Love in a Broken World

The firebush photo commemorates Pentecost, June 5, which celebrates the arrival of the Holy Spirit. Our best hope is always to turn toward the Spirit.

Last Sunday my pastor’s message was titled “Love in a Broken World.” She gave a fine sermon, a response to the violence especially in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York. She spoke about brokenness and referred to the congregation as the “raggedy, worn-out, tired … committed to a better world.”

The truth is, we were already broken before the May 14 and May 24 shootings. And we will remain broken after all the so-recently-killed have been buried. It’s just that for the families impacted by those events, the brokenness is now unbearably intense.

“Everyday Spirituality” has not, as a rule, attempted a response to the cruel catastrophes of life, the moments when the entire nation rallies at the horror of another unspeakable event. Rather, this blog is about spirituality in the everyday times—not so much the peaks and valleys but the flatter expanses of ordinary life. Even in those times there is pain, and that is the pain of brokenness.

Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, said recently in a TBN interview that we pray in the Lord’s Prayer “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven” because in Heaven God’s will is done “perfectly, completely, instantly, and continuously.” But on Earth, Warren said, none of that is true; everything is broken on this planet.

It is into that reality of brokenness that we bring love. If we believe that God is love, then love has to be our response to brokenness. Anything else would only deepen the pain.

The challenge is to turn always to the Holy Spirit, not just at Pentecost but everywhere we see the need for love in our world.

       

Tune In to National Day of Prayer

 

 

 

 

 

 

The image is a bit fuzzy, but the interview isn’t! Tune in to this National Day of Prayer broadcast on May 5 at 12:00 Noon (ET).

Dr. Angela Chester, host of Daily Spark TV, interviews Rev. Ronald Perry, Prophetess Katherine Free, Trish Atkinson, and me on prayer themes related to government, military, media, business, education, church, and family.

Broadcast options include Roku, YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, and DRANGELACHESTER.COM.

Praising in prayer is the theme for the 2022 National Day of Prayer, and the verses chosen as the basis for the day are Colossians 2:6-7 (NASB):

Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

I welcome your comments about the National Day of Prayer broadcast!

       

National Day of Prayer, May 5

Our National Day of Prayer, here in the United States, is coming up on May 5. It will be an opportunity for all of us to take some time and think about what prayer is, what it can be for us, and how it saves us.

As I have been thinking and praying about the messages appropriate for this day, it occurs to me that a foundational point is that we never have to beg when we pray to God.

We’ve all heard people pray heartbreaking prayers in which they beg God… maybe to save a sick relative… maybe to pull them out of financial despair… maybe to forgive them for something they haven’t been able to forgive themselves for… or a hundred other things.

I’ve even heard pastors in the pulpit pray begging prayers. Probably you have too. (Pastors, after all, are just as human as the rest of us.)

But if we stop to remember that God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son in order to save us, can we really think that we have to beg for anything?

We can, instead, live from a place of thanksgiving. We can lift up our concerns, trusting that He cares, trusting that He hears us. We can praise Him for what He’s already done and live in faith that our lives have His attention, that nothing of what occurs escapes his notice, that we never fall outside His love.

What will be the focus and content of your prayers when folks all over the nation join their hearts in prayer on May 5?

       

Dominant Thoughts

If you allow a thought to dominate your mind, it will rule your life.

Imagine what it will mean for you if that thought is worry, preoccupation with an illness, carrying a grudge, the urge to pay someone back, or any other negative thought you can name.

Your entire life will eventually become an expression of that dominant negative thought. But it’s just as true on the positive side, and it’s critical to remember that.

Maybe your dominant thought is how to help other people and you’re constantly on the lookout for opportunities. Or maybe your children are uppermost in your mind and you’re on alert for the best thing you can do for them.

Maybe you have set a goal for your life, and your mind is dedicated to whatever steps will move you closer to the goal.

“Your thoughts are a catalyst for self-perpetuating cycles,” wrote Amy Morin in “This Is How Your Thoughts Become Reality,” an article in Forbes, June 15, 2016.

