Practicing the Presence of God

WCC fam,

I read this in my devotional this morning and began sending emails to share it with all that came to mind. Then it occurred to me that I should post it here to share it with you all. I’m growing in my conviction of truth of these words. Perhaps it will make greater sense of why we practice the presence of God in silence during our worship gatherings and need to do so during the week. Have a grace-filled week.

“Contemplative Prayer

Over and over Scripture invites us to abide in God. To rest in God. To dwell in God. More than fifty times, Paul repeats the phrase “in Christ.” Contemplative prayer is not just about activity and speaking but also about listening and resting in God. Many of us have grown up thinking of prayer as a checklist of requests to God, like giving a grocery list to someone headed to the supermarket. As one kid said, “I’m heading off to pray — does anyone need anything?” Prayer is certainly about sharing our concerns and frustrations with God. God is personal enough to come down and wrestle in the dirt with Jacob or answer Abraham’s pleading on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah. Still, contemplative prayer goes deeper.

A primary purpose of prayer is to impress on us the personality and character of Christ. We want to become like Jesus, so the life that we live is no longer ours but Christ living in us and through us.

Prayer is less about trying to get God to do something we want God to do and more about getting ourselves to do what God wants us to do and to become who God wants us to become. There are times when we speak, weep, groan, and shout at God. But there are also times when we simply sit in silence and are held by our Beloved. We remember the character of God, the fruit of the Spirit, and the incarnation of ­Jesus as he reveals to us what God is like with flesh on. And we pray that God’s character will become our character. The monks have been known to say, “If your speaking doesn’t add something beautiful to the silence, don’t speak.” For many of us in the high-paced, cluttered world of materialism and noise, silence is a way we can free up the space to listen to God.

In most of our lives, silence gets interrupted pretty quickly. Whether it’s a knock at the door, a cry from the nursery, or thoughts in our own heads, something almost always breaks the silence we long for in contemplative prayer. It is tempting to give up — to say that silence is not possible in our context or “I’m not cut out for this.” But the wisdom of those who’ve gone before is helpful here. Teresa of Avila, who was distracted by her own thoughts in prayer, said she learned not to fight them but to let them come and go like waves in the sea, trusting that God was an anchor who could hold her through any storm.

Contemplation is about tending to the lines that anchor us in Christ. For Francis of Assisi, the San Damiano cross was one of those lines, serving as an icon to focus his prayer on Christ’s love. It was in hours of prayer before this cross that he heard Jesus say, “Rebuild my church, which is in ruins,” then he got up to start the most radical renewal movement of the Middle Ages. Activism that matters to the kingdom is always rooted in prayer. If we want to join God in changing the world, the place to begin is on our knees before the cross.”

~ Common Book of Prayer for Ordinary Radicals

Disaster Relief for Texas – Follow Up from Sunday

Hello all, I wanted to offer you an update.

On a Labor Day weekend with many of our church family away, the grace of God was made evident through your generosity. We were able to collect a total of $5,075 for Hurricane Harvey disaster relief. Praise the Lord!

Thank you for your hospitality, compassion and generosity toward the hurting and displaced in southeast Texas. You never cease to amaze me with your love, WCC. I also want to sing the praises of our Shepherds and thank them for their faithful leadership to present this opportunity to us. I’ve served with enough churches and have enough friends in vocational ministry to know that not all congregations have shepherds that will make decisions like this in fear that the general offering will be short-changed. It didn’t even come up as a concern with our leadership. I’ve come to believe that this is one of the reasons why God blesses WCC so abundantly. I pray we always honor our Lord faithfully and courageously, especially in moments like these. We are blessed to have these Shepherds watch over us and lead us onward in God’s mission. And I know they count themselves blessed to serve you!

Let’s continue to pray for the healing of our neighbors in southeast Texas. Let’s pray for the shalom of God to overwhelm the hopelessness and confusion. Let’s pray for the Church to rise up with self-giving love expressed through hospitality, generosity, and compassion, and a willingness to put our hands to work on their behalf. Let’s pray so we can discern if we, any of us in WCC, are to be answer to these prayers. 

I have included a link to an update from CRF (Christian Relief Fund) concerning their efforts. You can access it here. I am very thankful for their work.

Have a grace-filled week as you discern what the Spirit is doing within you and out ahead of you in the lives of those you’ll cross each day.

Your bro,
Fred

Disaster Relief for Texas: How We Can Help

WCC family, 

This Sunday we will take up a special offering for disaster relief in Houston and other cities in Texas. As usual we will work through Christian Relief Fund – CRF. 100% of the money given will go directly to our neighbors in Houston for relief. I have been in communication with Milt (CEO of CRF) and they are partnering with an local agency to coordinate and insure adequate distribution and allocation of resources. As experts well practiced in bringing relief to disasters both domestic and abroad in over 20 countries, I am confident they will do an excellent job. 

As of yesterday, CRF had volunteers on the ground in Portland Texas where 20,000 residents were affected. Their volunteers are on the ground providing much-needed clean water, serving hot meals (up to 4,000 per day!), providing beds and supplies for local shelters, and offering free shower facilities. As the situation in Portland begins to shift toward rebuilding, they will provide tools and volunteer support to local residents looking to repair their homes and rebuild their live

Please begin discerning what you’re able to give this Sunday. 

We are also exploring what it involves to send more boots on the ground to join the CRF volunteers to serve Houston. We will talk more about this Sunday. 

In the meantime please continue to pray. The trauma many have experienced will be be a barrier no amount of money will overcome. At first there will be shock trauma brought about by the event. Then there will be cumulative trauma brought about by an unfolding of circumstances and anxiety-producing barriers to their recovery. The cumulative trauma can lead to depression, and for some, PTSD. It has the potential to be a debilitating force. 

Let’s pray for their healing. Let’s pray for the shalom of God to overwhelm the hopelessness and confusion. Let’s pray for the Church to rise up with self-giving love expressed through hospitality, generosity, and compassion, and a willingness to put our hands to work on their behalf. Let’s pray so we can discern if we, any of us in WCC, are to be answer to these prayers. I’m sure in many ways we will be. 

If you want to give now, feel free to do so here

You can read CRF updates here.
Thank you, family. See you Sunday. 
Your bro,

Fred