Category Archives: Uncategorized

Dynamic Spirit Power!

“Dynamic Spirit Power!”

Acts 2 Pentecost mural

Acts 2:2-4 – June 9, 2019

Have you ever been outside in hurricane-force winds? Either you, or a loved one you know and who is very dear to you? How about a massive storm that has huge bolts of lightning, and loud cracks of thunder? Can you imagine God’s mighty power displayed, for everyone to see and hear and feel? Anyone who has ever been caught in such a powerful storm can tell you, such a dynamic panorama can be earthshaking, literally. That mighty God-sent power is just what I’ll be preaching about today.

Most of us, perhaps even all of us are familiar with the disciples’ fearful reaction after our Lord Jesus ascended into heaven. And, for good reason! The Roman authorities were still hunting for the body of the Rabbi Jesus that disappeared from the tomb, some weeks before. Remember what happened on Easter morning? Not only the Roman authorities but also Jewish leaders were still demanding to see the body of this itinerant rabbi that they said was stolen from the tomb! Of course, we know better.

God’s mighty, miraculous power intervened, by way of the Resurrection and Ascension. Our Lord rose from the dead, walked and taught on this earth in His resurrected body for seven weeks, followed by His bodily ascension into heaven. What is more, the last instructions of Jesus to wait for power, to stay put in Jerusalem, were still fresh in people’s ears.

But—still, God left the disciples very much afraid, and very much in hiding. At least, after the risen Jesus went away for good. That’s what humans thought, anyhow.

Here we are, on Pentecost morning, waiting with the disciples. As was their custom, they were gathered for prayer in the Upper Room. Can you imagine a large group of disciples, with Jesus’ mother Mary in the midst of them? Talk about a prayer meeting! Still, they were huddled, in hiding. These disciples were being faithful, as best as they could. When, on Pentecost morning, a God-sent happening occurred. But, you don’t need to take my word for it!

Listen to what Dr. Luke says at the beginning of Acts 2: “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.

Now, today, if something like that happened, we might look around for the fancy special effects team in the background. We might wonder where the cameras were placed when those tongues of fire wondrously appeared above each person—marking them, letting everyone know that God was director, and God wrote the script.

Getting back to a description of a display of God’s mighty power, that other-worldly power was certainly on display in the sound like the blowing of a violent wind from heaven. In keeping with my analogy, God was also producer and certainly handled all special effects.

The Koine Greek word for “power” is dunamis, which the Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament defines as: able to produce a strong effect power, might, strength” and “as supernatural manifestations of power, miracle, wonder, powerful deed.” This is the same word that is used ten times in the book of Acts to refer to God’s mighty power or acts. Plus, dunamis is the root word for dynamite: the mighty, powerful dynamite of God!

This dynamic power was on display to the disciples, in the upper room. Dr. Luke mentions that “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” On display only among the disciples—at first. But, soon, other people started to get in on the action!

Let’s hear from Dr. Luke: “Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?”

Once the dynamic Holy Spirit blows in on the disciples with tongues of fire, and their physical tongues are loosened in many other languages, what an awesome display of power! Passersby from other countries off the street gathered around. They heard the violent wind of the Spirit and the expression of many languages that quickly followed. All of the disciples were telling the Good News, that Jesus our Messiah is risen from the dead—in many different languages. And, probably because of the regional pronunciation, the expat onlookers were able to tell that many of those who were speaking different languages were Galileans. Is it any wonder that these onlookers were totally amazed?

I am reminded of a flash mob in some public place, like a mall or in a downtown square. Just as passersby are engrossed in the performance the flash mob does, in a similar way, the onlookers are fascinated by the whole God-sent operation that happened in Jerusalem on Pentecost morning, especially by the sharing of the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ in their own heart-language, their own mother tongue. And, since the Holy Spirit was present in mighty power on that Pentecost morning, many came to believe in Jesus as their Messiah that day.

But, Pentecost was not just a one-time event. You know, an event that happened just in the distant past, in Bible times, never to be repeated. No! Whenever anyone believes on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, a Pentecost happens! The Holy Spirit blows through that person, that beloved one of God. The Holy Spirit blows into each of our lives, and the power and possibility of God acting with and through each one of us is an amazing and awesome truth!

