discouraged when I think about the people in my life who have chosen to separate from their spouse. It feels like this week has already been a long and draining journey, and yet there have also been some moments of incredible energy and assistance that I know were gifts from God during this time of focused prayer. The Lord has granted me supernatural patience with my students when they are antsy and ready for summer vacation to start. He has granted me energy to continue my marathon training, which was scheduled this week, despite my fasting, and he has strengthened me to run even faster than I have in the past because of my focus.

I tell you these things not to brag about my experience or make you impressed at my dedication, but to share with you the hard parts, and also the amazing benefits that God gives when His children respond to his prompting. I can’t even take credit for my obedience, as that too has been a precious gift from Him.

This entire process reminds me of Psalm 91, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide in the Shadow of the Almighty”, because when I devote an entire day to focused prayer, even during the daily activities I do, I am dwelling His “secret place”, since no one around me can tell I am in prayer even as I speak with them. And because of this, I know The Lord is protecting me with His comforting shadow. I pray that you too are called to dwell in the secret meeting place of prayer with God, and that you feel the power and strength of his protective Shadow.

Dear Lord,

Today the burden of separated marriages lays heavily upon my heart. I grieve for them and weep for them and I ask you for Your comfort and strength to get through this day. There are a few couples for whom I have a special desire for today, and I pray that these individuals be blessed by the prayer I have to offer and the fast that I dedicate to them. At this point in time, I desire nothing more than to see them joyfully reunited in an even stronger and dedicated bond of marriage, and I pray that You can make this happen in the future Lord, or even instantly right now– nothing is too miraculous for You, O’ God!

I pray for those marriages that have decided to go their separate ways for the time being. I pray specifically for those marriages that desire reconciliation on one or both ends, but are struggling to come to it. May they experience peace and restoration in their relationship Father. Yet while they are apart, a I pray you strengthen them individually with Your Word, and Your Holy Spirit. I pray You convict them, shape their hearts, soften their conscious, and break down their walls of pride and indignation. I pray You turn them back to one another, and remind them of the vows they made to one another the day they made their covenant with You and with each other.

I pray also for the children of these couples who are separated. Lord, I can only imagine what it’s like to see two parents separate. You have blessed me with parents who have stuck together, even though financial difficulties, job losses, addictions of many kinds. Thank you for the example that they have set for me in my own marriage– one of dedication and devotion, no matter what the struggle. I know that my parents have done the best they can to show me what true marital love looks like. I praise them and You for that. I pray for those who did not grow up with that example, and who are creating a legacy of brokenness for their children without even being aware of it. Lord, separation can have terrible effects on children, I have seen it in my own father, my husband, and some close friends. I know it can be detrimental even for older children who understand imperfect relationships, and so I pray that You bring healing to these children and their families. I know from the examples of my family members and friends that You can do this! You can unite new families together, creating a better and safer environment for the child, and you can also unite formally separated marriages, and restore the child’s life in that process. I trust that You know what that looks like for each individual family, and I trust that You desire restoration and healing to bless those that seek you in this time.

Lord, I pray for unity. I pray for strength. I pray for Your presence to be made known for all of those who are separated from their spouse right now. Give them support by way of prayer, petition, fasting, and also by good friends who listen and invest time and energy. Use us all as tools to cultivate their hearts towards repentance and reconciliation and atonement. Lord, we know that Jesus died on the cross so that we could be forgiven by You, Perfect You, and so that we could see an example of what true sacrificial love looks like. I pray for that understanding to come into the hearts of those who are married, yet separated. Save their marriages, in the name of Jesus Christ! Only You can. Amen.

What has God laid on your heart as your burden of prayer for the married yet separated?

