A Prayer for Courage

I posted this prayer on my personal Facebook page on Monday, but share it here for anyone who needs the courage to take a step out of the boat.

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Dear God, I wanted to share a prayer publicly everyday and now I am struggling to do it. For one thing, it is against my introverted nature. I don’t like putting myself out there too much. It feels like I’ve fallen back into that old trap of worrying about what people think of me. I want to climb back into the safety of my shell. I’m also struggling to maintain optimism. Last night, as You know, I fell to sleep in tears.

I have never lost my hope but sometimes I feel down. I am sad about the people who are sick and about the people who are dying. It’s especially hard to hear about the death of a doctor or first responder. It makes me sad when I see friends who have to visit their elderly parents through a window. I worry about the economic impacts of this pandemic. And I get discouraged because so many people have been deceived and put their trust in people who put a positive spin on this.

Father, I listened to Pastor Andrew’s sermon with only half my attention Sunday morning, but something he said cut through to me. I had to listen to it again.

What’s the difference between a trip and a journey? A journey is long enough to have both ups and downs. We pack up our lives to look like a trip rather than a journey. Saving face. Speaking with impeccably polite language like you’re talking to your grandma when you’re at church but rage cursing when you are in traffic. (That was me, at least when I lived in Denver). Posting one life on social media like everything is okay but never sharing your real struggles with anyone important with you. (Ouch). It can be tempting to pretend like everything is okay. That we don’t feel the pains that are coming.

No matter what hits us, good or bad, we have the assurance that God is with us. Jesus, You didn’t promise to remove our daily trials. Our comfort is not in the absence of trials, it is in the presence of You. You are with us in the ups and downs.

God, I needed to hear that message. I pray for the courage to be authentic. To have the courage to take a step out of the boat and not be afraid to keep walking when the winds come. To put myself out there even if it is uncomfortable. To share both the good and the bad, my hope and my fears.

Amen.

The Good Lord’s Whistle

At my church, we sing a prayer of illumination before the sermon asking God to make us receptive to the message he wants us to hear. Sometimes as I listen to the sermon, especially if I pick up on subtleties, I wonder how the message is received by others. Do they hear God’s whistle?

What I’m calling God’s whistle is a message from God that can only be heard by people who are receptive to hearing his voice. God whistles to his children to gather us in.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. (John 10:27-28)

A pastor is to be like a shepherd, helping and feeding the Lord’s sheep. Some pastors are false teachers who lead the flock astray. For pastors who are genuinely committed to following Jesus, it must be difficult to lead people who have fallen under the influence of deceptive, misleading voices. A pastor may have to be very subtle to get God’s message across to those who have been led astray.

A member of my church who is also a professor of theology delivered the sermon while our pastor was on a mission trip. He preached about the Hebrew word for the sin of rebelliousness against God, pesha. Dave said that among all religions, Christianity should be the most realistic about sin. Christians should call what is evil evil and what is good good. We should celebrate what is good and push back against evil. Christians today do not speak out against sin as they once did.

As Dr. Dave pointed out, we all sin and should focus our attention on our own sinfulness and not on the sin of others. After all, Jesus said, “first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

It is difficult to speak out against sin because no one wants to be accused of being judgmental. But if we don’t speak out against evil, our silence sends the message that abhorrent behavior is acceptable.

It especially saddens me when Christians refuse to speak out against hate in all its forms. Silence in the face of evil is sinful. When we speak out against bigotry, racism, and other sins that harm others, we are being obedient to God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and anti-Nazi dissident, said this:

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.

Dr. Dave said that pesha is crossing boundaries – the boundaries that God placed on our behavior so that we could enjoy a healthy relationship with God and with others. He said that when wicked people are in power, pesha increases. Those who rebel against God have no fear of God. They do not submit to God’s authority. They selfishly assert themselves against God and his boundaries. They are hotheaded and angry.

When I heard Dr. Dave’s message, I hoped that those who have turned a blind eye to wickedness would hear God’s whistle. God has shown us what is good. When we see behavior that is evil, we should speak up. Watch out for wicked people in power who have crossed God’s boundaries.

Let us be strong, courageous, and obedient. Call what is evil evil. Call what is good good. Hate is evil. Love is good. If you hear God’s whistle, you know this. Fighting is evil. Peacefulness is good. If you hear the good Lord’s voice, you know this. Lies are evil. Truth is good. If you hear God’s voice, you know this.

Finding the courage to let go

I confess that I feel a bit guilty about unfriending people on social media, even if the relationships are superficial. But I think that when you get older, you realize that you don’t have the time for drama. You don’t see the point of wasting your emotional energy on battles you cannot win.

At the beginning of the year, after reading a book on spiritual maturity, I resolved to be more authentic. That meant being free to be me without worrying about what people think of me. Something interesting happened when I decided to be the real me. In letting go of my need to be accepted by others, I found the courage to let go of people whose worldviews are diametrically opposed to mine.

While I can still accept the people I can not change, I accept that sometimes there are irreconcilable differences, as in views on gun control, or the freedom to protest peacefully, or on immigration or the separation of church and state. The religious and political environment we live in highlights the great divide between us.

Facebook made it easy to establish a social connection with classmates or relatives. But if I am honest with myself, I don’t have much in common with many of them. I am no longer willing to pretend that we have anything meaningful in common. We don’t even share the same zip code.

Guilt, with the click of a button, I’m letting you go too. And I won’t even say goodbye.

via Daily Prompt: Guilty