Tuesday, April 28, 2009

10 Year "Prayer-Blanket"

Family, Friends, Colleagues, & former students,

Today is sort of a milestone in my faith life. 10 years ago today, my wife Bethany and I first became parents.

Grace Rosa Mallory is in herself an "Ebeneezer Stone," a constant reminder to us of what God has done and continues to do, truly living up to her name- Grace.

After 96 hours in labor at Kaiser Permanente, she was finally taken by C-Section. We believe that the fetal distress she was in caused or contributed to many of the challenges that she's had to face growing up that God has used to shape her. But from the very beginning, it was God's grace that she even survived in the first place.

Last weekend we had a family out-to eat "party." This weekend, she'll have a "friends party." Tonight she has a soccer game but we'll probably order pizza or something to recognize the day. But I think that what would be infinitely more valuable than any presents or cards we can giver her- would be to "blanket" her in prayer.

I've asked some of you to pray for people before, sometimes in celebration, sometimes in crisis. Would you take a few minutes today to pray with us for our oldest daughter?

Thank you God for Grace, for her kindness and compassion, her sensitivity and thoughtfulness.
When she was two we worried that she would ever speak. Thank you for the Speech therapy that she received from Nebraska Medical Center and that she communicates better every year.
When she was four, we wondered if we'd failed at potty training. Thank you for the help she receives from the Children's Clinic at the University of Iowa and that her bladder is becoming stronger every year.
She learned to peddle and climb at the same time that her younger sister Ellen did. Thank you that she now enjoys soccer and softball and playing like other kids.
When she was eight, we found out that she has double-vision. Thank you for the aggressive vision therapy she received from Heartland Vision Specialists, so that today she loves reading and learning to play the piano. Her balance and self confidence grew so much.

Help her Lord, with the challenges which she still faces.
Please help her and heal her so that she won't have accidents anymore and never has to be embarrassed by them.
Please help her comprehension skills and her ability to focus and study. Help her understand her Math and Spelling and Social Studies better, be more organized and improve her grades.
Please help her to be healthy and more fit, help her to become more active and to enjoy exercise. Help her to keep up with her peers in PE and Softball, so that she doesn't feel left out.
Please help her to continue to grow and mature socially so that she can get along well with others and feel like she belongs and fits in at school and with friends.
Comfort her through the hard times, so that she can share Your grace with others whom she sees hurting.

Please make her a woman after Your own heart, Lord.
Help her to continue to grow in her love and knowledge of You and Your Word, God, so that her relationship with You will continue to flourish. Remind her every day that she is yours and use her as an instrument of Your love. We thank You that she loves Church and spending time praying to you and praising you. Help us as parents (and adults in her life) to continue to encourage her in her faith.
Live in her Lord, Holy Spirit, and produce good fruit in her life and character development, grant her love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

And finally, Lord, thank You for blessing, guiding, protecting, and providing for her future. You know the plans You have for her. If it be Your will, prepare a vocation for her where you will bless her and she may be Your instrument, blessing others and advancing Your kingdom. Prepare for her a husband who will love, care for and honor her just as You, Jesus does for Your church. Guide her, lead her and protect her so that she will walk in Your ways and patiently seek Your will for her life.

God, ten years ago I thought that these ten years were going to be difficult, but from where I see things now, I imagine the next ten years as being more important and full of more challenges than the last. Please guide Bethany and I to parent Grace the way You would have us.

"I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of her.*
So now I give her to the LORD. For her whole life she will be given over to the LORD."
~1 Samuel 1:27-28

In Jesus Name,

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The power of forgiveness

“Forgiveness made me free from hatred. I still have many scars on my body and severe pain most days but my heart is cleansed.”

"Napalm is very powerful but faith, forgiveness and love are much more powerful. We would not have war at all if everyone could learn how to live with true love, hope and forgiveness.

If that little girl in the picture can do it, ask yourself: Can you?"

Kim Phuc is best known as the girl in the famous photo of a Vietnam War napalm-bombing attack near Saigon. She now lives in Toronto with her husband and two children. Her organization, Kim Foundation International, aids children who are war victims.

Read what Kim believes about forgiveness at the 'This I Believe' website.