“It was just self defense!” my prayer for young black men

Two weekends ago there were over 71 people who were shot in Chicago. 54 people were killed by gunshot in Chicago during George Zimmerman‘s trial. In 31% of the killings, the victim was 19 years of age or younger. 76% … Continue reading

Jesus might have been less redundant if he spoke Greek…

Something that I find very obnoxious is redundancy. Often times I am convinced that it wastes time and makes me feel like incompatantcy is either suggested or found in one or the other party. So you can imagine my annoyance with this little story in John 21:15-18.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

Why the heck is Jesus so repetitive and redundant?!

He asks Peter (Simon) whether or not he loves him three times. And he tells him to feed or take care of his sheep the same amount of times.

Why?

“Well today I was gifted with a little insight into this mystery and I would love to humbly share it with you, if you don’t mind”, she said, sipping her Starbucks iced coffee daintily. (See what I did there? For Thirsty Thursday?)!

First of all, in the Greek translation, “love” has different words and meanings. I will give you a brief run down, but I would probably check out C.S. Lewis and his book The Four Loves if you’re interested.

  • Agápe means love in a “spiritual” sense. It often refers to a general affection or deeper sense of “true unconditional love” which is selfless; it gives and expects nothing in return. (The love of God).
  • Éros is “physical” passionate love, with sensual desire and longing. Romantic, pure emotion without the balance of logic. “Love at first sight”. Eros does not have to be sexual in nature, but describing love you have for someone more than just a friend.
  • Philia  “mental” love. It means affectionate regard or friendship in both ancient and modern Greek. This type of love has give and take. It includes loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity.
  • Storge means “affection” in ancient and modern Greek. It is natural affection, like that felt by parents for offspring. In fact, it is almost exclusively as a descriptor of relationships within the family. It is also known to express mere acceptance or putting up with situations, as in “loving” the tyrant.

In the Greek translation, here’s how this conversation with Jesus would go down:

JC: Peter, do you AGAPE me more than these?

Pete: Lord, you know that I PHILIA you.

JC: Peter, do you AGAPE me?”

Pete: Yes, Lord, you know that I PHILIA you.

JC: Peter, do you PHILIA me?

Pete: (a little annoyed and grieved at being asked a third time) Lord, you know all things; you know that I PHILIA you!

JC: Then feed my sheep.

Now, Peter and Jesus didn’t speak Greek, so they wouldn’t have had this quibble over words, but what we have to ask ourselves is why did the writer, John, use the distinction between the two loves?

I believe all scripture is God-breathed and profitable, and I sure hope you do too. So, there is some reason as to why these two words are used in the Greek translation, and I believe is is to get us to understand a little more about who Jesus Christ is.

Jesus, after using one word for love, changed his words in order to meet Peter where he was at that time. Peter was clearly not at the level of Agape love (perhaps because he had just denied Jesus earlier), and so Jesus made the adjustment, came down to Peter’s level with Philia love while at the same time still making it clear that Agape love was the goal for his disciples.

Now, isn’t that beautiful? And isn’t that the way God always works?

love youHe points out the facts of what we should do. He will do that forever, and I sure am glad because I would really be lost with our clear direction! He shows us the kind of love He has for us and wants us to experience the deepest level of for His glory and for our own precious experience of Him.

…and yet… if for some reason we’re not there yet, if for some reason we just can’t get to that deep level in our spiritual walk, God does not just brush us aside and roll his eyes at how immature and stupid we are (even if we truly are immature and stupid). No! God comes down to our level and gives us a hand, gives us direction to get further, and loves us with all of Himself so that we might get to that deeper level.

Sometimes we are like Peter. We love God, we really do, but there is sin in our lives that is keeping us from really truly experiencing God as fully as He wants us to. But instead of sin creating an unbridgeable gap between us and God, Jesus bridges the gap for us. 

I mean, isn’t that why Jesus was sent down in the first place? To not only come down to our human level of experience, but to rectify our sin?

