weak enough to lead?

This year at annual conference, as I was scanning the Cokesbury section, I came across a book titled, “Weak Enough To Lead” by James C. Howell. The title jumped out at me in such a way that I didn’t even need to read the summary on the cover before snatching it off the table and heading up to the register to purchase it. The book jumped out at me because its topic was one which I have wrestled with a lot in life, feeling as though weaknesses somehow deem me incapable of leading, especially, leading in ministry and as a pastor someday. At times, I have found myself plagued by this feeling of defeat, as though I was too weak or ‘not cut out’ for what God has called me to do. I have always been a perfectionist, always set high expectations for myself, and am hard on myself if I ‘fail’ or don’t reach my goals at the very time that I had planned. I don’t like to complain or dwell on bad things, and admitting struggle or weakness is something I am not great at. So, perhaps, after stating all of that, it’s not too hard to imagine this book being one that I just couldn’t pass by. As I have read it more and more, I have found that it addresses every single thing I have listed above, and more.

Many times, I have thought to ask myself, “am I too weak to lead?”

But never once have I thought to ask myself, “am I weak enough to lead?”

That is the very question this book examines:

Am I weak enough to lead?

My recovery is something that I am very open and honest about in my conversations with people and in my writing, which many of you know. I am almost 5 1/2 years in recovery from anorexia, and I’ll actually be on a mission trip in Cuba on the 5 1/2 year mark, but you better believe that I am still going to jump up and down a few times out of joy and celebrate the accomplishment it is to me. Something I am not so open about, however, is the fact that recovery is a journey more so than it is a one time decision, and like any journey, it has bumps, detours, obstacles, highs, lows, and everything in between, and for the sake of being honest and at the risk of being vulnerable, I do still struggle at times with my recovery, and it is for that very reason that, at times, it has made me feel as though I am somehow too weak or too incapable of leading. This isn’t because I see my recovery or the fact that I have struggled with an eating disorder as a weakness, rather, it is something about my life that is not perfect, and as a perfectionist, one can see how that could affect my confidence in my leadership abilities. It wasn’t until recently that I came to the realize and truly believe that being a pastor and being in recovery are not mutually exclusive. I thank God for helping me realize that, and I thank him for continuing to assist me in believing that.

My recovery and the ministry I am called to are two of the most important things in my life, and God knows that full well. He knows that I am in recovery – heck, he has been with me every single step that I have taken since day 1 of being diagnosed, to day 1 of beginning recovery, all the way up until now, and he’s still trekking along beside me, behind me, and before me.

God also has called me to be a pastor. He has called me to a life of ministry for him, in service to others. God knows I have weaknesses, and in fact, he knows those weaknesses inside and out, better than even I do. Even so, that doesn’t diminish his confidence in my ability, through him, to pursue his call upon my life to be a leader in the Church.

I don’t personally think for one second that God looks at us and thinks, “she is strong enough for this” or “he is strong enough for this.” God doesn’t call only people who have no weaknesses or no imperfections, because if we’re being honest, those people don’t exist. This book has made me think about the possibility that, rather than calling us based on our strengths or how equipped we are, God looks at us and says,

“She is weak enough – I will give her the strength she needs to lead and I will use her weaknesses for the benefit of my kingdom.”

“He is weak enough – I will give him the strength he needs to lead and I will use his weaknesses for the benefit of My Kingdom.”

Brothers and sisters, it is normal – innate, even – to have weaknesses. There are many differences between you and me and everyone else in this world, but something we all have in common is that we all have weaknesses. We all have brokenness. We all fall short. We all have pain. We all endure hardships. We all sin. We all mess up. We all fail. We are all imperfect. No leader is without any of those things.

I am thankful to have not only a hand full, but two hands full of mentors, pastors, and simply amazing leaders in my life, and one of the many things I respect most about those leaders is their willingness to acknowledge weakness, to be vulnerable, to show emotion, to admit when they don’t know something, to acknowledge their imperfections, to admit their faults, to talk about their fears and their challenges, and let people know that being a leader doesn’t negate the fact that you’re still human. I pray to embody that authenticity as an individual and as a pastor someday. I have more distrust than I do admiration for leaders who try to portray themselves as these perfect individuals who are never weak. Because that’s fake. We all have weaknesses so to portray yourself as though you have none is inauthentic and misleading for those who look up to you and those whom you are leading. Having weaknesses and being a leader are also not mutually exclusive. If anything, they make you a better leader.

I am preaching to myself just as much as I am preaching to you when I write this, but do not be ashamed of the things that you consider to be weaknesses in your life, especially when you have a God who is eager to use those weaknesses! Don’t cover them up, rather, embrace them. I know that is easier said than done, but God can actually use them and perfect his strength in those weaknesses. Our weaknesses do not deem us incapable of leading. We are weak, but God is strong. We have flaws, but God is flawless. We are imperfect, but Jesus was & is perfect. I encourage you to ask the question: Am I weak enough to lead? & What does that mean to and for you?

To close out this post, I wanted to leave you with a quote to contemplate from the book I just have mentioned above (I strongly recommend picking up a copy!!)

…Is it that God uses our strengths? Or is it even truer that God’s strength is perfected in our weakness? (Howell, 2017). 


 

Loving and gracious God,

Thank you for using our weaknesses, perhaps even more than you use our strengths. Thank you for being present in our lives as a stronghold and rock, so that we don’t ever have to rely on our own strength. We pray that when we feel incapable or weak that you would remind us that yes – we are incapable and we are weak but you are strong and you are capable. We pray that you would fill us with spirit and enable us to go out and lead, and serve, in your Son, Jesus’ name. We pray that we would be weak enough to lead. Take our pride, God, and take our desire to be perfect and replace it with humility and peace not only in who you’ve made us to be but in who you are. We pray all of this in your name –

Amen. 

 

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a guided prayer for the new year

Dear Loving, Holy, and Gracious God,

As this year comes to a close and we prepare for a brand new year, we’d like to take a moment to stop, reflect, and prepare – reflect on all that you have done through out the year we just had, and prepare our hearts, with you, as the new year comes.

*Pause in silence for a time of reflection. Perhaps think about some of the times during which you saw God at work or heard God speak in 2017*

Lord, we acknowledge that to many, this year has been filled with suffering, sickness, pain, trauma, loss, tragedy, and heartbreak. We ask that you would wrap your strong yet tender and gentle arms around those people, who found 2017 to be a year that they would rather not remember. We pray that you would help them to see you clearly and remind them that you are with them always. Help them remember that it is okay to feel whatever it is that they feel from those experiences, and that you love them through it all.

*Pause in silence for a time to remember all those who have lost loved ones, and to remember loved ones whom you have lost in 2017*

We ask that you would take the hardships we endured in 2017 and help us see light in those situations, as well as the strength we gained from those situations. As hard as it is often times, we thank you for the difficult times, acknowledging you did not once leave our side through those darker times.

*Pause in silence for a time to remember the hardships you endured this past year, and allow God to hold you through whatever it is you feel from them*

Lord, we thank you and we praise you for the wonderful and memorable times we had in 2017. We thank you for the joy that we shared with the people we love. We thank you for the triumphs we had and even thank you for the challenges 2017 brought, acknowledging that every triumph, challenge, and even failure we endured has made us to be more like the people you have called us to be.

*Pause in silence for a time to thank God for all the joyous things he has done in your life and in the lives of those around you*

God, We thank you for the endless grace that you offer to us daily. We acknowledge that we do not and will not ever deserve your grace or love, but that you give it to us each day, and for that, we thank you. Far too often we do not acknowledge the presence of you or of your grace in our lives, and for that, we are sorry. We ask that you would forgive us for the times in which we have sought to glorify ourselves instead of you, for the times we have ignored you or turned away from you, and for the times we have neglected to give you praise for amazing things that have happened in our lives that only you could have done.

*Pause in silence for a time to ask God for forgiveness*

We pray for the wisdom to know where you are leading us each day. We pray that you would guide our steps when we are unsure which way to go, and even when we think that we are sure.

Lord, take the plans we have made for ourselves, and wreck them completely. 

Show and tell us of the marvelous plans that you have for us, while helping us to remember that our plans are always insufficient compared to yours.

This year, God:

Take our fears and replace them with your promises.

Take our anxiety and replace it with your peace.

Take our sorrow and replace it with joy.

Take any obstacles and use them as opportunities for growth.

Take any desires to glorify ourselves and replace it with desires to glorify You.

Help us seek You over the things of this world.

God, we pray for growth in this new year.

We pray that you would give to us open minds to talk with people who are like us, as well as with people who are not like us. Help us to remember that we are all Your children, no matter ones race, political party, age, sex, ethnicity, physical, or mental state. We pray for your help in always remembering that no difference between any two people is great enough to prevent us from showing them the love of Christ. We also pray that we would always have open ears with which to listen to those who simply need to talk, may we be present and alert to those in need. We pray that we would have open hearts to welcome into our lives anyone who may need to experience the love of your Son, Jesus. And also open doors, to welcome both strangers and friends into our churches, homes, and lives, for we are all brothers & sisters in Christ.

We ask that you would bless this year of 2018, God.

We pray for the strength we’ll need that only you can provide, to face any challenges that may arise in 2018. We pray for a focus in 2018 that is constantly on you, and when our focus shifts, we pray that you would guide our eyes straight back to you.

We pray that this coming year, you would place in our lives an abundant amount of opportunities to serve in Your Name – opportunities to give our time, money, and love even when we feel we have nothing to offer – opportunities to serve others even when we would rather not – opportunities to be kind even when we’re having a bad day and would rather turn away – help us always choose to serve, and grant us the vision we need to always see those opportunities, and not turn a blind eye as we would often do.

In this new year, God, we pray that we, your servants, would be the hands & feet of your Son, Jesus. And finally, we pray for Your will, in 2018 – nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.

Optional: The Lord’s Prayer written below

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

This marks the end of this guided prayer. If you have any prayer requests at all that you would like to share, please feel free to leave them written in the comments section below.

 

A Christmas Prayer

Loving, Gracious, and Holy God,

It is that time of year again, where we celebrate the birth of your beloved Son, Jesus. We spend the Advent season awaiting his marvelous birth ever so eagerly, and we celebrate when Christmas day arrives, and we can bask in the peace and joy that is brought when he enters this world.

God, during this holiday season, we acknowledge that it is easy for us to get caught up in the craze of finding presents for those we love, in the parties we attend, the trips we plan, the traditions we have, but we pray that our eyes would not be taken off of the precious gift that is your Son – the gift that is what this season is all about.

We pray that you would open our eyes so that we may see to the fullest picture how marvelous this gift is, and we pray you would clear our vision when it becomes fogged by the pressure of hosting get together’s, by finding ‘the perfect’ presents, or by spending time hoping for that one expensive gift on our list. We pray for perspective.

We pray that you would give to us a heavenly peace in our hearts and in our minds, and that this peace would overwhelm us in the midst of whatever it is that is stressing us out during this holiday season; stealing our joy, anticipation, and celebration during such a beautiful time.

We pray for those who find this time of year difficult, for whatever reasons there may be. We pray for those grieving the absence of loved ones. We pray for those who find themselves plagued with depression, and anxiety, and we ask that you surround them with your gentle arms; your love and care.

We ask for your forgiveness for the times in which we neglect to acknowledge and appreciate to the fullest this gift that we are about to receive. And above all, God, we thank you. We thank you for this gift that you have given to us, and we acknowledge it is a gift which none of us deserve. But we thank you for sending your Son to be born, to show us what pure, magnificent love looks like, and to show us exactly how we should live, as disciples of Jesus. The love that you didn’t have to prove but that you did prove by sending Him into this world, only to soon be sent to the cross, is a love we will not ever deserve, but we thank you, God, for that love you offered to us, and continue to offer to us daily.

We ask that, for Your glory, you would help us carry the story of Jesus’ birth with us in our hearts and minds not only on Christmas, but every single day of the year, for the rest of our lives. We acknowledge this story as one that cannot afford to go untold, for it is far too marvelous and great. We thank you for this story we have the ability, by Your grace, to tell, and we pray we never, ever, take it for granted.

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace – we adore you & we love you.

Amen.

A Prayer for Las Vegas

Las Vegas has been weighing heavily on my heart and mind today, as I’m sure it has been on yours as well. Right now, I feel as though I have nothing to offer but prayer, and I am encouraged by that, because I believe there is great power to be found in prayer, and it is needed right now, as it is always. I cannot begin to imagine the unbearable fear that the people attending this concert must have been filled with when this person opened fire, killing 50+ people and injuring hundreds more. I checked Twitter every chance I could today, trying to keep informed and updated on what was going on in Nevada, but I had to stop. I had to stop because it became overwhelming and sad to see politics trumping the compassion, empathy, love, and prayers that Las Vegas is so desperately in need of right now. My brothers and sisters, events such as the one that occurred today is not an excuse to argue about our political views. I am not saying that the political issues associated with events such as this one should not be talked about, but remember to tread lightly, and remember that people have died and there is a lot of grief to be had right now. May we also remember that these acts of terror and hate that leave us broken, also leave us with an opportunity to unite in a type of love that casts out the hate that people who carry out such events strive to spread. May we stand with the community of Las Vegas as they mourn and heal, may we be in prayer for them, and may we unite to uplift them during this time.


 

Merciful God, we come before you burdened with a pain and sadness that we can never seem to comprehend when these events occur. As we watch the effects of the massacre in Las Vegas unfold, we are filled with anger, fear, and anxious and hurt hearts for the community of Las Vegas. We come to you, God, with the hope and prayer that you would heal the enormous hurt, whether emotional or physical, that has been caused by this event. We pray that you would be with the friends and families of those who lost their lives as a result of this hate-filled act. We pray that you would cover with your loving and healing hands all of your children who were affected. We pray that you would bring comfort to those who are mourning – may we mourn with them. We pray for the courage, during this time, and always, to love one another amid a world that is so constantly seems to be on a mission to divide us further and further apart, especially when tragedies like this strike. We pray for the wisdom to always know that no matter what, your love is greater, stronger, and more powerful than any act of hate that tries to overcome our country and world. We pray for peace right now, God, and we thank you that when we feel there is no good left in the world, we may be brought peace by the simple reassurance that there is good left in the world because YOU are GOOD, and YOU are here, even amid all of this turmoil. Help us to see you, seek you, and be like you each day. Help us to be bearers of your goodness and perfect love in a world that is in such desperate need of it more and more each day. We pray that you would help us to know how to act in response to the massacre that occurred in Las Vegas. Help us to speak in love and act in love so that people, especially like the person who committed this act of hate, would know your love. Help us to be beacons of your peace, love, grace, and compassion, everywhere we go. We ask above all right now that you would simply be present with Nevada and each person affected by this shooting – may they know you and your peace and comfort. We pray all of this in your son Jesus’ precious and holy name –

Amen.

Charlottesville.

When the events in Charlottesville happened this past weekend, I knew right away that I would want to write about it, but I wanted to wait a little while. I wanted to wait and take some time to gather my thoughts and figure out how to formulate the ‘right’ words to put out there for the world to see. Before tonight, whenever I would sit down to write, I could not for the life of me seem to find words that described to the fullest the heaviness and large affect that this weekend had on so many people and on our town. But I realized tonight that it’s not about having the ‘right’ words. There really are no ‘right’ words to say or write when something like this happens, so I’m going to try, to the best of my ability, to share my reflections on this past weekend’s horrific events, in my beloved hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia.

On Friday evening, when I saw all over social media what was happening down on the campus of UVA, it made me absolutely sick. Just 10 minutes from my house, I have walked the campus of UVA more times than I can count – it is absolutely beautiful, but all of a sudden, there were crowds of people with lit torches walking all over it – people who were clearly filled with so much hate, anger, and rage. The worst part about these people stomping around with torches is that it was only the beginning of what would end up being a horrific day that would impact our town for despicable reasons.

As this, “Unite the Right” rally approached, I knew that that Saturday was going to be ugly, I’m sure we all did, but none of us knew exactly how ugly it would become, or how quickly it would escalate. I certainly never thought that my hometown would become a nation wide topic of conversation, and for such an awful, awful reason. I never thought that I would open social media and see my town’s name all over the place with hashtags and on the news nation wide. Yet here we are, amid the aftermath of something that nobody native to Charlottesville ever thought would happen here. You see it happening in other places all the time, but you never expect it to be something that your own small town is in the news for.

On Saturday morning, my plan was to go downtown and be among those who were down there from various faith communities, but I couldn’t find anyone who was able to go with me, so I opted not to. Instead, I watched live videos on social media, I watched the news, and I read countless tweets and Facebook posts about what was going on down there. I saw videos of the violence that broke out in numerous areas of downtown – the fist fighting, the attacking one another…I saw so much hate and disunity – more than I had ever seen firsthand before in my life.  It made me sick to watch and read about, but at the same time, I couldn’t stand to not keep myself updated about what was going on down there.

Saturday afternoon, I logged back onto Facebook and immediately saw the news about the car that had ran head on into a crowd of peaceful counter-protesters on the downtown mall, injuring about 20 people and killing one. A little while following this car incident, I heard about the helicopter that had crashed, killing two police officers who were on duty doing air control for all that was occurring in town. Like most people, I couldn’t help but be brought to tears watching as all of these events take place in my hometown – the hometown I love so incredibly much.

One thing that had these events on Saturday weighing especially heavy on my heart was the fact that I was scheduled to preach the next day. I would be filling in for my pastor that Sunday – the Sunday after all of these horrible events had taken place. Never had I ever been scheduled to serve in a church service, let alone lead one following an event as huge and close to home as this was.

The whole day as tragic event after tragic event occurred, I couldn’t even bring myself to begin brainstorming the words that I would say in church the next day about it all. When I saw videos of that car plowing into the group of innocent, peaceful protesters, I knew I should say something. When I heard about and then saw on the local news about the helicopter crash, and that two more innocent lives had been lost, there was no question that something needed to be said about this in church. Being politically correct was not a concern of mine as it (to be completely honest) has been in the past. To me, this was no political issue – to me, if you are human, these events made your stomach twist. So while I knew that I needed to say something, I was a nervous wreck. I found myself in a puddle of tears trying to think of how in the world I would come up with the ‘right words’ to say following something so terrible. I contemplated calling my pastor and seeing what he would say in the service if he were preaching, but I refrained, and thought, “Na, I got this, don’t bother him.” I had an event to go to in the evening on Saturday, so I left my sermon editing for when I got home, acknowledging that I really needed to sit down and think, reflect, and pray hard about what all I would say come Sunday morning. While I was at this event, my pastor ended up calling me. He informed me that despite him originally having that Sunday off, he would be in church – due to everything that had taken place, he felt he needed to be there. I hung up that phone call and took one big sigh of relief. I would still be preaching and leading various aspects of the worship services, but having the presence of a pastor there to guide the services on that day was what this aspiring pastor needed.

I have never in my life preached with as heavy of a heart as I did this past Sunday. I must say that I am so immensely thankful for the Holy Spirit’s ability to give us words when we seem to have none.

I got home from the event I was at late Saturday night, knowing that the sermon I had prepared for that Sunday was not the exact sermon I should or could preach anymore. I knew that I needed to tweak it, so that I could acknowledge everything that had happened – the loss of innocent lives, the pain our town is in, how we move forward, what can the Church do, etc. I woke up around 5:00 a.m Sunday morning with new words to put into my sermon. New words that I prayed would bring more insight, peace, and comfort to a hurting congregation (and to a hurting me as well). I am so thankful for God’s ability to show up and make his peaceful presence known when we need it most – this past Sunday morning was undoubtedly the most nervous I had been before preaching in a long, long time. But by the grace of God, he led myself and my pastor through those services so that we could lead the congregation, and I was so aware of and confident of his presence there with us – it was a beautiful and gut wrenching Sunday morning all at the same time.

Looking back, I’m so glad none of us walked into that church and acted as though it did not happen, especially because what happened, happened right in our backyard. What happened in town on Friday evening and on Saturday – that was not Jesus. Our churches, communities, towns, and world needs to be reminded of who Jesus was and is. That is why I am so grateful that the sermon that just so happened to go along with the sermon series we’re currently in, was about Jesus’ identity, and in turn, our identity which lies in Jesus. On Sunday, we talked about who Jesus is. We talked about the fact that our identity lies in him which means we’re called to be like him. We talked about how much power there is in his name. We talked about how loving he is, and how love is what we need to show in this world if we want to be more like Jesus.

The hate, darkness, and loss that occurred this past weekend has left our town with a sense of brokenness that I cannot quite articulate to you all. Driving through downtown feels eerie and different right now. Last night I attended an impromptu prayer vigil led by a local United Methodist Church, and the large group of people who came together there to pray, sing hymns, and talk in the very park where so much hate was being spewed on Saturday, gave me a sense of peace, of comfort, and of hope. Following this prayer vigil, I walked with my sister and friend over to where the car came through – the memorial for Heather, where there were countless beautiful flowers, candles, letters, and pictures. Witnessing all of this with my own eyes for the first time was gut wrenching. But I have an incredible amount of hope – I am so convinced that, because of the way that our community has come together following these events, and because of the God we have, there is hope for reconciliation and healing, and that this community has the potential, through prayer and loving one another more than hating, to our come together even closer instead of divide further, despite any of our differences.

The Church plays a very important role in this – when events such as these take place, The Church has work to do. It needs to act. It needs to act because in times of darkness and pain like these, talking about it isn’t enough. There can be prayer vigils, safe places where people can go and process their feelings, thoughts, and emotions following the events, we each individually need to practice communicating with people who have opposing views than us, acknowledging that at the end of the day, our differences only matter so much. But our differences do matter when our differences keep us from loving one another, because that’s when our differences stop us from being like Jesus as we’re called to do. I have never in my life believed so much in the power of these words, that:

Love overcomes hate. Prayer overcomes hate. God overcomes hate.

I know those words may seem like the most cliche in the world, and they will be, unless we ACT as though we know they’re true. We need to love and not hate – we must love those we disagree with. We must pray for these situations. We need to pray for the people involved in these situations – we must pray for the people who have hate in their hearts just as much as we pray for the people who have love in their hearts. We need to carry ourselves as though God has the power to overcome hate. It’s not enough to say it, we have to act, pray, and love as though we believe it.

I pray for the people whose hearts and minds are filled with such hate, anger, and bitterness. I pray that God would work in their hearts in a powerful way, acknowledging that nobody is beyond the grace of God. Nobody is too far out of reach for God to grab onto and change their hearts from hate to love. I pray for these people who may not know any other thing but hate, because they have never been shown the love of God.

I pray for the families of Heather Heyer, who lost her life on the downtown mall when that car struck. I pray for all those who were injured in this car incident as well – I pray for their healing from both their physical wounds and what I can only imagine will be some emotional wounds as well. I pray for the families of the two police officers who died in the helicopter crash. I pray for comfort during this time, and that they would feel God’s loving arms wrapped around each person affected by all of this.

My heart is broken for this beloved town of ours as it grieves and recovers from the hate that plagued us this past weekend, as well as from the pain that resulted from all of this. But as I wrote above, I have hope, and I’ve got that hope for more reasons than one.

To my fellow brothers and sisters here in Charlottesville, we will overcome all of this evil, and we will rise, if we choose love over hate, always.

praying for our enemies

When I first began this post, I contemplated making the title, “praying for our enemies when it’s hardest,” but the thought quickly came to my mind that it is always hard to pray for our enemies. I can’t think of a time where it is ever easy to sit down and pray for someone you consider to be an enemy, or someone who has persecuted you in some way. It is okay to admit that it is a hard thing to do. Just as it is hard to love those who are our enemies, it is very hard to pray for them as well.

