Cultural Pilgrimage: Reflections from the Protestant Church #comments4kids

Reflections from Team Fink’s pilgrimage to the Protestant Church.

Going to the Protestant church I already knew what to expect. There was nothing there that was going to surprise me or make me feel uncomfortable. But as Pastor Peter was talking I felt as if I had never learned of Christianity before. My mind drew blank and I learned about it as if I have never heard the word Jesus before. He answered all questions in away that I wouldn’t have thought of. Pastor Peter talked about perspective with all questions. That’s something I loved, that he would put perspective into every and all question.

God exposes you to Him if you are in the absence of light. Also God talks to people in different ways. We think God doesn’t answer our prayers, but really we don’t open our eyes to realize our answer right in front of us. All of our answers look different, and our relationship with the trinity looks special and different than anyone else. With the unique relationship I have with God, I’m realizing he is making me more new in every way. I loved going to the Protestant Church and learning more about the love of God.

Going to the church has helped me understand my own religion better. One thing pastor Peter said was “In order to fall in love with Jesus we have to experience the bad.” ~ Peter this reminded me of the saying we must experience the rain before we can see the rainbow. I think God puts trials in our life so we can resort back to God when we need a hand. One of the questions I asked was who is God at the core? Peter replied God is Jesus. I found this interesting because at the Catholic church the man said God is love. Peter said love can be used in wrong terms. So he said God is Jesus. Also one thing I thought was cool that he said was Gods wrath is Gods love. When God is mad it is because he loves us and cares for us.
Overall this trip has impacted my life greatly and has taught me to trust God in the darkness.

God is the groom, God is the light, God is our daddy, God is the consuming fire. I walk and so often I trip on the shadow Satan has cast on my path, I fall in love with this shadow because it hides me from the things I can’t see. I become dark like the shadow and it feels good because I’m scared of what the Light might expose. With each fearful thought a piece of my flesh falls from my body and is plastered to the shadow. The shadow takes form. This creation I am making from the shadow says we are friends, yet I am a slave to it. My flesh keeps falling off. This creation becomes bigger and gives me orders and calls them deals, but I never benefit. Pieces of my flesh keep falling. This evil creation I make deceives me and I become evil too. My flesh is gone. Now I am ugly and broken and I ask the shadow that I made into a monster if it would help me. It leaves. I am left with no hope, I am dark and I crave the Light. I want the Light and I know the Light exists. I search and search. Soon I grow tired and go sit against a wall. I look up and a cloth is on the wall. “Tear the cloth.” Light speaks to me. I grab the cloth and rip it in half and light seeps through. I am covered in the Light. It scorches me and I cry. Why would Light do this to me, it must hate me, but I don’t realize Light actually loves me. Light is a consuming fire. My skinned body is burned to ash, and I become made new. I am in love with the Light. The Light then holds me and I know it will never let me down, because the Light is my Daddy; even when I stray from Him, He will never stop loving me. The soulless creature I have made dies. It no longer has my skin, because I have been reborn.
The church was a refreshing place. At the church today I realized how often I slip into the shadow of evil. “With fear you put flesh on the evil one.” (Peter). Satans biggest weapon is fear. I constantly fear the unknown and it makes Satan stronger. Satan drowns us in darkness and we easily forget God can give us a breathe of Light. There is always light in the darkness, even if we can’t see it. “In order to fall in love with good, we have to experience evil.” (Peter). Without darkness we would not celebrate the Light. God gives us trials, to rejoice in His greatness. Peter talked about how first we have to want God, then we have to search for him, and God will let us find Him. We are the brides to God and it is the most beautiful marriage ever. Some religions believe God is not like a dad or does not want to help us if we don’t seek Him, but God is truly our father and His presence is constantly by our sides. God is the groom, He is the light, He is our father, God is the consuming, and God makes us new.

We reject God but He still love us anyway. We push Him aside because we don’t have time for Him, but He still loves and strives for us. We act like strangers and have a disguise over ourselves so we can hide from Him, but the disguise is like glass, and He can see through it. God is always with us “we aren’t a number on a waiting list.”(Peter). Even if we are in a really bad situation, in the end I believe that “You make beautiful things out of the dust, You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of us.” (Beautiful things). He has a purpose for everything so in that bad situation something good will come out of it, but it might take some time. God will re-sculpt us and those ashes that we were once, will one day convert us to become pure, because that’s how much He loves us.

