Tag Archives: fear

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.


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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.

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[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.

Prayer: An Expression of Hope

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, July 9, 2018

HOPE scrabble

Prayer: An Expression of Hope

Depression, fear, worry, anxiety. When these things creep into my life, I feel like I am suddenly walking through chest-high water. It can be so difficult to get through a day, even an hour. I have friends and relatives who deal with depression and anxiety, too. Yes, it can be more than a challenge to keep one’s head above water.

When Father Nouwen quoted from Bertold Brecht, I felt the words deep inside. Because—sometimes I feel that way. Not as much as before, but still, sometimes. Here is the quote:

“As it is, it will stay/What we want will never come.” [1]

Life without prayer, life without hope—that is what those words reflected inside of me. Father Nouwen said, “If you believe this way, life stands still. Spiritually, you are dead. There can be life and there can be movement only when you no longer accept things as they are now, and you look ahead toward that which is not yet.” [2]

That is hope. That is what can be, if we believe in prayer. Although, prayer seems to be more about asking than about hoping.

When I have hope somewhere inside of me (no matter how deep it is), I have more ability to go forward. I have dragged myself along when I have been in deep depression, or filled with fear or anxiety. At times, it has been a difficult journey. (Like walking through chest-high water.. But, I repeat myself.)

Thank God I know that God always has ears wide open to my cries, and arms ready to receive me when I stumble and fall into them. Dear Lord, help me to have hope. Hope in prayer, and hope in You and Your faithfulness. Help me to believe, to hope, and to pray more easily.

Thanks, God.


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] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 1972), 39.

[2] Ibid.

Patience, Possible, Pray.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, April 27, 2018

prayer candles

Patience, Possible, Pray.

Father Nouwen makes it sound easy. Well, if not easy, then straight-forward.

I know very well that I sometimes am all of these unpleasant things he talks about. I hate, I don’t forgive, I clutch worldly things or attitudes to my chest and turn away from the obvious invitations and overtures God in making to me. Yes, God. Guilty as charged. Yet, Henri Nouwen does make the process of prayer sound easy. (Or, straight-forward, whichever is more applicable to me at the time.)

Yet—before I get down to the serious business of praying, Nouwen tells me there is a caveat. “You must have patience, of course, before your hands are completely open and their muscles relaxed.” [1]

Patience? Seriously? Is this trait an absolute necessity? Because if it is, I do not think I will get very far in my walk with God. Or, my continuing conversation with God, either.

In the very next paragraph, however, Fr. Nouwen rephrases that absolute, and turns it into a conditional suggestion. He even acknowledges our human frailty. He says, “You can never fully achieve such an attitude, for behind each fist another one is hiding, and sometimes the process seems endless. Much has happened in your life to make all these fists….At any hour of the day or night you might clench again for fear.” [2]

Ah. Now you have it. Fr. Nouwen lays out the clear dilemma of prayer and the human experience. I have such fear and trepidation in my heart. I am filled with such anger, or shame, or even revulsion. Or, God forbid, I find myself chock-full of self-righteous judgement. Any or all of these can hinder or even totally stop my conversation with God.

What do I do about all of these horrible emotions and character traits that are so deeply rooted inside of me? Nouwen says, “What is possible is to open your hands without fear, so the other can blow your sins away…Then you feel a bit of new freedom, and praying becomes a joy, a spontaneous reaction to the world and the people around you.” [3]

Dear Lord, is it possible? Can I actually be welcomed into Your presence even though I am chock-full of all of these yucky emotions and character traits? Thank God, indeed.


[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 1972), 8.

[2] Ibid, 9.

[3] Ibid, 10.


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

Still More about Meditation, and Psalm 62

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, July 13, 2017

Psa 62 my soul waits

Still More about Meditation, and Psalm 62

Early in his ministry, Dietrich Bonhoeffer held a position as a pastor-in-training, and served as assistant pastor at a German-speaking church in Barcelona. He preached a sermon on Psalm 62. (I have found this sermon especially thoughtful and thought-provoking.)

Being a mother (and formerly, a daughter and niece of elderly relatives who have since died), I know well the seemingly bottomless list of errands, appointments, going to and fro. On top of that, the worries and concerns of daily life, family life, and all of the other frustrations, snags, roadblocks and blank walls that just happen. Life happens. It sneaks up on us, and sometimes will drown God’s voice out.

Most penetrating, “we are much more afraid of God—that he may disturb us and discover who we really are, that he may take us with him into his solitude and deal with us according to his will.” [1] How do I deny this? Do I have a creeping, sneaking fear that God will overpower me, and that there will be nothing left of _me_, of who I am as a separate person?

I seem to have gone past that fear…usually. Yes, I have experienced God’s warm love—more than several times. But, it is not an always-kind-of-a-thing for me, not even a usual-kind-of-a-thing. God’s love still sneaks up on me. Yet, isn’t that the way it ought to be? Leaving me so expectant, so much looking forward to my times spent in meditation and prayer, that I can hardly wait for the time that God and I can spend together?

I am still trying to figure all of this out. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a wonderful guide for my times of meditation and prayer. Dear Lord, help me to continue to pursue You. Continue to make me welcome in Your presence, just like a child coming home to rest. Thank You, Lord.



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] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000), 50.

Meditation, Prayer and Wartime, Part Two

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, July 4, 2017

man praying, in pew 2

Meditation, Prayer and Wartime, Part Two

The year was still 1942. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote more to several seminarians he had been responsible for training several years before, in Finkenwalde. Hardship, tumult, injury and even death had visited many of those young men. Bonhoeffer’s words were warm and heartening, despite the hardship, deprivation and trauma of war.

True, he tells these former seminarians that “Our previous ordered life has been broken up and dissolved in these present days, and we are in danger of losing our inner sense of order, too.” [1]

I have never been under such duress, fear and trauma as these young men who had gone through battle, trauma, fear and live enemy fire. However, I know a little about trauma and fear, from other, difficult home front situations. Hard, painful (and pain-filled) times were often these young men’s regular accompaniment.

Yet—and, yet—Bonhoeffer speaks of meditation (and its companion, prayer) as a stabilizing force in these men’s lives. ”Meditation can give to our lives a measure of steadiness; it can preserve the link to our previous existence, from baptism to confirmation to ordination…it can be a spark from that hearth fire that the congregations want to keep tending for you at home.” [2]

People often crave some semblance of order, of sameness, of that link to the previous existence, especially when everything else is up for grabs. Especially in times of conflict, hardship and war, certain people run straight into the waiting arms of God. To the desire and relief of many, they find “Meditation is a source of peace, of patience, and of joy; it is like a magnet that draws together all the forces in our life that make for order….Have we not all a deep perhaps, unconfessed, longing for such a gift?” [3]

How long, O Lord, how long? How long until You come alongside of us and fill our hearts with peace, patience and joy? How long until You penetrate each soul and spirit with Your love for Yourself and for others (both friends and foes)? Dear Lord, gracious God, thank You for Your promises, put forth in such a winsome way by Herr Pastor Dietrich. Thank You for Your nurture and care for all of Your creation. In Jesus’s 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] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000), 42-43.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

Hadewijch, Serving God through Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, April 6, 2017

serve, joy of

Hadewijch, Serving God through Prayer

There were several Hadewijches during the medieval period in northern Europe. The editors of this “Spiritual Classics” collection believe that this particular Hadewijch was the leader of her community in Antwerp. Not an avowed person, not a religious, she nevertheless was a completely devout person who never took any sort of vows. However, she did abide by the life of poverty and contemplation, and was one of the group of women called “Beguines.” She and her community lived by a definitive Rule, followed the Hours, and essentially were nuns in all but name.

Hadewijch was so service-oriented, she had an incredibly high standard of what she expected of herself. Moreover, she was a spiritual director for the young women under her care She certainly considered all to live up to the same stringent standards.

I was not expecting Hadewijch’s description of God as Love, or Beloved. “Rejoice continually in the hope of winning love; for if you desire perfect love for God, you must not desire in return any repose whatever except Love.” [1]

I hadn’t been expecting it, but it seemed only natural that Hadewijch gave the young women under her care particular advice and direction on how they ought to walk in the Christian life. Except—she called it “Love.” “You are still young, and you must grow a good deal, and it is much better for you, if you wish to walk the way of Love, that you seek difficulty and that you suffer for the honor of Love, rather than wish to feel love.” [2]

Hadewijch does go on, and describe some of what she means exactly.  I would like to revisit her discussions at some future time (when I have more time), when I have the opportunity to delve deep. Since I have the spiritual gifts of mercy and helps in abundance, I am very interested to hear what Hagenwijch has to say about these things. (Just because she was writing her thoughts down a bunch of centuries ago, doesn’t make her any more or less serious of a planner and teacher.

I’ll let Hadewijch have the last word: “Serve nobly, wish for nothing else, and fear nothing else: and let Love freely take care of itself.” [3]  (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] Spiritual Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. (San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000), 200.

[2] Ibid, 201.

[3] Ibid.