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Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

I have a friend who will be having surgery tomorrow because she has been diagnosed with breast cancer.  Over the months since her diagnosis I have found myself praying for her daily, but at all sorts of odd times.  The prayers come easily into my mind and I find no difficulty with the words I offer to God.  I am also praying for another two friends who have had surgery for different cancers over the past couple of months, and prayers for their ongoing recovery also come easily.

But it was not always so.

Several years ago my family were going through a crisis:  my Father was diagnosed with cancer, so was my brother in law, and my niece … well my niece was born with it.  The whole family was so numb that all we could do was ‘stand still’.  We got angry at God; we got angry at the doctors who gave the diagnoses.  We wanted something done, and done immediately – by the doctors … by God.  We looked for answers and we looked for reasons.  The question that was continually asked of me was ‘well when things were good … was that when God was with you’ therefore, ‘now that things are bad … has He abandoned you?’  This was my ‘behind the closet door’ crisis.

Prayer was difficult, concentration more so.   But it was during this time of numbness, and going through the motions of everyday life, that I found myself singing the words of two songs:

“Father God, I wonder how I managed to exist without the knowledge of your parenthood and your loving care. But now I am your child I am adopted in your family, and I can never be alone ‘cause Father God, you’re there beside me’

And …

“Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, your heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”

I sang those two songs as I drove up and down to Glasgow every weekend for months.   And through them, I was able to recognise once more that God was with me – that he had not abandoned, but was present.  And through this realisation I found comfort and the strength I needed to step forward into the unknown.

The future is unknown to us; but we do not go into it alone.   We can be certain that when we are going through the difficult times of life, God is always with us, we need never doubt his presence, even though we are numb to it at the time.  He keeps is word: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Heb 13:5) and he promises to give us power and strength along the way.

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9/11 – 10 YEARS

10th Anniversary of Ordination & Induction

This amazing cake was made by an amazingly talented member of our congregation, it marks the 10th anniversary of my ordination and induction to Banchory-Ternan East.

Some anniversaries are ones of joy and celebration, while others, especially the anniversaries of tragedy, are particularly difficult.

When you say the ‘9/11’ people instantly know what you are talking about as they recall harrowing pictures of planes flying into the twin towers in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a field in Pennsylvania.

So every year, as the anniversary of my ordination and induction comes around. I have mixed feelings: There is joy as I remember a special event in my life, but it is also tempered with a sense of sadness, because I also remember that there was another event that happened, which touched and shaped my ministry, and which touched and changed our world.

We pray for our world.

We pray that the fellowship of the church will stand as a sign of the possibility of barrier-breaking.

We pray for those who mourn and those who suffer – especially those who mark today an anniversary of loss.

We pray for peace.

And all God’s people said … Amen.

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Prayers for Japan

Japan - Earthquake and Tsunami 2011

A major earthquake and a tsunami hit Japan yesterday, and for those of us watching the news pictures beamed into our homes over these past 24 hours, horrific and terrifying though they are, we cannot really begin to fully comprehend what the people are going through, unless we’ve been there ourselves, like the people of New Zealand (Feb 2011), the people of Haiti (2010), the peoples of Indonesia/Sri Lanka/India (2004).   There is the unexpected and tragic loss of life, the devastation, the fear, the grief, the worry of what will happen next, both in the short and long term.   But even if we have never experienced the loss of everyone and everything we hold dear because of an earthquake or a tsunami, nevertheless, it breaks our hearts to see and to hear what is going on in that country, because we are reminded that they are people just like us, and just like us they have experienced the loss of loved ones, and there our common humanity connects us.

When tragedy like this happens it sort of stops you in your tracks and makes you more aware of what you have, especially the people in our lives whom we love and who are still with us.  It is perhaps also a timely reminder too that we should be telling them, more often than we do, just how much we love them and how special they are to us, because tragedy can strike at any time, and can take many forms.

So what can we do when something like this happens almost half way round the world?

The immediate response of many is to pray.   That was certainly my first thought, and that’s what I did yesterday.  But prayers were also shared today, because in the midst of a local funeral service I was conducting this morning, we took time to include in our prayers for others, the people of Japan.

 “We bring before you, Loving God, the people of Japan.

And as we wrestle now with our own grief …

we are reminded of all who have lost loved ones,

whose lives have been touched by this tragedy,

and who are overwhelmed by sorrow at this time.