God is the river that gushes into our soul. The water of Gods river is sweet because of the flavor of love and grace He has put into it. This Spirit does everything out of love even if we forget sometimes. The Divine has the power in which He can eternally torture Adam, yet He chooses not to because he is good, and good always conquers. God is the almighty, yet He does not use this power to torture humanity, but He uses it to bind us with Him out of this unbreakable love. (Pastor Peter). The Lord is the river of love that is open for us to swim amongst its waters, yet we choose to create our own river.
The river we have created is bitter and salty because we have dumped sins and lies into it. One of the lies is that we are sin at the core and because of this lie we try to justify our wrong doings. God destroys this lie we believe about ourselves. God destroys this lie and purifies our murky waters out of His love and embracing us in His wrath. (Pastor Peter). The Lord destroys this lie in each person differently just like He communicates to others in different forms.
The Divine comes in different ways so we may spread the Gospel according to what He has taught us as individuals. (Pastor Peter). Sometimes we see the Spirit and sometimes we don’t, but God is always there even if we can’t hear Him. When our ears become numb to what God tries to tell us we feel as if He has become absent from our lives. In these moments when the Lord doesn’t seem transparent we feel consumed by darkness.
In this darkness it is easier to see the light that shines. (Pastor Peter). Light is always around us, but in the darkness light becomes easier to appreciate and notice. God is always around us channeling His river of love into our everyday lives, but if we don’t experience darkness we can not appreciate this river He has made for us.
God immerses us in His river everyday. We must allow Him to filter out our dirty lies and sins. We shall rejoice in the darkness as much as we do the light, and most of all we must recognize He is always with us even if we do not see Him right in front of our faces.

My hand closes around a small metal key. Although I sit in the darkness, I can feel the key gleaming in my hand. This is my way out. This is what I have been waiting for my whole life. I start crawling until I slam into the wall. My hands start working their way up the wall until they find the little keyhole that I discovered months ago. I reach into my pocket and grasp the little key. I shove the little key in the slit. I twist it and turn it but nothing happens. I must have been sitting on the cold floor twisting the key for hours, but how would I know? I haven’t exposed to time for years. Finally, I hear a little click. I hold my breath and wait. The dark cold walls of my dungeon fall, and the light blinds me. “The worst thing that can happen if you believe that you are darkness, and God exposes you to light.” (Pastor Peter). I scream. It has been so long since I had last seen light that I forgot what it even looked like. I forgot how wonderful and warm it was. I looked down at my bruised hands and dirty clothes, and wondered how long I had let the Evil one tempt me into despair and darkness. I remember my father. I remember his last words to me. So I ran. I ran right into the room where I last left him, and there he was. Sitting on his throne gazing down with his beautiful eyes that I almost had forgot that could light up the world. He sat there with his arms wide open and a big smile on the face. “I knew you would come back, there wasn’t a moment that I ever doubted you.” Then I started crying. I started crying because I knew I couldn’t say the same. Because I knew that I had doubted. He read my thoughts, and pulled me into one of his loving and strong hugs, that I had so dearly missed and said, “I love you.”

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Advent writings by Anastasis Jr. High

Team Fink reflections and writings about Advent

 

Love
My eyes open yet I see pitch black,
My feet are planted yet my muscles never move.
You are holding my hand yet you never let go.
I tell you, “run” yet your hand squeezes harder.
I am left here in the dark with no hope in sight,
You stay with me even if you could take flight.
Love pushes every boundary I ever set,
Feet planted, eyes blinded,
You shield me from death.
My eyes do not seek you because your touch is the only thing I’ve ever felt.
Love pushes every boundary I ever set.
I crave your hopeful touch yet we never met.

Another day another dawn
Running from dawn to dusk
Is this really the end?
Trying to follow the movies’ trend?
Lonely another dawn, another day
Here I lay, on a stone
Our favorite spot everyday
The tragedy, for you and me
Under the moon I say
I will see you another day

“Love is when two people dress up, put on nice clothes, perfume, and smell each other.”
“Love is when a boy sees a hot girl, goes to talk to her, but he gets all nervous and sweaty.”
“Love is how women bring men to their knees.”
“Love is physical relationship.”
“Love is an abusive relationship.”
“Love is mindless”
“I love you mom”
That really doesn’t sound right. It’s the same word. Does it mean the same thing? Be genuine. Love is a word that’s used improperly more than any other. It should be a word of deep meaning. Instead it’s a simple description. Christmas time is a holiday about love. The roots of it all. The true meaning. Show that love during Christmas.

