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Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

underwater with godHow can I get better at prayer? I know the answer, more or less. Nike gives me a hint: “Just Do It!”

But what makes a good pray-er? What makes my prayer better than yours or even better than the one I prayed yesterday? It’s not just quantitative. But, if I pray more often or longer, will that make me a prayer warrior? God forbid if I’m back to navigating the challenges “praying continually.” On one website, I read that a prayer warrior is one who prays continually (sigh) AND prays effectively!

Now, that’s another challenge. Unfortunately, I’m most people might assume that the primary measure would be answered prayers or well-timed prayers. No surprise, there are websites that have the “12 secrets to praying effectively” or “15 steps (with pictures) to pray effectively” and so on.

But then I read these words:

I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
    yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all your works
    and meditate on all your mighty deeds.
Your ways, God, are holy.

    What god is as great as our God? [Psalm 77:11-13, NIV]

It’s not about me and what I say or do. Effective prayer is connecting with a Holy God, surrendering to the Presence of God within, conversing with, in, and through the Holy Spirit, by calling on the mediation of Jesus, the Christ, who makes it all possible.

God is Holy. I cannot “move” God or convince God or manipulate God. I am, however, invited to learn of God and to delight in God.

Righteous Father, even the world didn’t know you, but I’ve known you, and these believers know that you sent me.  I’ve made your name known to them and will continue to make it known so that your love for me will be in them, and I myself will be in them.” [John 17:25-26, CEB]

Just so.

Right now, prayer feels like I’m trying to sit on the bottom of the pool. I’m holding my breath. I’m treading water. I’m working hard. But the goal is to float and eventually, even breathe (total trust). Easy does it.

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holy_spiritFellowship has become a worn out word in Christian circles. Mostly, I am reminded of the 3 F’s: food, fun & fellowship. This was, for many years, the promise of the church. Fellowship meant talking and sharing and hanging out together. Then, in the eighties and nineties, believers started using “fellowship” as part of their new church names: Word of Life Fellowship, Bible Fellowship, Grace Fellowship, and Christ Fellowship, just to name a few. In more recent years, the word “Community” has replaced “Fellowship.” But the intent is the same, but now it’s Casseroles, Crusades, and Community at Christ Community Church, Grace Community Church, Bible Community Church, and so on. And why? To communicate how friendly we are, accessible, and inviting.

But the real fellowship, the one that counts, is the one we have within and with the Holy Spirit through Christ Jesus. You want authentic fellowship with others, then you’d better have fellowship with God in Christ.

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete. [I John 1:3-4, NIV]

This relationship is deeper and more intimate than the 3 F’s. It’s familiarity through undivided attention and conversation. It’s intentional. It’s persistent. It’s a priority.

Some people realize it’s prayer. But you can call it fellowship if you like. You can also call it meditation, or centering, or contemplation. As long as it’s the Holy Spirit that’s been invited into the core of yourself.

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Stockphoto by Jessica at Deviant Art

Stockphoto by Jessica at Deviant Art

The essence of the Christian faith is very simple: love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself. “On these two commandments hang the law and the prophets” (so written in Matthew 22:38). And yet, most of us are not very good at this kind of loving. Whether we have been faithful followers of Christ for many years or newly minted converts, these two commands trip us up every time. And for this reason, I look forward to intentional times of reflection and self-examination to refresh my focus, whether it’s a retreat or a study or season. Yes, for this reason, I observe Lent each year.

For 2015, I have compiled a devotional for Lent (see Links), with a series of readings and scriptures for meditation. And by meditation, I mean, to read through the selections slowly, to consider, not only their meaning, but their application to present circumstances and faith.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” [II Chronicles 7:14, NIV]

Within this scripture lives a promise for me (and any believer) which I have read often but I haven’t actively pursued. Why? Because a chase for humility has always been a fear-laden prospect for me. I have blanched at the thought of some inevitable loss or pain that might manifest as part of the humbling “package.” Humility comes with a cost, I think.

