Tag Archives: faith

Listening to My Daughters Pray

In a recent blog post (Dear God Time) I shared our family bedtime ritual. The key pieces of our bedtime prayers are in asking my kids who they want to thank God for, who they want to pray for, and what part of the beautiful creation they are thankful for or want to pray for. This has become a time of holy listening for me as I get to hear my daughters’ perspective on what is important, who really needs prayer, and to hear their words of faith and wonder.

One key practice in listening well to their faith is not to put words in their mouths, but to allow them to direct these pieces of prayer. By asking them to initiate I get to hear who the really special people are. My girls have a very short list of people who they are especially thankful to God for, and I have not yet made their list. What I have found is that they list off the people who have gone out of their way to build connection, not the default family members, but the people from outside who have especially invested time and love into them. I have learned through listening to my girls who the treasures are in their lives, the surrogate aunts and grandparents and surrogate grandparents who they know love them. I have come to treasure these friends above and beyond because they love above and beyond.

My girls’ “pray for” list is equally illuminating to me. I get to hear about the bullies and the bullied, the pieces of hurt that I miss, but my kids see. I hear them pray for friends that have moved away, old church folks from my previous call, and I get this incredible window into the compassionate heart of my children. By listening to their compassion I have learned who I might have missed, and how often I miss. I also get to hear them wrestle with things they have heard about that they don’t quite grasp and are confused about in others and by listening to their confusion I can begin to wrestle with my own. Given free rein to bring anything or anyone to God, my girls do, and I have learned a lot about the childlike faith of lament and bringing “owies” to be kissed by the presence of God.

The last piece of listening really taps into childlike wonder at things we adults stopped noticing a long time ago. During our prayers for the beautiful world there was a six month period of time in which one of my girls was thankful for the clouds that give us rain, snow, sleet, hail, and shade from the sun. For how the clouds turn pretty colors and make fun shapes. Six months of wonder at something I occasionally swear at. What a perspective shift it is to be given the gift of listening to wonder and awe. Over time there were thanks for dogs, mountains, waterfalls, dogs, forests, sheesh dad take a hint dogs, beaches, and any body of water larger than 3 inches. Pacific City

We tapped into that wonder when at her first time to the ocean our youngest looked out with wide eyes and shouted “Puddle!” and prayed for that huge “puddle” for weeks.

I have found that listening to the prayers of my children has opened my eyes to a joyous wonder in being a child in God’s loving arms. Sometimes I even get to model that love, but most awesomely, I get to rest in that love as I listen to the prayers of my children.




Dear God Time

In a recent conversation on a Facebook parenting group, we were discussing prayers at bed time and how we approached end of the day prayers with our kids. It was a fun discussion, and there were some fun aspects to discussing kids and God. One of the things I noticed was that the bedtime prayers really opened a window into the parents’ relationship with God. Our bedtime prayers have evolved over time as both of our children resonate with different pieces and have helped them change. So it is a little early, but welcome to what my daughters call “Dear God Time.”

Dear God thank you for (Children’s names). Help them to have a good night’s sleep and wake up silly, happy, and ready for a fun day (with people, at school, etc.)

Is there anyone you want to thank God for? (At this point my girls have a short list: Sarah, Nana, and Uncle Josh. Our youngest usually adds “Mama’s friend Winda.”)

Is there anyone you want to pray for? (This is such an amazing window into their lives and the people they are concerned about.)

Thank you for this beautiful world we live in. Help us to take good care of it, appreciate its beauty and love it as you do. Is there anything in the world you are thankful for or want to pray for? (We had a six month period of praying for the clouds.)

Thank you for our friends, our family, and all the people with whom we share this beautiful world. Let all of us know your love, your presence, and your peace.

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen

This is usually followed by singing a couple of songs, blowing kisses, and a silly game in which I say a bunch of words that begin with the letter “p” to which my girls respond “No! Pillow!”



Faith, Trust, Doubt, and Hope

Click here to listen to the sermon that came from the following notes.

There are times when God leads you to a passage and you just wonder why God had to lead you there. This week we are going to look at Jesus’ interactions with people bringing someone they cared about to him for healing. The first story is that of a Roman Centurion with an ill servant.

5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment. Luke 8:5-13

  • A loaded question. Purity rules, entering a gentiles house.
  • Centurion’s respect for culture – humility.
  • Centurion’s faith shows that the kingdom is offered to all, not just the “chosen race.”
  • Just being born into the right family doesn’t guarantee us a relationship with God. We must pursue it.

The next story is from the gospel of Mark 9:14-27 and is a much different circumstance involving a Father who has watched their child suffer for many years.