Commentator Rev. Gary Simpson brings out the fact “I am more aware of the numerous ways the Holy Spirit comes into people’s lives and affects positive change. No longer is my understanding of Pentecost simply wrapped around the phonetic languages we speak out of our mouths. Rather, I am aware of the many ways the Holy Spirit speaks through us and to us through sounds, pictures, ideas and even hope.” [1]

I am reminded that some people think Pentecost was just a day, an event that happened two thousand years ago. But, no! Wait a minute! Are these well-meaning people putting limits on the mighty power of God? What about that violent wind of the Holy Spirit that blew through the house on that first Pentecost? Are these well-meaning people trying to put God in a little box of their own devising and understanding?

As the Rev. Simpson reminds us, Pentecost is not simply a day to remember the birth of the Church, but it is also a day to celebrate the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, the dynamite of God, active and present in each believer’s life and heart. It is God’s power working in us and through us, so we can be witnesses to what the risen Lord Jesus has done for us. Yes, we are changed, too! And we have the opportunity to change the world, just as much as the first-century disciples of Christ—by the power of the God-sent dynamite of the Holy Spirit.

Alleluia! Amen.

[1] http://www.theafricanamericanlectionary.org/PopupLectionaryReading.asp?LRID=88

Lectionary Commentary, Acts 2:1-8, Gary V. Simpson, The African American Lectionary, 2009.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my regular blog for 2019: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and my other blog,  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!

Can I Pray This Way?

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, May 23, 2019

do not be afraid, print

Can I Pray This Way?

What a question! As I consider praying in the Ignatian way, I remember the times I vividly experienced this way of prayer. Contemplative, imaginative, experiential prayer. But—will it work for me, this time?

I must admit up front: I am afraid. I am afraid that nothing will happen, this time. I am afraid of not paying sufficient attention to this type of prayer. I am afraid of being far from God. I am afraid my mind is so cluttered and full of chatter that I will not be able to focus. And, I am afraid that my heart is not right with God. This time.

Father Timothy mentions a woman who has similar fears and anxieties over praying in the Ignatian way, too. She follows those fears with: “When I reflect on the meaning of the Scripture, I have the sense that something will surface….there will be some little hold that allows me to enter the surface of the text and go in.” [1] I appreciate this woman’s witness to her experience.

Yes, I can pray. I do pray, in a conversational manner. I honestly enjoy talking with God! Except—it goes in cycles. I need to take this woman’s advice. She recommends patience and trust. I need to patiently try, try, and try again to work on Ignatian prayer.

Perhaps I ought to take the suggestions right here. One woman mentions a simple thing for her to imagine is the weather. [2] I realize the Bible does not go into depth, in terms of description. However, using Godly imagination with what I know of the weather in the area of Palestine is definitely a place to start.

Also, using as many senses as I can is a good suggestion. What can I hear from this passage? What do I see? Are there any smells? Can I taste anything? These are all places for me to start to begin Ignatian contemplation. Even if I am afraid of having my prayer stall out.

Dear Lord, thank You for providing different ways to approach You. You want above all to be in communication with Your children. It doesn’t matter how we do it, just that we do it regularly. Help me to come to You with Ignatian prayer and contemplation, even though I am afraid. Amen.

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditation and Contemplation: An Ignatian Guide to Praying with Scripture, Timothy M. Gallagher, OVM (United States of America: Crossroad Publishing, 2008), 41.

[2] Ibid.

Spiritual Imagination and Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, May 18, 2019

Jesus and Coptic-Children-01

Spiritual Imagination and Prayer

As I go through this book, I repeatedly find Ignatian prayer can be freeing, liberating, and exciting. Yes, I have read through books on Ignatian prayer before. (Including the Spiritual Exercises, the book that started it all.) Yet, I cannot get it cemented in my head that Ignatian prayer is truly a marvelous way to communicate with God. I still have difficulty practicing regular, daily prayer.

Father Timothy gives further examples of substantive Ignatian prayer. First, R. used the instance in the Gospel of Luke where Zacchaeus climbed a tree to see Jesus come by. R. saw himself as Zacchaeus, up a tree, and Jesus encountered him. The warmth, the intimacy, the desire of simply being with Jesus—all became a marvelous experience of imaginative prayer. [1]

Second, A. had a retreat where she intentionally set aside time to pray. The spiritual director gave her several Scripture passages, and she was drawn repeatedly to Jesus’s encounter with the children (from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 19). A. imagined herself as one of the children, ad felt herself hugged by Jesus. [2] What an intimate, engaging experience!

I would love to be hugged by Jesus. How nurturing and loving that would be. Can I feel the warmth and intimate experience of this kind of prayer, on a regular basis? What if I do not feel it at all? (Now, since I have had these opportunities and experiences in Ignatian prayer before, I know it is possible. I just have not often tried Ignatian prayer.)

