Thinking Out Loud

February 19, 2019

An Amazing Divine Appointment

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:22 am

This picture was taken in Boca de Sama, one of the villages. It’s possible that some of the resort and tour staff live in places like this, but more likely they live in crowded cities.

Before Ruth and I left for Cuba last week, someone asked me if we were going on a mission trip. I supposed that’s more consistent with our history as a couple, but no, the purpose of the trip was ostensibly pleasure.

However, as with our previous trip there, we did take some Spanish New Testaments and Christian books; about 12 pieces in total. (I greatly regret not having taken about four more.) This is so important when Canadians are travelling to Cuba because Americans can’t go there, and Europeans don’t have access to U.S. Christian resources in Spanish.

There is a tradition of Canadians leaving gifts on the bed each morning for the housekeeping staff — so we include a piece of literature here — but I did give a few directly.

And the we met L., part of the resort’s entertainment staff. He was standing talking to the lifeguards and we got into a one-to-one conversation about family, education, work, faith and life in general.

Do you believe in divine appointments? I have goosebumps just typing this. They happen but you have to be programmed to expect them and then intentional about making them happen.

Either that day or the next I said to him, “Would you like a Bible?” He said he had one but it was borrowed and wanted to give it back to the person who had given it to him. (God was already at work!)

The reason I felt bold enough to come out and ask him if he wanted one — feeling bad that I had to walk it back and say it was only a New Testament — is because of another divine appointment we had with Steve, another guy from Canada who is spending a month at one of the resorts. Steve is a whole other story which I’ll save.

L. never got the Bible the next day. We just didn’t connect. But we did the day after.

And then he said something extraordinary: “Are you going to the buffet? I’d like to join you for lunch.” Just that day I had comment that you never see the hotel staff at the buffet. God was up to something!

For an hour we talked (Ruth was there for 75% of it and made some excellent contributions.) Christianity in Cuba has its beginnings in Roman Catholicism — though Pentecostalism is growing rapidly — and L. struggled with the sacramental view of baptism; that it is the human agency of salvation; that it changes you into a different person. There were many other discussions including about words which are important but not Bible words, such as “trinity” or “incarnation.”

The subject turned back to his family. I told him to be sure to impart his faith to his kids, mentioning them by name. For some reason I started tearing up at that point and so did he. He then told me it had been an hour and he had to get back to work.

Pray for L., his partner (couples tend to live together in Cuba) and his two kids A. and L.  His sister is an Evangelical — they call us Evangelists which is appropriate — so he does have other possibilities for getting his questions answered.

Do you believe in divine appointments? I do. This came at a time of genuine spiritual disappointment, and yet for an hour afterwards, I walked the length of beach in amazement of how God set it up. Pray also for J. who was so happy to get a copy of “In Touch” by Charles Stanley which helped break open a wider conversation. (I think many of the Canadian Christian tourists are very reticent about their faith while on holiday.) Pray also for T., our housekeeper, who was the recipient of about 7 of our pieces of literature.

Pray also for M. who took us on all-day jeep tour including a hike and swim in the mountains. He grew up Quaker — a large Christian group with a strong presence in Cuba — but like many Cubans, can’t get to church because they are always working.

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January 28, 2016

What’s On Your Fridge?

Filed under: Christianity, family, prayer — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:53 am

Prayer2

Sometime during the summer I posted a small list of prayer requests to our refrigerator. It was during one of those periods where the needs of people around us seemed to be growing and I wanted to make sure that nobody fell through the cracks of forgetfulness. This doesn’t mean that other requests aren’t shared at mealtime as needed, but it’s a core list that is glanced at every time someone reaches for food, and it hasn’t changed much over the past six months.

Prayer Requests on RefrigeratorThere are 17 requests on the sheet. What’s below is going to have some considerable overlap into a few different categories.