Peter sinned against God three huge times by denying Him in His final hour. This sin put a block up around Peter so he was not able to love God in the Agape sense. If Jesus, who truly deserves the full, selfless, godly Agape love, did not come down and adjust to accept his Philia love, I don’t think Peter would have gone on to do all of God’s incredible work as shown in the book of Acts. He would have no hope of even understanding how to get to Agape love unless Jesus gave him instructions on how to do so (“feed my sheep”).

Now, if God will do this for us, come down and meet us where we’re at, how much more should we do this for others?

Are you struggling with another believer who “just isn’t getting it”? Are you frustrated with your loved one who is stuck in sin or guilt or confusion?

Do what Jesus did. Get on their level. Accept where they are in their walk. Help them in their journey, not by pointing out direction from above, but by coming alongside them and showing them the way.

Perhaps you are the one who needs to be met at your level. Know and trust that Jesus is with you. His Holy Spirit is on you and will guide you to the next step further in your faith. You do not have to work your way up to God. In fact, you will fail miserably if you try! God will meet you where you are and take you higher, just as He did for Peter, Paul, the woman at the well, and countless others!

Today, for Thirsty Thursday, get thirsty for God’s love. His Agape love!

 

Do we really need to give to anyone who asks?

thirsty thursHappy 4th of July everyone!

Today for Thirsty Thursday I am drinking an Orange Spice Iced Coffee with Soy from Starbucks. I received a Starbucks gift card, and I am putting it to good use. Although… when I ordered this drink, the woman apparently did not know they served anything “orange spice”, so I am guessing this drink is not as popular as it should be. So I am doing Starbucks a favor now and letting all of you know that it is a good investment. Go order yourself one today!

Now that you have your fancy drink, let’s get on with the rest of our post…

Last week my church conducted something called “Compassion Sunday”. This is a day when our church members go out into our surrounding community of Roseland on the far South Side of Chicago. Some pray with people, some give food, some provide a service, others visit shut in members or sick members, and some hold services in the local shelters or hospitals.

This particular time, I was in charge of a clothing drive. The process involved collecting clothing donations from the church, sorting them, organizing them into nicely folded piles, and then spreading the word!

The spreading the word was probably the most fun. On the Saturday before the Compassion Sunday Clothing Give-Away, I snagged a neighbor girl along with 40 fliers, and we hit up Michigan Avenue (between 107th and 115th  street, not the Michigan Avenue in the Chicago Loop).

During our jaunt down the block, the two of us just wandered, looking into the famous Roseland Doughnut Shop, watching with several others as men made giant globs of apple fritter. We stopped to talk with a family of 5 who were parked on the side street and eating melting popsicles with open van doors. We tossed out granola bars to men sitting on the side of the street, claiming that they had the “munchies”, and complimented a girl on her nice dress and intricate nose ring.

We stopped to hand one man a flier, and asked if he wanted a granola bar. He said yes, reached in the bag and pulled out two handfuls. My face must have shown surprise, or perhaps even disapproval, because he said, “Oh, I’m sorry. Can I have a few? I’ve got some kids down the block…” I nodded my head and smiled.

“Of course. Take as many as you need.”

My neighbor squinted her eyes; she has been trained (and trained well in my opinion) to be distrusting and wary, especially of men on the street. “You know he was prolly lyin’ right Claire?”

“Oh I don’t think it really matters.” I say, but really it’s not me whose speaking, because…well, me? Well, I’m thinking the same thing in my own head. It was the voice of the Holy Spirit inside of me who spoke, and I was reminded of Jesus.

To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either.Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.” Luke 6:29-31

Jesus’s instructions are clear. We must give to who ever asks. Even if that man had taken all of our granola bars, I know Jesus would instruct us not to ask for them back, just as this passage teaches.

I was reminded of this yet again during Compassion Sunday. A woman’s hungry eyes were darting all over the clothing racks and tables of purses, belts and shoes. I handed her plastic bag after plastic bag, and she took as much as she could carry.

My natural, judgmental instinct would be to glare at her, ask her if she really needed all of these clothes, and request she think of others rather than herself and to please save some items for the rest of the people.