Perhaps I am afraid, or shy, or leery, or hesitant.  Forgive me, please.

Dear Lord, please encourage my heart to try Ignatian prayer more often. Overcome my hesitancy and fear of failure. Thank You for being there, for having Your arms open wide. Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for running to meet me, like the Father from Luke 15 ran to meet the Prodigal. Help me to want that intimacy. Please, dear Lord. It is in Jesus’s precious name I pray, amen.

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditation and Contemplation: An Ignatian Guide to Praying with Scripture, Timothy M. Gallagher, OVM (United States of America: Crossroad Publishing, 2008), 38.

[2] Ibid, 39.

Contemplate, Imagine and Pray

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Psalter - Westminster_Psalter_David playing the harp. c. 1200

Contemplate, Imagine and Pray

When I think about Ignatian prayer, the first thing that comes to mind is using my imagination. My “imagining cap” is never very far away, and I find imagining is often a fairly easy thing for me to do—to think and to pray in a way that invites imagination.

As Father Gallagher describes Ignatian contemplation, he says it is very much tied to the spiritual imagination. However, he also stresses personal reflection.

Is it that I am becoming more reflective as I find myself in my middle years, or is it my middle years that make me more reflective? I can sit and contemplate and pray at the drop of a hat, it seems. I mean, contemplate and pray for a half hour at a time now. In my thirties, that used to be much more of a challenge. Has my life and activities slowed down? I tend not to think so. Have I slowed down more, internally? Spiritually? Slowed myself down to the speed of contemplative prayer and meditation? Or, is it that I am finding more ease in the act of contemplation and prayer? Perhaps so. I am not sure which, but—perhaps.

Father Timothy describes the three steps of Ignatian contemplation in bullet points:

  • I see the persons
  • I hear the words
  • I observe the actions

“The process by which I imaginatively see the person, hear he words, and observe the actions of a Gospel [or, to speak more broadly, of a Biblical] scene, participating personally in the event, is Ignatian contemplation.” [1] He then addresses the questions that may come up as a matter of course: “Can I be personally active in the scene? Can I trust that God’s grace will operate in this imaginative approach? How can I know it is not ‘just my imagination?’” [2]

I can still vividly remember instances when I did use my imagination, and Ignatian prayer and contemplation. It was some years ago when the most vivid time happened. Yes, it is real. Yes, I can remember it with crystal clarity—and that does not happen very often at all.

Dear Lord, help me to practice Ignatian prayer and contemplation more often. I want to encounter You in a more intimate way, a way I have not been experiencing lately in my prayer times. Thank You for those times of prayer in the past. May I—may we experience more of You, Your heart, Your love for us and for others. In Your Son’s precious name we pray, amen.

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditation and Contemplation: An Ignatian Guide to Praying with Scripture, Timothy M. Gallagher, OVM (United States of America: Crossroad Publishing, 2008), 36.

[2] Ibid, 37.

Truths in Scripture

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, March 18, 2019

Bible with flowers, drawing

Truths in Scripture

I want to be more faithful to prayer and meditation. That’s why I have chosen this book for my Lenten prayer meditation, Meditation and Contemplation: An Ignatian Guide to Praying with Scripture. Father Gallagher lays things out in a clear, matter-of-fact manner, even though this kind of prayer can be quiet, internal, even ethereal at times.

I have prayed in the way St. Ignatius directed, but not consistently. (I am afraid I do not do any type of prayer in a consistent manner. Dear Lord, in Your mercy, forgive me.) Even this prayer blog does not help me to pray every day. Lord, this lack does bother me. However, I will not allow it to paralyze me, or to shrug my shoulders in defeat and give up. No, I will try to keep to the path and pray when I can.

Father Gallagher explains Ignatian meditation in this section. He says, “When I turn to the Scripture I have chosen, I find there a number of revealed truths….As my heart is drawn to one of these truths,

  • I call to mind this truth, with love
  • I ponder it, with love
  • I embrace it, with love and desire” [1]

What a marvelous way to think deeply about Scripture! And, this is such a simple, straight-forward way, too. I would like to think about the Scripture passage I am going to be preaching on  this upcoming Sunday. I have never particularly wanted to consider it before. However, with this being the Scripture section I chose for this week’s sermon text, I know this would be a tremendous opportunity to consider this passage of Luke 13 in depth.

This sermon will be coming at the end of a busy, stress-filled week for me.  (Thank God I am backed up by some excellent people at church.) I hope I have the opportunity to hear some excellent stories.

Trying to pray myself; God will deliver me. Dear Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayers.