Joy
I provide you with a pinch of laughter when you are feeling down
I give you a smile when all you can do is frown
I am not temporary, but I stay in your heart forever
I bring community
I bind people together
You all have me in your heart somewhere…
Just dig deeper and you will find me there
I am like a fire
I thaw your heart and sustain your glow
Don’t hide me, but let me show
I can be in the dark but light up a room
Remember I am not found in what you consume
Listen to me, I am not here to annoy
Listen to me because I am joy

Here… I am standing here, wondering the worth of my life. I can’t seem to think, my head is a mess and my pants are a little too tight. It’s Christmas Eve, I’m in a store but everything doesn’t just feel that right. One girl, one boy taking things off the racks thinking of it as nothing more than a toy. So let me ask you is this what fills our hearts with joy.

Joy does not simply happen to us, we have to choose joy and keep choosing it everyday. Think of day without smiling, laughing, hoping. Without joy we are numb at our hearts. Our minds would be frozen in time. Marianne Williamson says, ” joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good thing really are.” Joy can come from the simplest moments that you would never think of. Joy is not in things, it is in us.

Peace
My hands reach out to yours. But the wall between us is not made of breakable glass, but concrete. The wall has words on it. I see Hate and Fear on the wall. I cannot see you anymore. You have faded away. Gun shots. Sharpened knives. I look right and left but it is never-ending. When I look up, I see an eraser. I touch the wall and it crumbles. I see your hands and I hold them until they leave.

Oh my what is this
A wreckage of good bliss?
Not knowing if it’s true or not?
These people don’t seem like they have been taught
Is it my inner corruptedness
Or is it God showing me this
I see riots on the streets
Wondering if we need the navy fleets
I ask God what’s going on?
Without letting another bomb
We don’t know how this started or works
But by using peace we can solve the worst

Why are we always afraid of something? Is that what keeps us from having true peace? What if we had no fear? Is that what keeps us from having true peace? I think in order to have peace we have to have fear. We have to be afraid of something to find the peace in the midst of trouble.

Do not be afraid. Do not have fear. This is peace. Solitude to the soul, serenity in the spirit. This is peace. A calm state; a mysterious, wonderful harmony. Meditation of the mind. Love, joy, and hope through all. This is peace. I stand and the world collapses in front of me. Fear settles in the air and battle is about. I fall, scared, but a light covers my soul. The fear in me escapes, battle ends, and peace wraps me in it’s arms. It is finished. Now there is peace.

Peace is the absence of fear. Serenity, meditation. Our world is run by fear. We are always fearing something. But what if we could always be in peace. Fear is the only thing that we know how to do, but let’s bring peace into our world, let’s flip on that switch.

As I stroll through a snowy forest I look around and see snow trickling down onto the cold frosted ground. I listen to a chilly breeze that makes the snow-capped trees sway, and I hear in the breezy wind God whisper to me and say peace be with my child. I walk and hear the crunch of the half-frozen snow beneath my feet. The truly Serene area that we can find in this world of chaos is truly a time of peace and solitude. I listen one more time and hear nothing but a bird chirp in excitement, I look and see a winter wonderland.

Emmanuel
My arms cradle him
This baby boy will free us from sin
He smiles at me so I smile back
Why shall a king be born in a shack
Lying serenely in a box of hay
This baby boy will never stray away
I look at my husband in awe
I see the star the shepherds saw
I give him a hug, a tender embrace
Before King Herod and his men start the chase

As I walk through the darkest valley, I see God everywhere. I see you, God, a light filling a room of darkness. I see you, a drop of water within a fire. I open my heart to you and see you everywhere. Emmanuel, Emmanuel, Emmanuel, you are with us in the darkest times.