But Jesus is pretty clear. This woman was asking for more.

It was not my place to judge whether she needed more; it was my job to give her more, and to not even withhold the clothing off my own back from her (if she for some reason wanted to put my shirt in her bag too)!

It is the same with the Gospel. We are to share it– to give it to others. What they do with it after we give it to them is on their own conscious, not ours. In the same way, our job is to simply give to those who ask, never denying anyone. After we give, it’s up to them to decide how they choose to use the gifts. 

Jesus is the joyful giver. He is the Spirit of giving, and He gave his life for us.

How are we reflecting His precious gifts to us by giving to others who ask? How are we using our own gifts from God, including the gift of giving?

The First Thirsty Thursday

thirsty thursAs this is my first post for Thirsty Thursdays, I thought I’d explore an appropriate verse as well as explain what Thirsty Thursdays’ posts will generally be about.

If you’re in college, you might know “Thirsty Thursdays” to be completely different than what might be found on a Christian blogger’s posts. According to Urban Dictionary, Thirsty Thursday refers to “a term normally found on college campuses, the title becoming popular when many students did not have early morning classes on Fridays, allowing them to drink and party on Thursday night”.

Well, this Thirsty Thursday is quite different for several reasons:

Number one, I’m no longer a college student, but I do, in fact, have early morning classes on Friday (I’m a High School teacher), so late night partying is not really something I could do even if I wanted to.

Number two, alcohol and raging parties is just kind of not my thing anymore. And if it still were, would I be blogging about it and glorifying it on a blog that’s suppose to be glorifying my Lord and Savior? Um, no.

So usually, what I will do for Thirsty Thursdays, is I’ll be drinking something. Usually coffee or tea, but sometimes I guess I’ll be drinking Naked juice or Diet Pepsi or a glass of red wine (because drinking alcohol is not a sin, but being drunk is)…. or water. Water is always good. Anyway, I’ll be drinking something and I’ll probably tell you about it (because I know you care!). Then I’ll blog about Jesus.

Why about Jesus, you ask?

Well, number one, because He’s awesome, and He totally deserves a weekly blog post. And so much more.

Number two, because just like I need water to satisfy my thirst and keep me alive, I need Jesus to satisfy my thirst and to give me life.

In fact, this leads me to my verse of the Thirsty Thursday:

… Living Water, that is.

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14

That first part: it’s it so true? I swear, there are days (usually hot summer days) when I cannot seem to drink enough water. I’m always thirsty, always wanting more.

Water is an earthly substance. Indeed, planet Earth is iconic because of it’s water sources. It means that life can exist.

Our bodies are made of 60% water. We need it.

But, like all earthly things, we can never be fully satisfied with it. Just because we have water to drink, or water near us, or water in our bodies, it doesn’t mean that we’re truly alive.

Here’s where Jesus comes in. Jesus is alive. And because he is alive, we can be alive too!

The Living Water is different than regular water….. but how?

The kind of water which Jesus spoke about was “living” (moving or running) water. During the times of Jesus, water from a cool running stream was always preferred to the still, dirty water one might find in a pond or well; it was cleaner, clearer, fresher, better. The water which Jesus spoke of symbolized the always-moving Holy Spirit. The Spirit part of the trinity is the Living Water, the one who moves us to action and inspires the divine works in our lives. This “water”life makes us a new creation in Jesus Christ.

The Living Water of the Holy Spirit satisfies our deepest desires, thirsts, and longings for God. It is better than any earthly remedy. Like water, we need to drink in the Spirit everyday, multiple times a day, or we will become dehydrated, lethargic, and sick.

Now that you know what Thirsty Thursdays are all about, I will leave you with one deep theological question:

If earthly water makes up 60% of our body, what percentage of our body should consist of the Living Water that Jesus speaks of?

Oh, and also, I’m drinking home made iced coffee from our french press. No big deal.