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditation and Contemplation: An Ignatian Guide to Praying with Scripture, Timothy M. Gallagher, OVM (United States of America: Crossroad Publishing, 2008), 28.

Happy, Faith-filled Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, March 8, 2019

prayer hands

Happy, Faith-filled Prayer

What a wonderful experience, to have happy, faith-filled prayer! That is what St. Ignatius intends for us to have, as we enter into the part of his prayer practice called meditation.

As Father Gallagher mentions M. and his prayer experience with the passage of the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18), “he tells us that the words were ‘alive,’ ‘almost directly touching my heart,’ and…describes an unhurried, happy, faith-filled reflection on the words of the Scripture, with profound awareness of the Lord’s presence.” [1] What an intimate experience of God.

This deep, intimate communication with God was intensely personal for M. As he went deeper and deeper into prayer, this personal kind of communication delighted him, deep down to his inmost being. He felt “spiritually happy” for days.

As I reflect on Scripture, I find it difficult to make this kind of deep connection all the time, in prayer. Certainly, difficult all the time, and even most of the time. The best I can do is make a connection like M.’s on occasion. Sometimes. Yet, when I do, I have vivid flashes when I think back on those times. For example, some years ago I had an intense experience of Jesus and the man (or, person—leaving it open to the possibility of a woman) with a withered hand whom Jesus met in the synagogue. (From Luke 6:6-11.)

I have had hundreds of prayer experiences since, yet, I revisit that one in my mind and memory. Yes, I was practicing Ignatian prayer, and it was a particularly intense experience. Similar to M., I did have a deep sense of the presence of Jesus with me, alongside of me.

St. Ignatius considers this type of meditative prayer as reflective, that “process by which we enter the richness of God’s Word and hear the Word as spoken personally to us today.” [2] As we are now in Lent, perhaps that will be my Lenten practice. Or, maybe one of my practices.

I am already reading through a Lenten devotional book, and it has some interesting ideas. However, the devotional only has one perhaps two verses of Scripture each day. I wonder whether I might find some additional prayer prompts? God willing, I suspect I will be able to find some Bible readings for each day in Lent. Help me, dear God, as I do these practices, a draw closer to You and Your heart. God. In Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditation and Contemplation: An Ignatian Guide to Praying with Scripture, Timothy M. Gallagher, OVM (United States of America: Crossroad Publishing, 2008), 27.

[2] Ibid.

Prayer: God Moves Us

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, February 26, 2019

candles, darkP

Prayer: God Moves Us

Prayer can be so intimate, so up-close-and-personal.

So many accounts of times when people felt utterly awestruck, as with M. while he read John 10, where Jesus talks about Himself as the Good Shepherd. “It was a beautiful time of prayer, an intimate time. There was so much in the words; it’s so beautifully written. I wasn’t reading words; it was alive, almost directly touching my heart.” [1]

I read about these times of prayer, and I feel uplifted, just reading these words. And then—at the same time, I feel so sad. Sad, and almost resentful. Why can’t I have these types of experiences on a regular basis? I do have similar experiences, but rarely. Why has my prayer life been dry and parched, like wandering in the wilderness, for decades? (Yes, for literal decades.)

The idea of letting the words of Scripture swim in one’s heart is certainly an imaginative one. Being immersed in the words of the Bible—so much so that I feel all filled to the brim with these life-giving words—what an image for my sometimes overactive imagination.

I would think this feature of our brains really causes Ignatian prayer and meditation to bear a great deal of fruit. How wonderful to be an imaginative pray-er. I do not think that access to prayer (speaking to God) and meditation (listening to God) are both required for our communication with our Heavenly Parent, but I suspect it helps.

But…what if the usual ways of praying don’t really work for some people? What would it be like to never have a close relationship with God from prayer? I am assuming some people have real difficulty in this. I truly do not know what I would suggest, other than the different more kinetic ways of prayer. I know it is possible to do Ignatian prayer and walk the labyrinth at the same time. (I’ve done both—at the same time.) But, other than kinesthetic praying, I do not know what to suggest to these friends. I guess I need to learn more about prayer styles, and refresh my memory with suggestions of diverse ways of communication with God.

We ought to breathe a prayer of thanksgiving for this opportunity to find hope. Hope in our dear Lord Jesus. Dear Lord, thanks for giving us a number of ways to communicate with You. Help each one praying find a way of prayer-communication that each one feels touched now. Dear Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditation and Contemplation: An Ignatian Guide to Praying with Scripture, Timothy M. Gallagher, OVM (United States of America: Crossroad Publishing, 2008), 24.