She went on: “Creating a more positive outlook can lead to better outcomes. That’s not to say positive thoughts have magical powers. But optimistic thoughts lead to productive behavior, which increases your chances of a successful outcome.”

Amy Morin is a psychologist and author of the book 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do. Published by William Morrow Paperbacks, 2017.

What occurs to you about dominant thoughts to avoid?

       

The Prayer of Being With

We know the four kinds of prayer: we can praise God, we can make petitions to ask God for what we feel we need, we can pray in thanksgiving to express our gratitude for what God has done in our lives, and we can pray in intercession to lift up others to God’s care.

But there’s a fifth kind of prayer that may be the most important of all: the prayer of “being with.”

This is a simple kind of prayer. It asks only that you be present and open to God. Matthew 6:8 tells us that God already knows what we need before we even ask. So, it’s not all that necessary to tell Him again. It’s really not as though He needs to be reminded.

What may be vastly more meaningful is to sit with God, with our hands empty and our hearts open, and say, “God, I’d just like to be with You for a little while. I have nothing to ask of You except that I hope I will feel Your presence. In any case, I am going to sit here with my heart open to You. If You have something to say to me, that’s all the better. But if not, maybe we could just be with each other for little while.”

Over time, you may find the “being with” prayer your most blessed kind of communing with God, and it may become your favorite time of each day.

       

Stories We Tell Ourselves

You tell yourself stories constantly. And too often those stories are not in your best interest.

It might be an incident with someone at work or a passing remark from a family member. You interpret the incident as a slight, even as an insult. Already that beginning interpretation is the start of a story as you try to make sense of the situation.

No problem that you don’t know the motivation or intention behind the incident. You make up what seems to account for things. Then you retell the story to yourself over and over, creating a plot that fits what you believe happened. Soon enough there are plenty of feelings stirred up, usually hurt, sometimes anger, even outrage.

But, there is another way to go.

What if, as a spiritual practice, you chose to deliberately tell yourself a different story? It would have the identical characters and the same opening scene. This time, however, you find another interpretation. What else could the incident mean? What else could the motivation and intentions have been? What story, from that same beginning incident, would empower you?

Most important, what is the story if God is at the center? In that context, how does the initial incident look? What might it mean from the perspective of the Holy Spirit?

Look for the God-centered stories in your life that will inspire and strength you.

       

Dreaming about Dreams

Blogs like this one talk a lot about the sort of dreams we have for our lives—the goals, aspirations, and ambitions people think of when someone says, “Livin’ the dream.”

But the reference in this post is the other kind of dreams, those visions that appear to us while we are sleeping and that we tend to dismiss as “what a crazy dream that was!” We blame the food we ate the night before or the terrible thing we saw on television. The last thing that occurs to us is that the dream was actually a spiritual experience.

The worst thing about these dreams is how ephemeral they are. If you don’t write them down or take some other measure to purposely capture the dream, it is gone from you as completely as though it never happened.

And that would be a terrible shame because there is always a chance that the dream has an important message for you. You can call the source of the message your own subconscious or the universe or God. Doesn’t matter. It’s a source that has a clearer viewpoint on your circumstances than you do.

Sometimes it pays to ask for a dream that will hold a guiding message for you. Just the asking puts you in a frame of mind for receiving. It indicates willingness to take direction, to be open, to listen. Then when the dream comes, don’t edit it. Just be sure to put down on paper every single aspect of it you can recall, especially the ones that you cannot immediately interpret. And this writing down must be done as soon as possible after waking because, like snowfall on a sunny winter’s day, the edges will melt away fast.

I could give you examples from my own life, but much more effective for you are examples from your own.

Ask for the guiding dream, be open to whatever comes to you no matter how little sense it seems to make at first, write down every detail, ask God for the interpretation, act on what you learn.

Now that’s livin’ the dream.

       

What Are You Thinking?

When you hear an unusual message, you might take a second to consider whether you should listen to it. Is it worth my time?

But when, almost immediately, it comes to you again from a different source, now it carries more weight and becomes worth considering. Could this be the Holy Spirit whispering to me?

The unusual message that came to me was: Don’t believe everything you think.