Do you forget how to pray?
How to be with God all day,
even when you are distracted
by noise, crowd, hurry. Repeat
this word. Emmanuel, Emmanuel, Emmanuel.
God is with us. Emmanuel is a reminder
to the world. That no matter
what God is always with us.
In time of fear Emmanuel
In time of noise Emmanuel
In time of crowd Emmanuel
In time of hurry Emmanuel.
Emmanuel God is with us.

God is with us. He came to save us. He came to free us. Make us new and cleanse us. He wraps us in His tender love. Creates a reason to have joy.  Allows us to have peace and is the reason for hope. Emmanuel. While the world spits evil and doom into our life God brings us light through darkness and whispers, “I am with you.”. The one word that will keep us going. The stronghold and beautiful, incredible Christ. He was, is, and forever will be… Emmanuel. Rejoice he is always with us.

Beauty in the brokenness: Reflections from Team Fink

As part of Team Fink’s cultural tour of Colorado they took time for a prayer retreat. Below are their reflections on this day.

 

As I go cliff walking, I slipped on a rock, caught a hand, I look behind, nothing was there. Staying still doesn’t help me meditate. I followed the wind, I could hear ‘this way’ which lead me to the cliff. I look down and the beauty showed off what Gods’ touch of a finger did. If you’ve read my writing, raccoon and turtles are my spirit animals, which help me through life, and I found raccoon tracks. I followed them, and I lead me to a tree stuck to a tree, it was a cross.

The prayer retreat was something I enjoyed a lot. Seeing God working through different ways and different people was really cool. We were all serious about it and that rarely happens. We all connected with God and that was really cool. My connection was just sitting on the window sill and watching the trees dance in the wind. I did a head stand on the ground and it was really relaxing and it was almost like an upside down meditation where I was looking up to God.

When I prayed I could feel God’s holy wrath through the wind. I loved how the retreat was In the mountains and I had a great time bonding. A retreat is a place where you can get away from all distractions and be still through God. When I hear God in me it makes me frozen in His holiness.

This experience was amazing. I saw God mostly through my friends and community. In the beginning God spoke to me and said know that I am God and trust in the plan that I have for you and your family. I believe and know that The Father, Son and The Holy Spirit are always with me. We can experience God in many different ways, like through solitude, community, and nature. Gods love for us is so immense, that we cannot explain it with words or actions. The Lord tells us to just look out to nature, that is our gift from God.

The prayer retreat was unforgettable. I’ve always wanted to have a special moment with God. Today mine happen from beauty in brokenness.  I was crying at one point in the day because, I was thinking about all the sins I have sinned all the things I have done and faced. But after that I saw the good things. Yes I have fallen and fail to get up so many times I just think I am a mess. There is beauty in brokenness-don’t forget that. I have repeated that in my mind all day and don’t forget to pray praying is the most important thing to ever do.

The prayer retreat today was very special and so peaceful. I got to feel solitude, yet a balance with community and felt the presence of creation, the presence of God. I saw the strong winds, but also the tiny gentle moss that lay upon the rocks. Getting away from our daily routines and venturing out in the mountains created such a wonderful peace within me. A little solitude. It allowed me to forget about the distractions and gave me the chance to feel serenity, be still, and listen. I realized we don’t have to be afraid, only fear God. Even though at the end of our time couldn’t feel my hands or feet because they were frozen, getting out and being in solitude was totally worth it.

This experience open my eyes to the fact that we don’t have to be in a specific place for us to receive this connection with God. At first it was hard for me to get rid of the distractions but I ended up with the vision that I don’t know was from God or not. Imagined a bear coming close to me and I was terrified, but the bear didn’t hurt me it led me to God. I thought that maybe God provides us with fears so that they might lead us to him and draw us closer. I went into a room and open the window. The wind is roaring in my ears. I thought about how we feel that when God speaks to us we think it has to come in the thunder but it might be a whisper. When we talk we can’t hear the wind blow. Crowd, noise, hurry. We think that we need to go somewhere to experience God. God us everywhere so if we take the time to observe we can have a portable sanctuary. That’s why I appreciate when the Muslims will stop whatever they are doing for the day and pray to God. This feeling of connection and peace is something that I wish I could feel my whole life when I talk or pray to God. If we do it more often we can develop this feeling is our hearts.