We pray for them in their shock … hurt … and bewilderment.

We lift before you their feelings of numbness

and their aching hearts.

Reach out and encircle them in your loving arms.

Grant them the comfort you have promised to all who mourn,

your peace that passes understanding,

your light that reaches into the darkest places of life

and beyond … into the darkness of death.”

I hope the people of Japan are aware that at this moment in time they are being upheld in prayers all over the world.  And I hope you will add your prayers to mine, as together we add our prayers to the countless thousands that have been offered up over the past 24 hours.

Lord, hear our prayer.

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Recently I was speaking to a minister friend who was feeling exceptionally low, and questioning why he was still in the ministry.   He felt he had no support from his congregation; that all the things he did, both seen and unseen, were taken for granted.  Nobody seemed to be encouraging him or looking after him and his family.   But I think the thing that was making it almost intolerable was the fact that the only time people wanted “a quick word” was to say something negative.  It reminded me of a story I used at the ordination of one of my friends …  

A new minister preached a sermon on the parable of the talents … He urged his people to place at God’s disposal the gifts and abilities given to them by God.  After the service a man came up to him and said “Minister, I’m not a particularly gifted man.  I don’t really feel capable of teaching in the Sunday School, or visiting the sick, or any of the other things you talked about this morning.  But I do have one talent that might be of use to the church.”

 “And what is that?” asked the minister.

“Well” said the man … “I have the talent of criticism.  I can criticise your sermons.  I can criticise the organist.   I can criticise the choir.   I can criticise the work people do for the church.   What should I do with my talent?”

The minister remained silent long enough to pray for wisdom then he replied … “Do you remember the man with one talent in the parable?   He buried his talent … I suggest you do the same.”

Part of me wanted to go to my friend’s church and (as they say) “give them a good talking to”.   To remind them they called this man and his family to be part of their church; that at his induction they promised him their “encouragement and support”, just as they promised to work alongside their “minister in Christian witness and Christian service”.

So if you are reading this and wondering what you can do to support your minster, why not ask this simple question – “What is the best way I can support you?”  Why not invite them and their family to your home for a meal? (Don’t assume everyone else is doing this).   Or why don’t you write them a letter telling them that you appreciate them and all they do?   

And here are a few things you can do that there should be no question about: Pray for them –  Ministry is a big job with big expectations and big stresses. Whatever strength your minister has, it will be unequal to the task.  They will need power from beyond themself.  Love them – The call of a minister is a covenant, not a contract.  A contact is when we hire someone. A covenant is – for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.  Remember the concept of team ministry – the minister can’t do it all on their own.

Baillieston: St Andrews

Me, I’m off to write to the minister* who was leading the church I used to belong to as I was growing up, to thank him for his contribution to my journey of faith.  It’s never too late to say thank you.

*Rev Tom Houston (now retired) came to Baillieston: St Andrew’s in 1980.  His teaching, example, encouragement and quiet faithfulness influenced me greatly, and it was during his ministry, and through his Bible Studies that my understanding and faith began to grow.  

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Today is St. Patrick’s day;  below is Ireland’s “Holy Mountain,” Croagh Patrick in County Mayo, where it is said Saint Patrick prayed and fasted in 441.   And below that, is a portion of St Patrick’s Breastplate, a Christian hymn attributed to Patrick, it is part of the Liber Hymnorum, a collection of hymns found in two manuscripts kept in Dublin.

Ireland's "Holy Mountain," Croagh Patrick in County Mayo

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

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We all, no doubt, felt shock and sympathy when we saw the graphic pictures from Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake last week. Many responded the only ways they knew how, by praying and by donating to those agencies that we knew would respond quickly to the tragedy. A week or so later and the pictures are still coming into our homes, but the item is moving further down the news list. However, the horror that we have seen registered on the faces of survivors does not go away in a week or so. It is vital that we continue to pray for the Haitian people and those who have gone to help and support them, not only for what they face today, but what they will face in the future. It is also important that we continue to help practically; and if that means for many of us that we give or organise a fundraising event to support the aid agencies because we ourselves cannot go and help, then that is what we should do. Oh yes, and we should mourn with them too! These are real people; the news has shown us their faces and told their stories. This is not some disaster movie where everyone goes home at the end of the day’s filming.

The pictures and report below are from Christian Aid’s country manager in Haiti – look and listen and remember the people of Haiti in their ‘after-shock’.

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