14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him. 16 “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked. 17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

  • Failure is to be expected.
  • Disciples like us don’t always know the best way to approach a situation.
  • The only real failure for us is to not take things to Jesus, so maybe there isn’t a failure here after all.
  • “If you can?” vs. “If you will?”
  • Worn down faith needs Jesus, not judgment. Doubt is natural and can be the catalyst for deeper faith. Talk about my struggle with faith re:Analise.
  • Key element to both stories: humility.
  • Let us come before God together to seek his will in humility, but with Hope that our Father will act.

The Beautifully Broken

Two weekends ago my wife broke her right arm after a snowshoeing trip. This morning was an interesting time since my daughter Amy’s school finally reopened after Portland’s rare snow event. I was finally able to catch up on some of the work that is needed to keep a house functional and reflected on how much we as humans rely on others for so much.

Last winter I was broken. Bone spurs had formed in my lower spine and physical therapy was a constant yet needed torment. I couldn’t bend or lift much, and my wife got to carry the burden of the housework, mostly on her own. I did what I could, but I felt absolutely inadequate for the first time in my life. I was broken and it felt ugly to me. Because it felt ugly I failed to recognize the service that others were gifted to bring me, and now that I think about it, I see how beautiful it is when communities gather around others in support. Now we must be dependent again, but this time my wife who is healing from a complex break must struggle with the ugly brokenness of a complex fracture. There is beauty here as well, and now as I feel overwhelmed by the housework and the kids, as we struggle with a 1 year old who doesn’t understand why Mama can’t pick her up, as we receive the blessings of a community looking for ways to serve I hope I don’t miss the beauty.

We are all broken, but there is beauty in the brokenness when we accept the gifts of others, when God comes alongside us through the tangible ministry of our faith community. This beauty is hard for me to accept because it forces me to look at the brokenness, but there is a deeper beauty to be had. There is the deepest beauty of looking at the brokenness and saying no matter how ugly it gets the beauty is stronger and will outshine and overwhelm the ugliness. Through the breaks beauty shines. Through the breaks the Light of the Spirit pours out in streams of living water. I still hate the brokenness, but I can withstand it if the beautiful Light of God shines through others into me.

Faith Refined Through Doubt

(Click here to listen.)

Before I get started, I want to make a quick correction about who Simon Peter was. Peter was a fisherman with a bad temper and had no love for the Romans, but there were no known ties to the Zealots. I got my Simons mixed up during preparation for the sermon, on a related note Analise now has many more teeth than she had a week ago. Let this be a lesson to each of us that it is important for everyone to know the background info on the writings of our faith and not take everything someone says about them at face value. There is no one immune to errors, me least of all. So, sorry about that, while I won’t make that mistake again, no guarantees on others. What does remain as true is that we see a dramatic change in the way Peter interacted with the world as he followed Jesus, and to go from a Galilean fisherman to a missionary extending the good news beyond the Hebrew people is amazing.

Today we catch our first glimpse into the situations faced by the churches Peter was addressing. The early church had a lot of struggles to face, everything from hostile governments to being accused of atheism since they didn’t worship the many Gods everyone else did. Christians and Jews were considered lazy since they only worked six days a week, and it was even rumored that they were secretly cannibals, eating the body and blood of their victims. The Christians were ridiculed and generally misunderstood. Many struggled with doubts about whether this all was worth the harassment. Peter writes to them:

6In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, 7so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:6-9

Doubt is a word that we don’t like to apply to ourselves. There has been a stream of Christian thought that has told us that doubting is sin, and that if we can’t trust God with our little problems we must not have much faith. I will say that it seems to make sense on the surface, but let’s look at the way gifts from God work. First off, the bible is clear that faith is a gift from God.

Paul tells the Corinthians that there are many gifts of which faith is one.

7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. 1 Corinthians 12:7-11

Faith is not something that we can will ourselves to have, the source of faith is God, and when that mustard seed is planted it has huge effects. When God gives us a gift, it usually requires work on our part to use and grow the gift so that we may mature in our use of it. When we first get a gift, we often just whip it out in any situation regardless of whether that gift is what is needed. “When your only tool is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail.” No, we have to learn restraint, to focus our gifts in the most constructive ways for building each other up. This takes time and practice as we get used to the tools God has given us. Speaking of hammers, I have a friend named Eddie who has been a carpenter for 50 plus years. One day I was helping on a church project and as we put together a wall, Eddie just went down the line grabbing a nail, hitting it with a hammer precisely and driving the nail fully in with one perfectly placed hit over and over until the board was nailed in place. I said to myself, that doesn’t look too hard, and I grabbed a nail and proceeded to make my thumb swell up to twice its usual size. When Eddie first started he fumbled with the hammer and hit his thumb just like everyone else, but through his constant exercise of the use of a hammer Eddie knew exactly how to use it with precision and skill. As with Eddie’s hammer, gifts of God are tools used for the common good and, as Paul says elsewhere, for the building of the church. Now let’s explore what it means for us to see faith as a tool that needs us to practice with it so that like Eddie with his hammer we can employ our faith with precision and skill.

