Posted in Grace

“You’re mic is on!”

Photo by Lee Soo hyun on Unsplash

It’s four minutes before I walk towards the altar, the prelude comes to a close and worship begins. More than a few times, someone has come up to me and said, “Your mic’s on!”

Well, of course it is. I fully trust the person at the sound board to pot me up at the appropriate times in the service. If the whole congregation can hear my small talk with those arriving for worship, those I’ve spotted who are with us for the first time, and those who have last minute questions for me, it’s not my fault!

I usually think, “I hope it wasn’t on when I was just in the bathroom.” Or expressing frustration under my breath about someone or something. Or speaking having a confidential conversation.

Actually, most of the time, it’s not true. My voice tends to carry. That’s a polite way of saying I’m just plain loud. I’ve heard it many times from my wife when guests are sleeping on the other side of the house or my comments are of a personal nature. I don’t even realize how much volume I can generate. It must come from all those years of playing the trumpet and sending air through the horn.

Can you imagine what it would be like if people could hear what you were thinking? So many thoughts resonate in my head that fortunately never make it to my vocal chords. About someone’s appearance, behavior, language, priorities, commitment, faith, choices or lifestyle. If that mic were ever left on I would be in a lot of trouble!

It’s troubling to sit here and write about thoughts I am glad no one knows I have. Obviously I am not proud of them, nor do I share them very often. Such thoughts reveal a level of sinfulness I shudder to admit. My thoughts aren’t always nice, constructive, merciful, forgiving and gracious. They are too often judgmental, condescending, cruel, hateful and evil.

No one knows. Except for God. And when I stop to ponder that, I am ashamed and humbled. But he still sent Jesus to atone for those thoughts. Amazing.

Posted in prayer

You want to pray? Pray like Jesus.

Photo by Naassom Azevedo on Unsplash

“Our thoughts and prayers are with you.”

How many times have you heard those words lately? These are the words shared by many in response to the mass shooting at First Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, TX. We read them tweeted by the president and we repeated by countless others. Many express such sentiment in the aftermath of tragedy.

But what does that mean?

What does that mean coming from the lips of those who rarely attend and have little connection with the church? What does that mean coming from the mouth of someone who may or may not pray all that often? What does that mean when it echoes across social media, TV journalism and political rhetoric?

What does it mean to you?

When a disaster flattens a community, when a tragedy occurs, when numerous lives are taken, how do you pray? What do you say? What words do you use?

I’ll bet you’re intention to pray far exceeds your actual prayers. I know that sounds harsh. But reflect on that statement for a moment. Am I wrong?

What do you say to God when bullets fly, bombs explode, blood is shed and communities are devastated?

Do you ask God to help people feel better? Do you pray for the pastors who will be conducting funerals for all those who died? Do you pray that God would spare people from future tragedy? Do you ask what you should do to help?

What do you say?

It’s a tough question. Prayer is tough, because it deals with tough issues. Prayer is hard, because it rips open our hearts and releases our emotions in the presence of the one who created us. Prayer pleads for mercy, cries out for help, lashes out in anger, and gets in the face of the God who is infinitely more powerful than us.

If your prayers aren’t filled with pleas, tears, rage and fear, then why bother? Why bother simply saying what you think God wants to hear, rather than what’s going on in your heart? Why try to talk God out of a blessing or convince him your are right (and he’s wrong)? Are you afraid you’ll hurt his feelings? Or that he’ll shut you up — for good?

I believe he wants you to let it out. Release your wrath. Scream in terror. Demand that he listen and respond. Read the psalms. What? Yes, read the psalms. They do all this and more. They get in God’s face and challenge him to do something!

And you know what? He does. He comes and experiences it all. Then Jesus went away to pray. Do you think his prayers were calm, cool and collected? In the face of all he would go through? I doubt it. Go back to the gospels and read about Jesus’ prayers from the cross — filled with pleas, tears, rage and fear.

You tell me you’ll pray? Let me hear you pray like Jesus.