  • 2 are for people living outside North America. I wish our world concern was higher. One is a family from our church who are in Africa for two years; the other is my oldest son’s Compassion sponsored child. (And yes, we prayed intensely for Saeed’s release, but somehow that transcended the list.)
  • 3 represent our family; two of these are our sons and one is extended family.
  • 2 would fall into the category of prayer for salvation for someone yet to cross the line of faith.
  • 9 would fall into the category of prayer for healing, 8 for physical healing, 1 for mental health. Since the list was posted, 2 of these have improved to the point I wouldn’t add them to a future list, one is facing final days.
  • 4 I would categorize as prayer for God’s direction in life.
  • 1 would be a prayer for finances, and another 1 is a health situation that is affecting finances.
  • 1 had to be amended since the list was posted; the request for prayer in my friend’s life involved a name that was crossed out and was replaced with another name.
  • 1 is more institutional, the other 16 are names of individuals or families.

So what’s on your fridge?


Image: Couldn’t find what I wanted, so did some cutting and pasting. Full disclosure as required by FTC rules: Our own fridge door opens the other way.

June 7, 2013

Never Give Up, Never Surrender Praying

With apologies for borrowing the Galaxy Quest title, this is actually a rather serious article which appeared here a year ago under the title When Faith Meets Finality.

I have to be honest. I am the type of person who doesn’t radiate a lot optimism when it comes to my own personal prayer requests, but when it comes to your prayer concerns, I believe in the limitless power of God to do anything — absolutely anything — even when the doctors, business consultants and marriage counselors have said there is no room for hope.

I’ve also encouraged my kids to pray and to ever be trying to enlarge our prayer circle beyond our own immediate family needs, which frequently means they are praying for people they have never met, or as is the case today, a person who I had never met.

She was the wife of a sales rep of a guy who calls on our store representing a large Christian publishing company. When we first met seven years ago, she had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. So we prayed in a parking lot that day, and have been praying for her healing ever since. She fought long and hard and at one point seemed to triumph over the disease, but then it returned. And then it spread.

However, this did not temper the language with which I interceded. Like I said, I believe in the limitless possibilities of what can happen when people pray.

Until the day my wife phoned me to say an email had arrived announcing she had passed away.

For several minutes I was silent.

Faith met finality. Her battle with cancer was over.

Still, without trying to spin the outcome we had not longed for, I believe I can say that in some measure the prayers of myself and others were answered, for although some would argue that our wrestling with God simply dragged on the process, in those seven years her two children — now in their early teens — got to spend more time with her, to receive her values, to have a more solid memory of the sound of her voice, to be held, and to be loved.

Do these outcomes shatter my faith? Hardly. It’s still there. God could raise her from the dead if He chose to, and I have heard stories where people prayed just that. Were they in denial? I don’t think so; I think there are other ways to manifest denial than by proclaiming the possibilities of miracles.

I believe we should just keep praying, right up to the last possible moment. If anything, this just increases my faith for the next need that is brought to our attention.

As to my recurrent weakness in coming boldly to God’s throne for my own needs, I simply offer this today: You pray for me, and I’ll pray for you.

June 14, 2012

When Faith Meets Finality

I have to be honest. I am the type of person who doesn’t radiate a lot optimism when it comes to my own personal prayer requests, but when it comes to your prayer concerns, I believe in the limitless power of God to do anything — absolutely anything — even when the doctors, business consultants and marriage counselors have said there is no room for hope.

I’ve also encouraged my kids to pray and to ever be trying to enlarge our prayer circle beyond our own immediate family needs, which frequently means they are praying for people they have never met, or as is the case today, a person who I had never met.

She was the wife of a sales rep of a guy who calls on our store representing a large Christian publishing company. When we first met seven years ago, she had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. So we prayed in a parking lot that day, and have been praying for her healing ever since. She fought long and hard and at one point seemed to triumph over the disease, but then it returned. And then it spread.

However, this did not temper the language with which I interceded. Like I said, I believe in the limitless possibilities of what can happen when people pray.