This field trip was super powerful for me. I loved going outside and being in nature. I connect with God best there. I heard a voice in my head that kept repeating Put your trust in me and I will guide you in the path of the righteousness. I am still not sure if it is God or the voice inside my head. It means that even though I will go off Gods path for me he can still bring me on the right path. When I was walking back to the cabin there were two pair of foot prints. this brought me back to a picture in my room that says one pair of foot prints is yours and one is God’s. You will walk away from God but he can always bring you back. Overall this was an amazing experience to connect with God and to just be.

Whisper in the wind calls to me as I wonder what would’ve happened to my family if my dad died of cancer. I wonder if that a lot and if he was not in my life I would not be the person I am today. Reflecting off of yourself is important but reflecting off of others is not as easy. Solitude something that is hard for us because we are always connected to noise crowd and hurry. We need to sometimes just get away from that. First for me it was hard to switch to meditating after I went through the gorgeous house. I didn’t really want to meditate because I was so caught up in the house. Once I started to meditate it was easier for me to lose myself in silence. I really like this experience of listening to God. I thought it was cool that since we were reading Celebration of Discipline at school we got to have Solitude and get away from noise, crowd, and hurry.

Revelation ranch was a time of prosperity and connection with God. When we first got up to revelation ranch I was so interested in the house and how big it was. Trying to find all the nooks and crannies that I could. Yet I realized that after wasting 30 minutes of my time none of that matter. I thing a lot of materialistic things distract us from what really matters. It was very hard for me to focus on God, especially when I was in a room by myself. So I decided to go out and explore, right after that decision was made the wind started to pick up. God was talking to me. I had found God in nature and that was a beautiful thing. Later in the hour I met up with Joseph and Megan and we started to go climbing. Through that we were truly able to see God. From one mountain to the next, we saw beauty everywhere. The ranch was an incredible experience getting to truly understand God’s love. I hope we can come back soon, (not just because of the house) and get to experience God in ways we don’t even know yet.

If the purpose of life was to put a check in a box there would be no beauty in living. Horses have blinders to stop them from seeing what’s around them and keep them focused on only what’s in front of them. We wear blinders as well. These blinders are called noise, crowds, and hurry. What removes these blinders? Silence can. Solitude can. A river can. A mountain can. Moss on a rock can. God can. Connection is a funny word. We have to detach in order to become truly connected. Connected with something way greater than what consumes most of the day. Something that speaks in the wind. Something that speaks in the snow, between trees, and all around us. Learn to listen.

Notes from KT: The Gift of Perspective

|Kelly Tenkely|
The gift of perspective is one that my mom helped instill in me early on. It is one of the most precious gifts that I can imagine. I haven’t always appreciated it (in fact, there have been moments recently that I have mostly hated it). This gift of perspective has made me dream to do the impossible, face trials head on, and believe that there is a silver lining-always.

As a kid, when I had an altercation or frustration with a friend (or enemy), my mom would point out what a good thing it was that the person was in my life. “It’s good for you! You are learning and practicing patience. Now you know how to deal with hard people.” At the time, all I wanted was for her to step in on my behalf and give that friend (or their parents) a piece of her mind. I wanted her to empathize with me and get angry with me. I thought that these kinds of gestures would demonstrate that she was on my side. Later in life, I’m seeing (even in those times of frustration) what a blessing the perspective she offered is. I do know how to deal with frustration. I know what patience feels like (even when I don’t like it). I rarely fall into the victim mentality and instead accept the challenge.

One of my many chores growing up was doing the dishes. I LOATHED doing the dishes. With a passion. When we moved into a new house my 5th grade year, one of the first things my mom pointed out in the kitchen was, “look at this view! You will have such a great view to enjoy while you are doing the dishes!” At the time I’m sure I rolled my eyes and mumbled something about enjoying the view without doing the dishes. But as an adult, I love cleaning…really! It helps me remember to be thankful for everything. As I dust, I am reminded of great memories, family, and love. As I vacuum, I’m reminded of how good a freshly clean house feels. As I fold laundry, I imagine new combinations of clothes that I can put together and have a moment to appreciate the incredible craftsmanship of the person who took the time to stitch my shirt together.