Mercy triumphs over judgment! (James 2:13)
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
(Matthew 5:44)
These do not make you weak, remember, Jesus is tough as nails.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


By Steven Curtis Chapman

I'm just a well dressed wreck
I'm just a made up mess
Working hard trying to keep everybody impressed
All the while I'm falling apart on the inside

I look around to see
Is anyone like me?
First glance tells me I'm all alone in the sea
Then I look again a little deeper

And we're all in the same boat
We all just need to know

We're all broken
We're all broken
And we all need a Savior
We're all broken
And we all need a Savior

'Cause we're all broken

This is a fool's parade
The way we masquerade
Trying to make everybody think it's all okay
When the truth is we're all living a story

What if we all got brave?
Enough to take away
All we're hiding behind even just for a day
And let the scars show even a little

But I know the honesty
Will show us all to be

We're all broken
And we all need a Savior
We're all broken
And we all need a Savior

We don't have to pretend about it
We don't have to keep acting like we're all okay
If we lift our eyes to the cross
We'll see the reality

That we're all... broken
And we all have a Savior
We're all broken
And we all need a Savior
We're all broken
And we all need a Savior
We all have a Savior
We all need Jesus

This song totally reminds me of one of my all time favorite books,
Messy Spirituality
by Mike Yaconelli

We're all messed up and we all need God's love!

Friday, April 17, 2009


"The Religious Right was a Christian mistake. It was a movement that sought to implement a ' agenda' by tying the faithful to one political option -- the right wing of the Republican Party. The politicizing of faith in such a partisan way is always a theological mistake. But the rapid decline of the Religious Right now offers us a new opportunity to re-think the role of faith in American public life.

Personally, I am not offended or alarmed by the notion of a post-Christian America. Christianity was originally and, in my view, always meant to be a minority faith with a counter-cultural stance, as opposed to the dominant cultural and political force. Notions of a 'Christian America' quite frankly haven’t turned out very well." ~Jim Wallis

Read the entire article at Sojourners.com

Recently right-wingers were attacking Sen. Chuck Grassley, an opponent of gay marriage for not being outspoken enough or moving quickly enough in response to Iowa's recent Supreme Court decision calling a ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. They're accusing him of drifting away from socially conservative values. I guarantee that if Jesus was traveling 21st century America as He did first century Palestine, Christian Conservatives would criticize Him for cavorting with sinners and tax collectors and for not fasting and not ceremonially washing His hands and gleaning grain from the edge of fields on the Sabbath and healing on the Sabbath etc. etc.

One of my biggest beefs with my fellow Christians is that we too often lean too heavily on the Law at the expense of the Gospel. We cannot and will not turn people's hearts toward God by legislation or judicial decision or constitutional amendment or for that matter by ranting and raving and protest and boycott. We can never save someone from their sin by coercively preventing them from sinning. It's as ridiculous as thinking that we can extract reliable intelligence from an enemy by torture.

People who genuinly want to follow Jesus and can't give up on their precious "culture war," should consider that we are not battling against flesh and blood and therefore conventional (and by that I mean political, practical, and especially Machiavellian , Tzu-ian and Rovian) tactics. The way to win the hearts and minds of unbelievers (and first of all, we can never do this, only God, with His Holy Spirit can do it- perhaps using us as His tools) is with love, compassion, example, and prayer. And by addressing their needs, not what we perceive as their faults and errors.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

He is risen!

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow:
Because He lives all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is woth the living just because He lives.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

If there were no God, there would be no Atheists.
- G. K. Chesterton

Thursday, April 09, 2009

WE killed Jesus

God was executed by people painfully like us, in a society very similar to our own ... by a corrupt church, a timid politician, and a fickle proletariat led by professional agitators.

- Dorothy L. Sayers,
The Man Born to Be King (1943)

Monday, April 06, 2009

Great quotes from 'the Shack'

"Relationships are never about power, and one way to avoid the will to power is to choose to limit oneself- to serve."
— Wm. Paul Young (The Shack)

"Submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect."
— Wm. Paul Young (The Shack)

"Let me say for now that we knew once the Creation was broken, true fathering would be much more lacking than mothering. Don't misunderstand me, both are needed- but an emphasis on fathering is necessary because of the enormity of its absence"
— Wm. Paul Young (The Shack)

"those who are afraid of freedom are those who cannot trust us to live in them. Trying to keep the law is actually a declaration of independence, a way of keeping control"
— Wm. Paul Young (The Shack)

"It (trying to keep the law) grants you the power to judge others and feel superior to them. You believe you are living to a higher standard than those you judge. Enforcing rules, especially in its more subtle expressions like responsibility and expectation, is a vain attempt to create certainly out of uncertainty. And contrary to what you might think, I have a great fondness for uncertainty. Rules cannot bring freedom; they only have the power to accuse. "
— Wm. Paul Young (The Shack)

"The 'will to power and independence' has become so ubiquitous that it is now considered normal."
— Wm. Paul Young (The Shack)

This is a very challenging and thought provoking book. I'd really recommend it to anyone interested in reflecting on their faith and their relationship with God. Fascinating and fun, but not like anything you've ever read before.

