Last weekend I attended a conference titled "Women on the Front Lines." Two of the speakers, Patricia King and Clarice Fluitt, are not only pastors but professional motivational speakers. They combined preaching the Gospel with motivating the attendees to do something about it. This is ongoing evangelization at its finest.
Many of the people there, like me, are in what might be called "the second half of life." Of course, we don't really know how long we are going to live, so we don't know exactly when our second half starts, but we can assume that at 50 we are beginning that second half. Both women urged us not to slow down, not to retire, not to think that our work with and for God is finished just because we are over 50.
Patricia told us that at the age of 50 she had never written a book. Now she has written 35. She started her own publishing company and media enterprise after the age of 50. She is still creating, still dreaming, still going with God. She is enjoying her life, her children and her grandchildren. She plans to "die with her boots on" whenever God calls her home. But in the meantime she is actively pursuing the plans God has for her.
For Reflection: Have I taken on a retirement mentality? Have I decided that God is through with me? Or that I am finished with God?
Let us pray. God, I agree with your word, "I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). I declare that I am strong in you and in the strength of your might and in your love.
The other thing happening while Elijah was waiting oj God is that Obadiah was doing his best to save at least some of God's prophets. He managed to save 100 prophets, 50 each in two caves. That also meant he was secretly getting food and water to them so that King Ahab and Queen Jezebel would not find out. It was a big risk for him (1 Kings 18:1-6).
So while Elijah is hiding in exile, no doubt wondering what God is doing back in Israel, God is using Obadiah, a man in the King's inner circle. God's plan did not depend entirely on Elijah; he had other people in place.
For Reflection: We may not see or know God's full plan. We may think that everything depends on us. But God has billions of people around the world who are devoted to him and available to carry out his plans. We need never feel alone in serving God whether we see others with us or not. St. Paul offers this encouragement in Hebrews 12: We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses (those who have gone before us in the faith). Let us throw off everything that hinders us and run the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus.
Let us pray. Jesus, I realize I am not privy to your entire plan. I know I'm just a small part of it. Help me to keep my eyes fixed on you while I run the race you have marked out for me.
Two more brave women, largely unsung, figure into the story of Moses. Jochebed and Miriam were Moses's mother and sister. Since the Hebrew midwives wouldn't kill the boy babies when they were born, Pharaoh ordered all Hebrew women to throw their newborn sons into the Nile River. Jochebed didn't throw her son into the river. Rather she wove a small boat for him and placed him in the river where she knew he would be found by someone from Pharaoh's household. Then she posted her daughter Miriam as a watchwoman to see what would become of him.
When Pharaoh's daughter found him and wanted to keep the baby as his own, Miriam bravely stepped up and suggested that a Hebrew woman nurse him. So Jochebed got to keep him for a few more years (Exodus 1:22-2:10).
Jochebed, had to give up her son twice. First, when she put him in the river. Second, when she sent him to live with Pharaoh's daughter. She desired life for her son enough to go through all that so that he could live. Shiphrah and Puah had to stand up to Pharaoh and disobey his orders. Miriam, just a slave girl, had to speak to the princess of the land and make a suggestion. It took the courage of these four women to bring to life a man who would change the world. Without their tenacity, Moses's mission would not have come to fruition.
For Reflection: What sacrifices or decisions have I made that I didn't understand at the time, but later realized they made a big difference in my life? When have I had to be courageous?
Let us pray. Lord, I struggle to be courageous like Shiphrah and Puah, Jochebed and Miriam. I don't know that I could defy someone as powerful as Pharaoh if an unlawful order is made. Would I be as resourceful as Jochebed? As brave as Miriam? I don't know.
Many Christians around the world today are under persecution as powerful as that of Pharaoh, Lord. Help me to stand with them in prayer at least.
(Note: Many Christians will be standing in prayer for persecuted Christians in various nations on August 1. Won't you join us in prayer?)
Sit, walk, build, put off, put on. What's next?
In our brief review of Paul's letter to the Ephesian church, we have come across these command verbs. We are to sit with Christ in the heavenly places. This is a time of resting in Him and learning who He is and who we are. When we have done this, we are to walk in the ways Christ has shown us. We are to build one another up into the mature body of Christ. Then put off our old ways, and put on the new ways of Christ.
So what is next? Imitate God. Paul writes, "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Ephesians 5:1-2). We learn that we are dearly loved children when we sit in the place of rest with him and learn his ways. When we sit with him in the heavenly places, we observe the ways of the kingdom of God. Since Jesus and the Father are one, when we learn the ways of Jesus, we learn the ways of the Father (and the Holy Spirit). That is how we learn what is to be imitated. Children learn by imitating their parents.
Even Paul did not begin his apostolic life by going out right away to do things. He began by learning about Jesus and learning new ways of living and loving. He began from that place of rest in Christ before he began to preach. Although he began with "the big reveal", he had to learn to walk all over again. He had to learn to build rather than tear down. He had to put off his old ways before he could put on the new. He had to learn to imitate God when he himself had not seen Jesus in his earthly life.
For Reflection: There are many ways to learn to imitate God: reading and studying the Scriptures, prayer, meditation, walking with others who are more mature than we are. And, if we belong to a sacramental church, availing ourselves of the sacraments.
Let us pray. Jesus, we know that you do not leave us adrift when it comes to learning how to follow you. Help us, your beloved children, to grow more like you every day. What do you want me to grow in today?
"Lay away" is a concept that has recently returned in the United States. People give the store a partial payment for a particular item. The store puts the item away until the person has made regular payments and paid in full. Then the person takes the item home.
The apostle Paul had somewhat of the same idea when he said, "Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance. . . " (Ephesians 1:13) We have the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, inside of us, if we believe. A deposit means we have been marked "sold" or "put on lay away." We belong to God. No one else can have us (see also 1 Corinthians 6:19).
The Holy Spirit is given to us as a down payment, a deposit. That means there is more to come. A deposit or down payment is just the beginning. How much more Holy Spirit is there to come, how many more payments will there be? We don't know, but it will be fun to find out.
A deposit can also be like making a deposit in a bank. The bank wants to get as many deposits as possible so that it can use the money to make loans on which it charges interest and so makes money. We may want to get as much Holy Spirit into us as we can so that we can use the Spirits's gifts (make loans). Using those gifts, making those loans, comes back to us for our benefit also, just like interest does for a bank.
This down payment of Holy Spirit is also a guarantee. We are guaranteed the full inheritance of children of God, the largest inheritance of all.
Let us pray. Holy Spirit, you are so generous. I love that you have been deposited within me. I love your guarantee of the full inheritance.
Today is an excellent day to praise God with an early Christian prayer called the Te Deum.
You are God: we praise you;
You are the Lord: we acclaim you;
You are the eternal Father;
All creation worships you.
To you all angels, all the powers of heaven,
Cherubim and Seraphim, sing in endless praise:
Holy, holy, holy, Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
The glorious company of apostles praise you.
The noble fellowship of prophets praise you.
The white-robed army of martyrs praise you.
Throughout the world the holy church acclaims you:
Father, of majesty unbounded,
your true and only Son, worthy of all worship,
and the Holy Spirit, advocate and guide.
You, Christ, are the king of glory,
the eternal Son of the Father.
When you became man to set us free
you did not spurn the Virgin's womb.
You overcame the sting of death,
and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
You are seated at God's right hand in glory.
We believe that you will come, and be our judge.
Come then, Lord, and help your people,
bought with the price of your own blood,
and bring us with your saints to glory everlasting.
(In honor of the kidnapped girls in Nigeria and their mothers.)
Korea, early 1800s
Cecilia's husband was killed by the authorities because he was Christian. Eventually she went to live with her son who was involved in dangerous missions work. Cecilia prayed for the success of her son's work and practiced a life of sacrifice so that others might eat.
At the age of 79 Cecilia was arrested. The authorities demanded that she renounce her faith and tell them where her son was. She refused and was whipped repeatedly until she died with the names of Jesus and his mother Mary on her lips.
(This account is taken from the May issue of Magnificat, an excellent resource for daily prayer and Scripture reading. http://www.Magnificat.com )
For reflection: Christians have been persecuted since the time of Jesus. Several times per hour, somewhere in the world, another Christian dies.
Let us pray. Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. (Psalm 35:1) We ask you, Lord, to deliver the girls in Nigeria from their abductors without further harm and to release from prison all who are persecuted for their faith.
God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because we are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out "Abba, Father." So we are no longer slaves, but sons, and since we are sons, God has made us heirs (based on Galatians 4:4-7).
Because Jesus died and rose, I am able to be a child of God, not a slave. Because Jesus died and rose, I can call God "Father". Because Jesus died and rose, I am able to receive Jesus' Spirit in my heart. Because Jesus died and rose, I am an heir of the Kingdom - the Kingdom of God.
Let us pray. Though I am unworthy, Father, you sent your Son. Though I am unworthy, Father, you call me "son." Though I am unworthy, Father, you place your Spirit within me. Though I am unworthy, Father, you give me the Kingdom. What wondrous love is this?
Let us spend today praising the Lord for his goodness.
Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits - who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him. From everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children - with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts. (Psalm 103:1-5, 8, 11, 17-18)
Snowboarding, free skiing and other events have been added to the Olympic games in recent years. These are sports that only developed recently. People invented these sports. They invented the equipment; they invented the moves. Someone did it first and then spread the word.
Usually these innovators are young people who are willing to try anything. They don't have a fear of failure (or many times a fear of death). When they get to a certain age, they retire from the sport to get married, raise families and pursue other dreams. They settle down; live normal lives.
I'm not sure as Christians that we should settle down and live normal lives. We should be the ones trying new things in the Spirit, finding new ways to achieve healing, working miracles to feed the hungry and house the homeless, even raising the dead. We should be the ones soaring above the earth in the Spirit, being transported supernaturally to other places, getting "big air". These are radical things in the Spirit today which for Christians should be the new normal.
For reflection: What is the new normal to which God is calling me? Where have I settled for less than God wants? What new moves does God want me to develop?
Let us pray. Jesus, in you all things are possible. I want to know you and the power of your resurrection. I don't want to settle for less than you have planned for me and will enable me to do. I want to keep pressing on toward that to which you have called me. With you I have no fear.(based on Matthew 19:26, Ephesians 3:10, 13-14 and 1 John 4:18).
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.