Even in disastrous situations, my mom shared the gift of perspective. One year, my family took a trip to France. We rode the Chunnel over from England, excited to experience Paris. It was late and stifling hot when we arrived (probably in the neighborhood of 180 degrees…there might be some hyperbole there). My little brother was whining about being hungry (we hadn’t eaten in hours) and we had to take buses and the metro all the way across France to get to our hotel. We were about as touristy as we could get. Millions of bags stuffed with us into teeny spaces with hairy arm pits as far as the eye could see. It was not ideal. We were lost. Could not find the hotel and it had now gotten dark. We were still tired, hot, and hungry in a place we didn’t know. We could sense my dad’s desperation as we wandered the streets of Paris.

Suddenly he barked at us to stay put while he figured out where we were. There, in the middle of Paris, not knowing if we would ever get food or shelter again, my mom started giggling. The kind of giggling where you start to get worried about the sanity of the person doing the giggling. My brother and I looked at her like she had lost her whole mind. “Isn’t it fun?! It’s like we are on a great adventure!” My mom was famous for the perspective of, “it’s an adventure!” (Which is a good thing because we tend to be rather Griswold on our travels and had had many “adventures”). Even now when I relay a disaster event to my mom she will say, “just think of the great story you’ll have to tell now!”

Perspective. It changes everything.

In our laundry room was a bulletin board. On it was the quote by Charles Swindoll that said: “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude to me is more important than facts…we cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.”

My mom gave us this gift of perspective. The perspective of thankfulness, gratitude, and adventure. I haven’t always appreciated it, but it is a valuable, important gift.

Jesus seemed to have a similar perspective when he listed what we know as the Beattitudes. We find this unfold in Matthew 5:3-10:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus seems to offer a different perspective, a different take on thankfulness. When I look at this list, at first glance I think the blessed don’t look all that “blessed”; they look more like real life and that doesn’t always feel “blessed” the way our culture defines it. I’m not sure that Jesus had the American dream in mind when he talked about blessing.

It seems like the American culture has been specially-conditioned to overlook blessing. We tend to focus on what has been frustrating (sometimes we even call them first world problems) instead of adjusting our perspective.

What would it look like to live a life of gratitude and thanksgiving, one that seeks out the beauty and good lessons in everything? What life will we make and encourage others to make? Whatever we look for, we will find. What can looking for gratitude and helping our kids seek out gratitude do for us?

I’m incredibly thankful for the gift of perspective, I may not always appreciate it in the moment (come on Mom, be outraged with me!), but perspective has made me a thankful person. It has caused me to look for goodness in things like cleaning, and being lost, and selling a house that is one disaster after another.

During this block we are working intentionally with your children on developing an attitude of gratitude. We are working to look at things from new perspectives and foster thankfulness. We are helping your kids strive for plasticity and a williness to see things differently and know that a different perspective is possible.

I want to invite you to join us as we enter this season of gratitude. Help us encourage this adjustment in perspective with your kids. Together, let’s build a culture of thankfulness.

Names Matter: Remember Sandy Hook

|Kelly Tenkely|
April 20, 1999 is a day I will never forget. At 11:40am I was sitting in my Algebra 2 class at Chatfield High School in Littleton. A girl frantically interrupted our class to let us know that we were in lock down. There was a shooting in progress at Columbine High School.  It was the second year that we had cable in the classroom so we turned on the news to connect us to the outside world (this occurred before the time when cellphones were ubiquitous). On the screen we watched tragedy unfold. Our sports rivals, neighbors, friends were pouring out of the building. Tears. Chaos. Heartbreak.

We were released early from school. Then came the waiting, the praying. We waited for long hours to hear from friends and loved ones. We kept lists to help us keep track of those who had been heard from. Names accounted for, assurance of safety.

And then came the other list and the prayer changed. We didn’t want to hear those names. Those who didn’t make it out of the building. Those whose lives were taken. Hearing those names was heart breaking, they weren’t just names, they were stories. Each name represented a life lived full of laughter, tears, successes and failures. Humanity.

Names are important. In the Bible, names have a special significance because they tell part of the story. Names were very intentionally given based on characteristics. Sometimes those names were changed, like when Saul became Paul on the road to Damascus. The change of name was an indicator of a new story to be told, a conversion.