The Shack

by William P. Young
published May 1st 2007 by Windblown Media
Paperback, 256 pages
isbn: 0964729237 (isbn13: 9780964729230)

Pray for unity

From: http://www.presidentialprayerteam.org/100days/content/index.asp

For a spirit of collegiality and teamwork for members of the cabinet as they partner together to do the best for the American people
So all the men of Israel got together and united as one man against the city.
—Judges 20:11

Precious Lord, Scripture tells us that when the Israelites were faced with the great challenge of coming against the atrocities of the men of Gibeah, they did so in utter unity, as one man. They were committed to fight together for a just cause, an example to us today of the strength of unity. Thank You, O God, for this reminder.

As we intercede for President Obama’s cabinet, we also know that political partisanship can so easily undermine unity, sapping our nation’s leaders of the collective strength. So Lord, we pray that You would intervene mightily, and bring teamwork and togetherness to the men and women appointed to serve our president. Enable them, Lord, to accomplish great things for the betterment of our country as they unite as one. In Your name, amen.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Several Spiritual and Scriptural Satori*

Satori: a flash of sudden awareness, or individual Enlightenment.

I've recently had several Satori concerning Scriptures. Call them epiphanies or revelations if you'd prefer a Judeo-Christian jargon rather than a Hindu/Buddhist one. Point is, I feel like God has opened my eyes to layers of possible meaning in a few things that had never occurred to me before. Let me share some of them:

  • "Give us this day our daily bread..." like most people, I've always taken for granted that this portion of the Lord's prayer refers to God's provision for my material needs. But Jesus calls Himself the "bread of life." Surely we should be praying for the true manna from Heaven, which is fellowship with Him and spiritual nutrition from His Word.
  • "Whatever is good, whatever is right, whatever is praiseworthy,...(Philippians 4:8)" For years I've assumed this meant to think positive, to try to focus on what you have, not on what you don't have, thereby fostering an attitude of gratitude. But it can mean SO much more than that. If we "fix our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2)" then we're REALLY thinking about "whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable." Duh. Why didn't THAT one ever dawn on me before?!
  • "Be fruitful and multiply... (Genesis 9:7)" Wouldn't most people just assume that God's telling Noah and his family to get busy repopulating the earth? But what if He's not talking about sex or having babies? What if He's speaking spiritually? What if to be fruitful, means to produce the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)? To "multiply" is to augment, to spread or propagate.- to increase. I don't think you have to have kids to spread love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Which brings me to my next point-
  • The fruit of the Spirit is not just something to HAVE, it is something to SHARE. People have said for eons that "love isn't love unless you give it away," but I think that its also true that the more of all the fruit which you offer, the more you have. Kind of like the 5 loaves and 2 fish (Luke 9) miraculously feeding the 5,000. (and sharing Jesus is the same way, after all, He is the bread of life). If you're kind to others, guess what? They're likely to be kind to you. Showing patience? Same deal. Faithfulness, treating people gently? Guess what?
  • This last one also has to do with the same Gal 5:22 spiritual fruit- but it will sound pretty "out-of-the box..." A couple of weeks ago my wife and I attended a Christian marriage retreat in Kansas City, during the segment on intimacy, the speaker suggested an idea that most of us probably wouldn't ordinarily consider- (probably because even though we say that God created sex and wants us to enjoy it within marriage, we still tend to think of it as carnal or "naughty," not something to include God in.) The speaker suggested that men touch their wives while focusing on the fruit of the Spirit. Before you clench up and freak out, just consider a massage or caress in which your partner touched you gently, kindly, lovingly, patiently, with faithfulness, joyfully, and... difficult for us guys, with self-control (so that a back rub doesn't have to become more than a back rub, if you catch my drift). Amazing concept, huh? God-touch. Pretty sexy for being so holy, don't you think?
  • I haven't started reading 'Love & Respect' yet, but I have been reading a really good book lately. At my brother-in-law's funeral a dear cousin urged me to read 'The Shack' by William Paul Young. I never got around to it until last weekend when another cousin offered to loan her copy to my wife &/or me.

    It's really good. One of the parts that struck me today really seemed to encapsulate a lot of that they were teaching us at the "Weekend to Remember" marriage retreat.

    It's about the curse in Genesis 3:16-17, how woman's "desire will be for your husband" and how man will have "painful toil" all the days of his life because the ground will be cursed. If I understood the book jacket for 'Love & Respect,' this really says a lot about each of our genders' needs.

    In chapter 10 of 'The Shack,' Jesus to the main character, Mack, "Women, in general, will find it difficult to turn from a man and stop demanding that he meets their needs, provides security, and protects their identity, and return to me. Men, in general, find it very hard to turn from the works of their hands, their own quests for power and security and significance, and turn to me."

    Young has Jesus go on to explain to Mack that we all need to repent and turn back toward Him and follow the model for relationships that God gives us- in his words, "Submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect."