I sensed this was the week that above all weeks was to be set aside for the journey into death. I knew the worship of the church would take me by the hand and lead me step-by-step into the experience of death and rebirth, if I would allow it to do so. I resolved then and there to walk in the way of the cross. I purposed to make this the week God intended it to be for me, a week of intense spiritual struggle—and reward!

-Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Christian Year

A Prayer Experience from Psalm 6

The Lord is merciful.

He is full of unfailing love.

The Lord hears our cries and hears our prayers.

He takes away our sins.

This is a prayer experience for Lent based on Psalm 6.

A Prayer Experience from Psalm 142

I wrote an arrangement of Psalm 142 for my one man musical, DAVID.  The line, “When my spirit grows faint within me / It is you who knows my way” grabbed me. As we continue this season of Lent, I thought this was a good psalm to share.  I recorded it in the desert room of the Botanical Gardens because David wrote it while hiding in a desert cave on the run from Saul.

Worship Stories: Moses

This time of year, we look to the same God as Moses.  The one who said I WILL BE WHO I AM is with you.  The one who said He would be EMMANUEL, is GOD WITH US!  This season, remember that the same God who promised to be faithful to Moses, to Israel, is faithful to you.  He is the the one who lit the bush, the mountain and the Bethlehem night skies on fire and who came as a baby to live with you.

Maybe you’ve seen the various articles going around about the 100th anniversary of WWI?  I’ve looked at various photos of the beautiful, yet abandoned, battlefields, but the most interesting thing I’ve seen is this quote about the religious impact of WWI.  It is from an interview with Philip Jenkins on his new book, “The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade”…

SO HOW DID THE PEACE AFTER WWI IMPACT CHRISTIANS WORLD-WIDE?

Between about 1915 and 1930, we are dealing with perhaps the greatest age of martyrdom and mass killing of Christians in history. That includes perhaps 1.5 million Armenians murdered, not to mention mass slaughter by the Bolsheviks in Russia.

That all had two key consequences. One was the creation of Middle East that was more clearly Islamic, with far smaller Christian minorities.

It also ended the long-familiar tripartite division of Christianity into the worlds of Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox. Although Orthodox believers and thinkers obviously survived, their influence and impact collapsed with the loss of Russia. For the first time, people began to think of Christianity as bipolar—Protestant and Catholic.

*This quote is from this article on the TCG website:

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/peace-could-not-hold/

Worship is Hope

Hope isn’t just a concept.  Hope is a person and his name is Jesus.  In a world that can seem very dark and hopeless, we need to remind ourselves and each other about the grace of Jesus.  Worship is one of the places we regularly do that…let’s talk…

Worship is Lament AND Praise

6 years ago, we lost my son. Since then, we’ve been on a journey through lament (expressing our pain to God), mercy, healing, joy and praise. I think this is the process God wants for all of us. As Psalm 126 says, “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.”

Also, here is a copy of the “Psalm 142 Spoken Word”:

Psalm 142 Spoken Word

Lord, I am crying aloud to you.

Lord, I am lifting my voice

Because I have no choice,

but to cry for mercy.

I am pouring out my heart,

I am pouring out my trouble,

Amidst the rubble

of confusion and complaint.

Now when my spirit is faint inside of me.

It is you who watches my way

Even when evil tries to lay

A snare for my feet.

There is no friend beside me;

Lord, look and see,
no one is concerned for me.
I have no safety for my soul;

It feels like no one cares for my life.

Lord, I am crying out to you.

Lord, you guard my heart

And I know this is all apart

Of living in your loving life.

So listen to my heart’s cry,
for I am in desperate need;
rescue me from fears that feed

On my soul, for they are too strong.

Set me free from my prison of pain,
that I may praise your holy name.

that the righteous who came

to comfort me, will praise You…

Because of your goodness,

Because of your goodness,

Because of your goodness, Jesus,

…to me.

Worship is Encouragement

All of life is worship. And in our services we are called not only to exalt God, but also see our worship as encouragement for others who can’t sing for themselves.

For This Child I Have Prayed…

Isn’t it funny how our lives, and history itself, move in circles?  Names and stories trigger memories and we see meanings emerge that we were blind to before.

As I think about my name, “Samuel”, and as I read the story of his mother, written thousands of years ago, I notice that my wife had a similar experience to my own mother who had a similar experience to Hannah.

I obviously don’t remember, but my Mom and Dad struggled to have a child for 4 years.  She’s told me that she longed to be a mother and never dreamed, when she was married, that it would be that hard.  Both of my parents continued to pray for a baby and I was born in a doctor’s office in the hills of western Pennsylvania.  They named me Samuel because, like Hannah, they prayed for a child.  That is what “Samuel” means.

Years later, Sara and I were in a similar situation, but we knew that there was no biological way for us to have kids.  So we prayed and pursued adoption.  God gave us a baby girl.  We named her Eliana, which means, “my God has answered”.

So this week, as we approach Mother’s Day, I’m thinking about Hannah, Samuel’s mother, who lived thousands of years ago.

First off, I’m reminded that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  He is a loving Father who cares for us even when it doesn’t feel that way and we don’t understand what is going on.  I have lived in the tension multiple times in my life.  Infertility.  Cancer.  The death of a child.  But it’s true.  Job is the one who first said this, but it’s true.  Blessed be His Name.

I also see that people will misunderstand you, adding to the pain of your experience.  Eli, a priest of God, thought Hannah was drunk when he saw her praying to God.  People told Sara and I that we were too stressed and needed to take a weekend away with a bottle of wine to make things happen.  We laugh about it now, but, people will mis-understand you.

Even when that happens, bring your pain and anguish to the Lord in prayer.  That’s my third thought.  Whatever you are going through, bring your pain and anguish to the Lord.  For a woman who desires to be a mother, this is deeper than I know.  But God hears you when you call.  God hears.  God answers.

Lastly, I am incredibly thankful for the example of these amazing Godly women.  Hannah prayed, trusting that God would answer her prayer.  And THEN, she fulfilled her vow, giving her little son back to the Lord.  Incredible.  My mom prayed to the Lord for a baby and I was born.  Since then, I have watched her continue to live a life of faith, even in the midst of hard times and hard questions.  My own wife has also showed me what deep faith looks like.  She also struggled, prayed and continues to do so.

Isn’t it funny how our lives, and history itself, move in circles?  Names and stories trigger memories and we see meanings emerge that we were blind to before.  As I think about my name, Samuel, I realize that it’s a reminder of the faith of women throughout history who have taken their pain to God and afterwards said,

“For this child I have prayed”.