On December 14, 2012 we heard the awful message that Newtown, Connecticut was in crisis. That tragedy had come again, this time to an elementary school, Sandy Hook. Heartbreak. 26 names. 26 stories.
We’ve talked a lot about names at Anastasis. The significance of a name. The story we want our name to represent. The way that just saying a name can be like a prayer. God knows the story behind each name.

Today, Team Anastasis read the 26 names of Sandy Hook. A prayer for each life connected to those that were lost. The heartbreak will feel fresh every year for those that lost someone dear. The brokenness of humanity raw. You, dear friends, are never alone, never without Hope. Seek the light. Remind yourselves daily that amidst the brokenness we walk on holy ground. God has been here. He knows the brokenness, the heartbreak. He has brought redemption and light. Live in this reality. God is for you. May you rest in His goodness, His redemption, His reconciliation.

 

-Charlotte Bacon
– Daniel Barden
– Rachel Davino
– Olivia Engel
– Josephine Gay
– Ana M. Marquez-Greene
– Dylan Hockley
– Dawn Hochsprung
– Madeleine F. Hsu
– Catherine V. Hubbard
– Chase Kowalski
– Jesse Lewis
– James Mattioli
– Grace McDonnell
– Anne Marie Murphy
– Emilie Parker
– Jack Pinto
– Noah Pozner
– Caroline Previdi
– Jessica Rekos
– Avielle Richman
– Lauren Rousseau
– Mary Sherlach
– Victoria Soto
– Benjamin Wheeler
– Allison N. Wyatt

Prayer is a Conversation, Not a Speech (student post)

Prayer is a Conversation, Not a Speech

|by Emma P, 8th Grade|

 Prayer is something we as Christians often do; however, the importance of this has been forgotten by many. It’s wretched to think that people have come to think of prayer as something that is required of them. Prayer should be esteemed and special to those who pray. Praying is a dialogue with God, but are you listening? Are you just talking at God? These questions are the catalyst to many more questions, such as why do we even bother to pray? Why doesn’t God always say yes? Why doesn’t he talk back? These are all outstanding questions to ask, however, we don’t search enough to actually discover the answers. Prayer is definitely not an easy topic to wrap our heads around, and we need to look at it from all angles.

 

As a wise person once said; “When you pray, move your feet.” This is an old African proverb that many treasure. This proverb explains that we can’t just pray for something and expect God to do it all for us, we have to help if we are able. For example, if you see someone who is starving on the streets, you can’t just look at them and think, “Oh, that’s too bad for them, God, please help them.” Of course, that is a fine thing to do, but if you have some food that you have no need for, you should give it to them. The Bible states in Matthew 25: 45; “He will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”

The Lord’s Prayer is a lighter to ignite all of your other prayers. There are six simple words that are key in the understanding of this prodigious prayer; worship, surrender, petition, confession, warfare, and thanksgiving. These principles are something that should be taken to heart, as these are what we usually include in our prayers. Most stick to one in particular, the most common being petition. The type that I most often stick to is thanksgiving. There is something about prayer that makes me think of only thanking and praising God, and rarely asking for anything. As we studied this topic, I came to realize more and more that I wasn’t putting everything I could into my prayers, they all sounded the same. As I mentioned earlier, the Lord’s Prayer being a lighter is a bit of a confusing concept, yet is actually quite simple. This prayer was taught to the disciples in Matthew chapter 6, verses 9 – 13, when they asked Jesus how to pray. Therefore, it was a perfect prayer, and had the ideal balance of the six principles that describe it. These principles, when combined in a prayer, can make it extraordinarily powerful and memorable. “So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding.” We as Christians would do well to memorize this verse, found in 1st Corinthians 14: 15, as it teaches not to just say whatever comes to mind to just get it over with, but to think and to make the prayer meaningful. As a Buddhist monk once said, “We should only speak if we are improving the silence.”

There are four stages of praying that are imperative to a phenomenal prayer. The first stage says that I talk, you listen. This stage is quite straight-forward, saying that I talk to God and he listens to me. The second states that you talk and I listen. Again, this has a pretty clear message, saying that God is talking to me, and I am listening. The third is about neither of us talking and both of us listening. This quote found in the Alchemist sums this stage up nicely; “The Secret of Happiness lies in looking at all the wonders of the world and never forgetting the two drops of oil in the spoon.” This means to be aware of what’s happening around you, but to always zoom in on what’s important. The fourth and final stage is that neither talks nor listen. This is the mindset that many adopt while meditating, basically just being focused on your inner being and getting lost in the moment. This can be interpreted differently depending on your religion, your personality, and many other factors. Many are stuck between stages one and two, which is merely habit for some, but something entirely different for others. I personally have gotten to stage four, which is to just get lost in the moment. This is a natural occurrence to me, because I am quiet and calm by nature, and I like to think that I treasure every moment. You never know when something might go away, so you should enjoy it while it’s there.