On Tuesday my wife phoned me to say an email had arrived announcing she had passed away. For several minutes I was silent. Faith met finality. Her battle with cancer was over.

Still, without trying to spin the outcome we had not longed for, I believe I can say that in some measure the prayers of myself and others were answered, for although some would argue that our wrestling with God simply dragged on the process, in those seven years her two children — now in their early teens — got to spend more time with her, to receive her values, to have a more solid memory of the sound of her voice, to be held, and to be loved.

Do these outcomes shatter my faith? Hardly. It’s still there. God could raise her from the dead if He chose to, and I have heard stories where people prayed just that. Were they in denial? I don’t think so; I think there are other ways to manifest denial than by proclaiming the possibilities of miracles.

I believe we should just keep praying, right up to the last possible moment. If anything, this just increases my faith for the next need that is brought to our attention.

As to my recurrent weakness in coming boldly to God’s throne for my own needs, I simply offer this today: You pray for me, and I’ll pray for you.

December 22, 2011

Book Review: The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson

Before this blog started four years ago, I was already a regular reader of Evotional, the blog of Mark Batterson, pastor of National Capital Church (NCC)in Washington, DC, recently reformatted as MarkBatterson.com .  In the short space that followed, Mark has written In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day, Wild Goose Chase, Soul Print and Primal; while at the same time NCC continues to expand with new campus locations in movie theaters located along the DC Metro route.

With The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears, Mark moves over to Zondervan; borrowing a story from Jewish antiquity about Honi The Circle Maker and propelling that story into a challenge to all of us “draw circles around” the thing or group of things that constitute our greatest needs or righteous desires.

In many ways, The Circle Maker follows in a line from two titles you may already have on your bookshelf: Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala and Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick.

The former comparison is appropriate because this is a book about vision birthed in prayer, though unlike the large prayer gatherings described by Cymbala at the Brooklyn Tabernacle, much of the growth at NCC began with Mark quietly walking around sections of Washington, often not fully cognizant of what he was praying for or what the answer would look like when it appeared.  It was only when there was a major development in the life of the church that Mark realized that his prayers had become reality in ways he never dreamed.

The latter comparison is apt because this is a book about praying the big prayers, the impossible prayers.  Since Furtick’s book is more recent, this might be a good book to read as a sequel to the Charlotte pastor’s challenge to pray “audacious” prayers.   All three books are faith-inspiring, and all are written from the perspective of pastors building churches but with connection to your biggest hopes and prayer concerns.  Mark Batterson also encourages readers to pray intensely and to pray continually over the long term for the big prayers that can result in big answers.

Ironically, there is a section in the book where Mark shares his “bucket list” of things he’d love to do, and one of them is to “write a New York Times bestseller;” and today Mark reports the book is in fact to be mentioned in the January 1st list as a recommended title.  Perhaps you’ll want to add a checkmark to that item when you get your own copy!

  • Read a sample of The Circle Maker at Christianity 201
  • Watch a preview of the DVD curriculum Zondervan has developed for the book at YouTube.

December 17, 2010

A Prayer Experiment

In the last couple of days, I’ve been given reason to question my personal relationship to prayer.

We pray together as a family each night, and I am in touch with God many times throughout the day, and while I would hardly characterize it as “without ceasing,” there is definitely an ongoing conversation taking place.   And I am more than willing to pray with people at my job on a moment’s notice; “praying on a dime,” I call it.

I’ve been reading a lot lately about prayer and feel that this is one area of my Christian life that while it exists in measurable quantity, it is seriously lacking in other ways.

For example, I’ve never been big on prayer meetings. I’ve been reading lately about the way God intends for us to bring our needs to him corporately; and in fact I’ve been challenged on this subject three different ways in the last 48 hours. It’s been a long time since I’ve prayed with people outside the family in any significant way, or for any significant length of time.  What I’m reading is that God meets us in special ways when we take those opportunities.