I read this in Louise Penny’s 2020 novel, All the Devils Are Here. “Don’t believe everything you think” is the advice given by Chief Inspector Armand Gamache to incoming cadets at the Sûreté academy.

Within a day or two of reading that, and pausing only briefly to read it again, I came across the following in a video message from Dr. Benjamin Hardy: “A sign of wisdom is not believing everything you think. A sign of emotional intelligence is not internalizing everything you feel. Thoughts and emotions are possibilities to entertain, not certainties to take for granted. Question them before you accept them.” This is a quotation from Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at Wharton.

So, receiving the same unusual guidance twice, I feel compelled to ask: What am I thinking that should not be believed? What thoughts am I entertaining that are actually leading me someplace I don’t want to go, to become someone I don’t want to be?

It doesn’t take me long to come up with a list of things that have trotted into my mind—that must be allowed to trot on through into oblivion without being accepted as truth. The thoughts come in from everywhere—news reports, books I read, social media, email messages, commentators, friends and acquaintances. None of it is necessarily truth to be believed.

What are you thinking that you should not believe?

       

Is It Morning, or Is It Mourning?

Every day I send at least one text to a friend of mine in another state. Today when I typed in “Good Morning,” my autocorrect feature immediately double-checked and offered me the alternative of “Mourning.”

I took note for several reasons, one of which is that that’s never happened before in our years of daily “good morning” messages. But a bigger reason is that I am a widow and know firsthand a thing or two about mourning. A little over four years have passed since my spouse died, and I am prompted to wonder if I have made it a good mourning.

It might be considered “good” that I haven’t taken my grief to my friends over much (I don’t think); I have kept the burden on myself and on my faith. There are still those occasional days when I am suddenly gutted by this memory or that, and when that happens I am grateful for the separation these virus times require so that I am not caught trying to explain myself to witnesses.

My heart tells me that the best “good mourning” is the one that most honors the memory of the lost loved one.

But speaking of these virus times, that was the third association that arose with the autocorrect prompt. Indications are everywhere around us that many are in mourning with our situation. Of course, well over 200,000 in the United States have direct reason for mourning for the lives lost, but just now I am thinking more of the rest of us who are in mourning for other kinds of losses: unemployment, loneliness, isolation, overwhelm with kids at home, homeschooling, loss of physical contact with loved ones who live elsewhere, and loss of freedom to simply and easily go about our business in public.

I do not believe God was caught off guard by the coming of this pandemic, and I certainly don’t believe that He sent it. But I wonder if He is intrigued by our (in)ability to cope, our (un)willingness to take the measures needed to get it under control.

. . . because I can’t help noticing that the only thing separating “morning” from “mourning” is . . . U.

God bless you this day. Stay close to the Holy Spirit. Stay well.

       

Words and God

Words and God have always had my heart.

An early moment when these two loves fitted harmoniously together was when I was about eleven years old, before the trials of life had sent me down the various rabbit trails that have composed my life.

The farm I grew up on was about a mile from my church, and family members who attended often walked the gravel roads to get there. My father, not a church-attendee himself, sometimes drove us, but often not. The gravel road we walked was seldom graded, so we chose steps carefully amid the ruts and washboard.

One Sunday morning I entered the church with more than just the dust of the walk. I had carefully made what I thought was the perfect sign for my congregation. I proudly, if shyly, affixed it to the wall at the back of the sanctuary. Here is what said:

What in the world are you doing, for heaven’s sake?

I hoped that anyone who read it, would read it twice.

The two parts are turns of phrase so common that the point might easily be missed. The question on the front end was one every member would have heard thousands of times. It paired well with the mundane phrase on the back end—the Midwestern response to anything the least bit surprising or curious. The result, to my young mind, was a profound theological reflection.

In fact, in all the Bible studies since, including the master’s degree in spirituality, I don’t know that I’ve ever come up with a better theological question.

My memory of the sign ends with the posting of it. I don’t recall that there was any reaction whatsoever in the church. Probably some members read it, but likely only once.

If I could, I would go back in time and dare them all: read it, and read it more than once.

       


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(Author photo by Mark Bennington.)