With that, in Matthew 5:43, Jesus says to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

He doesn’t say it’ll be an easy task. But he does say that this is something we must do, as followers of him.

These past couple of days, Manchester England has been heavy on my heart. Many of you, I am sure, have heard about the horrific act that occurred there a few days ago, but for those of you who have not – at the end of an Ariana Grande concert in the Manchester arena, an explosion [a bomb] went off, killing a total of 22 people, and injuring 50+ more concert goers. Among the deceased were young kids and teens, as well as parents. Shortly after this happened, responsibility for this act was claimed by a terrorist group.

Yesterday morning, as I read through Matthew 5, where Jesus talks about how we are to love and pray for our enemies, my mind kept wandering back to the person or person’s who committed this act of pure hate and evil in England.

Jesus wants us pray for them.

But how? And why?

This person(s) killed innocent human beings. People as young as eight years old – people who had their whole lives ahead of them. People who attended this concert with pure joy, excitement, and eagerness to let loose, be young, and have fun. Their lives were taken away from them at a place where there should be nothing but joy and fun – a concert.

These past couple of days, I have been finding it so hard to sit and bring myself to pray for the people who committed and commit such acts.

But then I think about Jesus.

Jesus never said “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, except for…”

Jesus never said, “only pray for these person’s.” 

We pray for our enemies because our enemies need God just as much as you and me. People who commit acts of hate clearly don’t know the Love that we as Christ followers know; the Love that we as Christians are supposed to spread around this world and the Love we are supposed to tell of. We pray for our enemies because nobody is ever too far out of the reach of God. Nobody is too far gone to the point where God cannot change them.

I once got asked by someone why I pray for our President, and why anyone else should pray for him. This person told me that praying for him was pointless because he’s ‘not humble enough to seek God or do what God would want.’ What an underestimation of God that is.  If you disagree with what our President does or says, that is fine. Nobody is forcing you to. You do not have to agree with anyone in order to pray for them, just like you don’t have to agree with someone in order to love them. I acknowledge that our President is evil in the eyes of many. Some may even consider him to be an enemy. Bottom line is, I know not everyone likes the man who is currently running our country. But just because that may be the case, does not mean we are not supposed to pray for him. I pray for our President because he has a country to run and I pray that he would seek God in all his decisions, that he would have the humility to know that he doesn’t know what’s best for our country, and have the desire to make decisions that are pleasing in the eyes of God.

It took me a very long time to be able to bring myself to pray for the university I spent a year at, because the school and the people there hurt me. I was bitter and hateful and the last thing I thought I’d ever want to do is pray for the place or for the people there who hurt me. But I’m in that place now where I have the ability (by the grace of God) to pray for them, and it’s because it’s not only what Jesus did, it’s what he has called us to do. 

If you cannot bring yourself to pray for someone because you think they are too far gone, or too far out of the reach of God, you’re doing nothing but underestimating the power of God.

Clearly, don’t pray for terrorists to do harm. Don’t pray for anyone to do harm. Pray that they would not do harm. Pray that the evil would end. Pray that God’s goodness, mercy, and love, would somehow overcome all of the hate and evil that is going on in this world.

If someone is our enemy, it is likely so because they have harmed us in someway, or harmed someone, whether it be someone whom we love and care about, or they’ve done something so terrible. Another part of praying and loving our enemies, is forgiving them, despite their being our enemies.

A picture that always helps me with this is Jesus on the cross. When Jesus was hanging there on a tree, he prayed to God and asked him to forgive them – the people who literally hung him there in the first place, he asked God to forgive, because they did not know what they were doing.

Praying for our enemies doesn’t mean that you are okay with what they’re doing or okay with what they’ve said. It means you pray for God to work in their lives. It means you pray for them to seek God in all their decisions.

If we only pray for those we agree with, or those whom we are friends with, what does that say about us as Christ followers?

If we refuse to pray for our enemies, yet claim to love and follow Jesus, what does that say about Him?

 

Clinging tight to You.