In the middle of all this I’ve been thinking about something else…

God wants me to pour out my heart to him, but sometimes I feel like I can’t find the words. Yet there is another place in my life where I am never at a loss for words — at my computer.

So I’ve been thinking about writing e-mails to God. (If the concept grates on you somehow, think instead of drafting a written prayer in a Word document.)

This is something anybody reading this right now can do, because you’re all online to read this which means 99% of you probably have e-mail. And you probably write many — perhaps dozens — of e-mails and/or Facebook status updates and/or Tweets every single day.   Some of which consume time and energy but are very trivial.

So why not pour out your heart to God in an e-mail?

(You could address it to yourself if you feel the need to actually hit the “send” button, or save it as a draft when you’re done, or simply read it over a few times and then delete it. Just don’t type “God” in the “To” field or your auto-complete might just send it to your good friend Godfrey Smith, or your sister’s daughter who you have tagged as “Godchild.”)

Writing an e-mail is the most natural form of communication known to many of us, and usually the words flow without hesitation. It’s also a great way of organizing your thoughts.

And don’t think for a minute that God isn’t “hearing” that kind of prayer. Or that He can’t. Or that it counts less because you didn’t verbalize it audibly.

Willing to join me in a prayer experiment?

ooooooo

~This article originally appeared yesterday at Christianity 201~

July 18, 2010

Urgent Prayer Request

Filed under: prayer — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:10 pm

This morning David, the 20-year-old son of Marlene, the manager of the Christian bookstore we own in Brockville, Ontario was suddenly and unexpectedly hospitalized, and at around noon today underwent emergency brain surgery.

Right now his life is hanging in the balance, and the outcome doesn’t look very good, apart from God.

Please pray for God to touch David in a miraculous way.

December 25, 2009

The President’s Not So Politically Correct Christmas Message

…No, not that President; Ronald Regan in 1981.   The blog One Man’s Thoughts reminds us what life was like 28 years ago.  Though you still have to go a long way to match Charles Schulz scripting the speech Linus gives in the first Peanuts Christmas special.

The scary thing about the woman who attacked the Pope on Christmas Eve isn’t that she tried the same thing the year before, but that she was wearing the same outfit.  Especially when you think she could have been doing something creative, like the Bowen Beer Bottle Band did.  Then again, when it comes to Christmas and beer bottles, it would be hard to beat this Chinese project.

A more nobler project however, is the kind Nashville pastor Pete Wilson heard about while watching the news last week, only to discover the people showing kindness were from his own church!

But when it comes to doing good, it’s easy to not see the big picture, have wrong motives, or misplaced priorities.   Jumping into the Shoebox debate with what I believe is one of her best blog posts ever, Ruth Wilkinson (who may be related) discusses charity vs. justice and introduces a third possibility — presence — into the mix.

Sadly though, sometimes those who give themselves to the service of others pay the ultimate price.  Pray for the family of Little Rock, Arkansas Salvation Army Major Philip Wise who was shot and killed — in front of his three young children — in a Christmas Eve robbery.

And while you’re praying remember blogger Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk, and proprietor of Boars Head Tavern –two of the most popular Christian blogs — as he faces some uncertain health challenges;  blogger and pastor Matt Chandler facing a battle with cancer; Canadian blogger and former sports chaplain David Fisher; and Stephen Weber, writer of the Daily Encouragement devotional site recovering from hernia surgery.

See ya back here in 24 hours, Lord willing.




December 1, 2009

Your Prayer Requests / Blogging Transparently

Filed under: blogging, Church — Tags: , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:41 pm
Got Prayer Requests?
Use the Comments Section in this post

As a family, we get together at 9:00 PM EST and often include items gathered throughout the day from my work (confidentiality permitting.)  Today, I thought, “Why not open this up to our blog community as well?”   Feel free to list anything on your heart, but if it’s not for yourself, don’t use names.    I think it’s good for us to pray for things outside our family circle.   Sometimes our prayer life can be very insular, which isn’t good in a world of global need.  If you miss tonight’s connection, there’s always tomorrow.