Prayer and being close to God can look different in numerous religions. Many religions develop their own style of praying, such as many Hindus meditate to get closer to God. These are unequivocally diverse, but they all have a similar root. For example, Muslims always pray in the direction of the Kaaba in Saudi Arabia while bending down to show their submission to God. Buddhists meditate to be more familiar with their inner beings. Christians fold their hands, close their eyes, and bow their heads to pray. All of these types of ‘prayer’ have a common denominator, which is awareness. This is something that is highly valued in many religions. Although, I feel that these are all blanket statements of a sort, because not everyone prays the same. I prefer sitting in nature and just being calm over folding my hands and doing all of the stereotypical ‘Christian’ paraphernalia, and this might be similar to many people of all kinds of religions, whether they believe in a God or not.

Anthony De Mello, a writer who is famous for his profound writings and unfathomable knowledge, wrote many stories about prayer. There is one in particular that I like, which is one about a shoemaker. This shoemaker worked hard day and night, and found he never had time for his prayers. He went to go see a Rabbi to ask him how to fit in his prayer. The shoemaker said that while he was working, his heart would let out a sigh, a sign of longing to be close to God and to talk to him. The Rabbi said that a sigh is valued much more than a prayer, because many pray just to get it over with, but this shoemaker had an honest desire to talk to God. This story showed me that you don’t always have to be in a certain position to pray, you don’t always have to even talk to pray. It’s sometimes hard for us Christians to understand this concept, because prayer has become more and more of a burden and less of a relationship and a closeness that God and humans alike crave.

Prayer is particularly challenging to comprehend, so we have to examine all of the bits and pieces it’s made up of. Prayer is a sacred bond between man and God, and it should be respected ad infinitum, though sadly, it has become more of a habit than anything else. As I elucidated throughout, prayer is a type of awareness. It’s also a time to be honest with God. He doesn’t always want to be thanked, he wants you to approach him with your questions and give over your weaknesses. He wants to be more than a friend, more than a brother with you. Doesn’t this make you feel special? God has chosen you to love, you to nurture and you to cherish. He wants you to come to him as you are, not as someone you are pretending to be! I see prayer in a whole new light now, and I long to be closer to God, as the mystery of his great power is what keeps us wondering and yearning to be close with him.

“Dear God, thank you for this day…”

|Anderson|

Sometimes I wonder what God does when two groups of Christians are praying for different things.  Or, what happens when two groups are praying for the same thing, but both can’t have the same thing? It seems in both situations, those praying are asking God for what they want God to do.

Does this cause anxiety for God?

Does he use the “casting lots” system found in the New Testament?

Does he find it hard to sleep from the pressure to perform?

Does he weigh the righteousness of both parties involved and then make a decision based on who is the most obedient?

None of these options seem to fit the God found in Scripture, and thankfully so.

What if these types of prayers were altered?  What if prayer has more to do with listening than talking?  Would prayer outcomes be more recognizable if we were listening to hear what God wants to do, or for what His will is?  It’s possible that this is what is being said in Romans 8.  The text reads that the Spirit does many wonderful things for God’s children, including testifying that we are, in fact, God’s children! (8:16) A bit later it says that the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  When we don’t know what to pray for, the Spirit intercedes on our behalf.  It also says that the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. (8:26-27)

What if a community was known as a people who listen to God? Watching to see what He is doing and then moving to be a part of it.  What could happen each day if that community expected to see something supernatural happen? What if they expected it often?  If they listened to God and prayed for what they heard, what would that community look like? What if more often they entered into prayer not knowing what to pray for instead of knowing exactly what to pray for?  Could this open them up to God’s leading in prayer and the Spirit’s intercession for them? Once they knew confidently what to pray for, would they pray with diligence until it happens?

What kind of community to we want to be?