And now, here I am, in grief and recovery from the death of my husband. Intellectually, I know his passing had nothing in particular to do with my lack of humility but, at the same time, I see everything in the light of him gone. For, you see, I am humbled by the unexpected turn in our family’s resources and relationships (we lost a breadwinner, a husband, a father, a brother, and an uncle). Only his parents escaped this sorrow, for they preceded him into that place we call heaven.

praying22I am humbled by the outpouring of love from my friends, my church, my colleagues, my neighbors, and even, quite honestly, strangers too. I am humbled by the unexpected journey I face. I am humbled by the years that have passed and how I took them for granted. I am humbled by the steadfastness and nearness of God, the whispers of the indwelling Holy Spirit, as well as the memories and message of Christ Jesus. But more importantly, I am humbled by the call to pray. Really.
And for this reason, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” [Psalm 27:13, NIV]

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tumblr_meydjiDofs1r1mkubo1_500Today marks two months that Mike, my husband and father to our children, passed. Like a goose stepping march, the days and weeks and now months, advance, without pause. How peculiar time feels: some time is like a whirlwind, lived and gone before I can even call it a day while other time slogs its way through the sun’s ecliptic journey.

Don’t let it escape your notice, dear friends, that with the Lord a single day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a single day. The Lord isn’t slow to keep his promise, as some think of slowness, but he is patient toward you, not wanting anyone to perish but all to change their hearts and lives. [2 Peter 3:8-9, CEB]

Some say that grieving cannot be measured by time, it is different for everyone, and yet, the two month mark has precedence, a turning point of sorts for most survivors of loss where they begin a true re-entry. I suppose I beat that mark to some degree. Not for lack of love or care, but merely the unassailable demands of food, shelter, and clothing.

I remember many years ago when I was living single in New York City, a struggling actress, making do with restaurant jobs and occasional paid gigs, and a dream of dance/theater company that could make a difference. But, in the end, the personalities of the players were incompatible and we needed to part ways, not unlike a messy divorce. During that time, I told them of feeling overwhelmed and just plain tired of being in one of the driver’s seats and footing the bills. And one friend said, “You can’t fall apart. We count on you too much.” And so, I ran away. I left the City and the group and started over in the Midwest.

Starting over is time-based. It’s a resetting of the clock; it’s restarting the stopwatch.

Every day is actually a new countdown. It’s the measure we humans have all agreed upon. And then, a few specific days make their mark and become an inauguration of a longer period of time, a month or a year, or, as in my case today, a simple reminder of a finale, that other day when the clock stopped for the Mike part of my heart and would not begin again.

But God’s clock is not linear. I’m not exactly sure what that means for me, except for an unfailing Presence that is not put off by my lateness or my laziness, does not measure me by my effectiveness or my falls, does not count my mistakes or my successes. God is now and God is now again. And Jesus, who lived linearly for a human lifetime, is once again now, and identifies experientially with the pain of time.

Two months. 62 days. 1,488 hours. 89,280 minutes. 5,356,800 seconds. plus now. No algorithm for that.

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I wrote the obituary for Mike, it’s below. I thank you all for the prayers of family, friends and neighbors. I am in awe of the touch of love through eyes and arms and words through people, whether they were close to me (or Mike) or not, every touch matters. I see that now in a way I never saw it before.

Right now, I know this one thing. Mike was a healthy man with no history of heart disease. His death was both out of his control and mine. And for this reason, I understand, Mike’s passing is part of the journey set before me and my young adult kids;  we must all walk this road in faith and trust. We cannot know what lies ahead, but I rest in my God as best I can although this night of sorrow is long. I am so grateful for the presence of the Holy Spirit from whom I draw my hope.

The Obituary

Mike headshotMichael Leigh Brown died Saturday, Dec 13, 2014 of a massive heart attack at home; he was 64. Mike was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, the youngest son of Vernon Stockton Brown and Lina Snead Brown (both deceased). He attended the University of Georgia, served in the U.S. Army at Aberdeen Proving Ground, worked at Georgia Public Television, and in 1982 married his beloved wife, Irmgarde Berzins Brown. In 1987, he moved to Havre de Grace, Maryland and began his 27-year career at Aberdeen Proving Ground as a television director and videographer. In 1997, he and his wife adopted two children, Arturs “Kip” Brown and Vernon Sergei Brown from Riga, Latvia at ages four and five; seven years later, they adopted Liliana Victoria Brown from St. Petersburg, Russia at fifteen. In addition to his creative work for the government, Mike donated his time and talents to both Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Bel Air and more recently, Restore Church in Havre de Grace. Mike participated in several para-church organizations: Kairos Prison Ministry, Walk to Emmaus, and Cursillo. Mike volunteered at two orphanages in Africa: Children of Zion Village in Katima, Namibia, and Village of Hope, Zambia. He and his wife were leading a team to Africa in the fall of 2015. Mike was a man of faith who walked out his beliefs by working for the good of his community, both near and far.