Yesterday I had a dentist appointment so that I could get a filling that I needed. I never thought anything worth writing would come of that simple sentence, but oh, I was so wrong. For starters, if you know me, you likely know that I have an incredibly huge fear of the dentist and all things having to do with teeth (It’s okay, you can laugh). When I say, “incredibly huge fear,” I mean, it took two attempts to take out all four of my wisdom teeth two years ago because I backed out the first time I scheduled the appointment. I also may or may not have a full on anxiety attack while in the chair at the dentist simply getting my teeth cleaned. But, I digress –

There is this tiny silver cross that I have had in my car likely since the first day I got my car, and this cross lies in a little slot next to my steering wheel, as a kind reminder whenever I’m on the move and in need of one. Yesterday, I grabbed that tiny cross on my way into the dentist’s office for my appointment, and I did not let go of it – I did not let go of it the entire time I was in there. I held onto that little thing so tight, squeezing it a little harder every time I felt discomfort, I ended up with marks on the palms of my hands from the cross when the procedure was all over. The entire time my dentist was numbing, drilling, scraping and cleaning the tooth that was receiving the filling, I was holding onto that cross in my hands, and I was holding onto the thought of God’s presence in my head and in my heart. You see, the entire process of getting a filling is not painful at all, but it is slightly uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable for your average person, but put someone like me in the chair who is as afraid of the dentist as I am, you reach a whole new level of uncomfortable. However, when this endeavor was all over, my thought walking out of the dentists office was this:

What if I clung to God the way that I clung to that cross today?

What if we all relied so heavily on him every single day, in every single circumstance in life? What if we woke up every single morning with the knowledge that through out that day, he is going to be present for us to cling to, regardless of what the day has in store?

Before yesterday, I unfortunately struggled to remember the last time that I sat down with God and had a deep and meaningful conversation with him. I suppose one could say that I have been in the midst of a slump when it has come to my spiritual health. However, yesterday made me think about the vitality of clinging to God amid all situations we encounter, and even when life is a flat line and nothing huge (whether good or bad) is happening. Prayer and the knowledge that God is present is something that, if nothing else, I have clung to my whole life, but especially these past few months. It is a truth and a constant in my life that I have clung to. Even when we do encounter slumps, and we feel as though God is anywhere but near us, we can cling to the promise and truth that he is present, he hasn’t gone anywhere, and he’s not going to. In addition to that, when we feel distant from God, we can still pray. There’s no rule saying that we can only talk to God when we’re on a spiritual high. His ears are always open, even when we struggle to find the words to say to him. It may be harder to pray when we’re struggling in our walk with Christ, but rest assured, it is not pointless.

I think that it’s important for us all to know that the Christian walk is not supposed to be easy. If it were, there’d be no point. A relationship with God in today’s world and society is not supposed to be easy. But a relationship with God, in general, is worth it. Clinging to a God as loving, almighty, and full of grace as our God, is worth it. Though when we’re struggling, sometimes it is harder to seek God. Sometimes we get mad at God or we blame him when bad things happen. As brothers and sisters in Christ, it’s important to remember that just because our faith sometimes shakes, doesn’t mean we can’t turn back to Him and restore our relationship. It doesn’t mean that God has gone anywhere, and it doesn’t mean he ever will. God is steadfast. He remains present. He’s like that gnat flying around your face that you keep swatting away but it just keeps coming back. God is never going to leave you alone, even when you feel as though he has. Surprise! He’s right there.

God does a whole lot of behind the scenes work, and sometimes, we will feel as though we’re alone and not as tight as we’d like to be with him. We must ask ourselves why that is. Because God doesn’t move – we do. God doesn’t stop working in our lives, we stop opening our eyes and minds wide enough to see it.

I encourage you, and myself, to cling tight to God. Cling to the truths you know in your heart to be, well, true. Cling to the truths you have read time and time again in scripture. Cling to the people in your life who point you to God when you’re struggling and when you’re gliding through life. Cling to the promises God has made. Cling to the love he has shown you over and over again. Cling to his voice you hear in prayer and in reading his word. Cling to what is Good.

(…God is good)

 

“When you’re in a relationship with Jesus, being clingy isn’t a flaw”