The gift of faith has many uses: bringing healing, connecting us to God, connecting others to God, building trust, sustaining our hope in the face of suffering, and even is used by God to cleanse our hearts and tear down the barriers that exist between us. “8And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; 9and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us.” (Acts 15:8-9) Each one of these uses has a common element that runs through them. In each use we are facing doubts. When bringing healing we can doubt whether our prayers or work will have results. When connecting to God we can doubt if there is a connection, whether the connection really is two-way and whether there is someone to connect to. When connecting others to God the same doubts as with our own connection to God are compounded by further possible doubts in the motivation and redemptability of the other person. When building trust we can often doubt whether others are operating in good faith or if we are just going to get taken advantage of again. When God uses it to cleanse our hearts, we can doubt whether we can ever truly be cleaned and sometimes doubt if those barriers that exist between us and others can ever be overcome. The hardest doubts that test and try our faith are connected to suffering, our own and others. The strongest and hardest time of doubt in my life was watching my father slowly decline over the course of a year and finally die from cancer. I doubted that God cared, that God was a God of love, and eventually came to wrestle with doubts about whether there was a God and if a God that allowed this to happen was worth following. Years later, I can look back and see exactly how God was at work in the situation, but in the middle of the mess I couldn’t see it. I wrestled with those doubts. I struggled and strove and eventually God helped me through. By facing my doubts and not trying to hide them or suppress them I grew in my faith. My faith became stronger because I did not try to hide the fact that I doubted. I accepted the fact of my doubt and didn’t try to just make it go away, but experienced it fully. Before that experience my faith was not very large, because I had just begun owning my faith for myself when struck by such a deep trial. The fires of doubt burned hot, and I felt the painful burn as one of my pillars was pulled out from under me and I had to learn to stand on Christ alone. That is what it means to have faith in Jesus, to not rely on anything other than him, to recognize that everything around us that seems so solid and so trustworthy is shifting sand that can be blown away in the storms of life. I have been refined, and while I don’t rejoice in the pain and the suffering, I can rejoice in the results, that my faith in God is much stronger now, that through my weathering the storm of grief and loss Jesus is revealed in praise, glory and honor. And I praise him, even in the dark times when doubt was the strongest I struggled to do it, but I praised him. I also yelled at God, said a bunch of things that fully expressed my doubts to him and still praised him. By going to God with my doubts, even in the pain filled rants against the situations I blamed him for, and wrestling with those doubts I was engaged in an act of worship.

Now I can stand up here as a pastor, not because my faith has never been tested with deep doubt, but because my faith has been tested with deep doubt. God used the doubt to refine my faith, and if you honestly confront your own doubt, and experience it, your faith will also grow. If we do not allow our faith to be tested, but try to hide our doubt and pretend nothing is wrong, we will stunt the growth of our faith, and in that resistance we resist our own salvation. There are still things that I rely on to support me that are shaky, and because God loves me he will strip away those things so that I can stand firm in my salvation. There are circumstances that happen for no discernible reason that God will redeem if I wrestle through them with him. I now know that even though I don’t see him he loves me, because he loves me I can love him, and even though I do not see him now he has given me the gift of faith so that I can believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy. According to all of the stuff I have faced and gone through, getting out of bed isn’t worth the effort, but there is one who speaks to my condition, Jesus. As I wrestle, Jesus wrestles with me and I have found that as I look back I can see the ways Jesus was speaking to me, providing support and encouragement, and let me tell you, having Jesus makes all the difference because with him I can face the next trial since God has been faithful even when my doubt has overcome me. So don’t be afraid to express doubt, face into it and God will be faithful even when you can’t see or feel him anymore. If we place it in God’s hands doubt will be the very tool that builds our faith. The question that I have had to ask myself and the one that I share with you as we enter open worship is: How is my faith being challenged to grow? Who are those around me that can encourage me as I face doubts? Consider these questions and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to your soul. If you are prompted to speak please wait and after the first 5 minutes of silence someone will stand with the microphone. When you are done speaking hand the mike back to _____ and they will pass it along to the next person after a time for the rest of us to consider the words God has placed on your heart. For more information about open worship please consult the blue pamphlet in the pews. Let us enter our time of communion together.