Mike used his video skills to create personal projects (see his YouTube channel, vydeoynkhorne), record family and life events, as well as church activities. Mike was a history buff, a Robert E. Lee re-enactor, a regular blood donor to the Red Cross, an avid reader, a conspiracy theorist, an investigator into the cryptic, and a champion for ambidexterity and healthy living.

Mike is survived by his wife, three children, and brother, Vernon Stockton Brown, Jr. and several cousins, nieces, and nephews.

Visitation with the family will be Thursday, December 18th, 2 – 4 pm followed by a Memorial Service at 6:30 pm at St. Patrick’s Fellowship Hall at 650 Pennington Avenue, Havre de Grace, MD. There will be no viewing as Mike requested his body be donated to science. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to the benevolence fund of Restore Church, Havre de Grace [https://restorechurch.cloverdonations.com/give-online/] or one of the orphanages he supported.

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Advent : Day Two

Image by RHADS

Art by RHADS

I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. [I Corinthians 1:4-7, NIV]

I imagine what it would be like to have someone send me this message. There is so much promise in these worlds: the promise of someone praying on my behalf, the promise of God’s presence, the promise of God’s grace, the promise of God’s gifts, and the promise of a personal revelation of Jesus Christ. I am comforted and encouraged.

So often, I see myself sucked into a habit of self-condemnation and perfectionism. I feel inadequate and unable to accomplish anything. I am overwhelmed by the daily demands of my life, much less trying to add outreach and ministry to others. And in the midst of this comes the holidays and all those questions about trees and decorations and shopping. Even the church itself has its pressures to serve and plan. Julian of Norwich

If I could just hold on to this prayer for me. For you.

For this reason, I believe Julian of Norwich wrote, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”  It’s the grace. Everything will work out. As a friend of mine has always said: worry don’t work.

And so, for this day, I will take a breath and do what I can. I have everything I need to accomplish what is needed today. And God has tomorrow.

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waterI am not really that good at breaking down knowledge into sequential bites. Teachers, for this reason, are truly amazing. They understand what a student has to learn first and then second and so on. It’s hard for me to analyze what I know and then back up to how I figured something out or how I learned a particular task or took advantage of an inborn talent.

But this much I know, in order to “come to the water,” a person must realize he/she is thirsty, in other words, in need. Meaningful change cannot happen without acknowledging the status quo as a) not working or b) not acceptable.

All of you who are thirsty, come to the water!
Whoever has no money, come, buy food and eat!
Without money, at no cost, buy wine and milk!
Why spend money for what isn’t food,
    and your earnings for what doesn’t satisfy? [Isaiah 55:1-2a; CEB]

Part Two: Once a person figures out that he/she is thirsty and starts looking around for something to quench that thirst, this is the point when circumstances and people play a vital role.

When I am thirsty, I don’t always pick the best thirst-quencher. Intellectually, I may know that water is probably best, but I am guilty of popping a beer or soda instead. Sometimes I choose badly because of convenience, sometimes I choose badly because I am offered something else from a person nearby.

And lastly, accept the paradox of God’s offer: water where there does not appear to be water; food where there is no money to buy food, etc. God, through Jesus, is continually offering and calling and drawing Human to the Godhead, to a life of Spirit, where thirst is perpetually quenched. We are so used to living a life of unmet needs and wants; we can barely comprehend an existence or space in which we would be completely satisfied. This is the life within, not the daily grind. If the Spirit is quenched, the 3-D life can be conquered, the journey can tolerated, the sorrows born, the disappointments made powerless.

Why spend money [time, energy, etc.] for what isn’t food? Believe in a better way.

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