As I mentioned on Sunday, I got to be the “preacher” last week at a Toronto church.   So it’s rather strange to move from that to not really knowing where I’m going to church this coming Sunday, don’t you think?

We’ve been in church limbo since mid March.    The one church that is the most obviously landing place for us is the one we’ve been to about every other week since August.   That’s right, every other week.   Call it a protective mechanism or a protective response. Like those plants that close up when you touch them.   We’ve both been hurt real bad.   (Taking speaking assignments allows me to legitimize some of the absences.  Yes, church leaders have feelings.)

One thing I like about the pastor at the one place we’ve been visiting is how he allows his congregation to get to know him through his personal illustrations.    He uses PowerPoint — actually it’s Apple Keynote — to post scripture verses and pictures.   Personal pictures.   So far, in a very limited number of visits, I’ve seen his old motorcycle, the house he and the Mrs. bought and even the church where he first decided to follow Christ.   Cool.

Which brings me to blogging.   I think some of the best blogs are where you really meet the heart of the person writing; where you really get to know them, warts and all.  (That kind of transparency is also why I enjoy reading another pastor:  Pete Wilson’s blog, Without Wax; always listed in the right column.)  I think it’s the most authentic kind of online communication.   A few times I’ve had a lump in my through, or felt my eyes tearing up reading things written by people I consider part of my online community.

But truth be told, I really only write about one true “heart piece” a week.   A lot of this blog is links, great quotes, cartoons, links and news reports.

Which brings us to the two items that ran yesterday.   (I won’t mention them by name, because I don’t want spiders picking up on them in the webcrawl.)

I think both of these subjects — both the one about the TV preacher and the international story — are worthy of mention.    But what surprised me the most, besides the traffic, was that nobody else on Alltop-Church or Alltop-Christian was mentioning either one of them.  And Alltop lists each blogger’s last five posts.

Perhaps they were doing “heart pieces.”  Or posting pictures of their first house.   I hope so.  Maybe they were just promoting books, getting palpitations about the next conference, or discussing their Twitter feeds.   Don’t know.   Don’t want to judge.

But I felt it was worth putting up two traffic-grabbing items the same day, because that’s when both stories were breaking.   Today however, seems a good day to take a deep breath.   And asking for your prayer requests just seems fitting today.

Sometime between now and our next meeting, we’ll cross the 100,000 mark on this blog.  (The counter is lagging by about 3,600 — we’ll fix it after it crosses the 100,000.   Keeps me humble.)  I’m very grateful for all of you even though you don’t leave a lot of comments.

And if I can find a picture of a dark green 1973 Pontiac Astre — yeah, really; please don’t ask — I’d be happy to share with you a shot of the first car I bought.  (Not even sure I spelled it right.)     And hopefully a lot more “heart pieces.”

The comments and prayer requests line is now open.

May 28, 2009

Pray for Benjamin Elliott

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:46 am

Benjamin is an 18-year old who lives near London, Ontario, Canada who has been battling leukemia for most of the last year.    He and my son were in the same Sunday School class for a couple of years when they were four and five year olds, at the church where is father was the pastor.   He currently pastors in Stratford, Ontario.

Ben’s battle with this disease has been an extreme roller coaster ride both for him and his parents and family.   Yesterday, the news was not good.    Ben needs prayer.

You don’t know him.    But there’s a lot of you reading this every day.   If just some of you take a moment to ask God to do something special for this family, I believe we can make a difference.

If you’re on Facebook, you can learn more by going to “Prayer for Benjamin Elliott.”   There you’ll read the almost daily reports from a mother who is trusting and holding on to God, but is very much spent emotionally and physically.

I’ve never written a post like this on this blog.

Today, I couldn’t not write this.

Pray for Benjamin.

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