Praying For People We Don’t Know

Praying For People We Don’t Know

 

Prayer.  It’s how we communicate with God.  When we pray we give thanks; we solicit his guidance, we share our troubles.  It’s also how we request his help.

When I started praying, most of my prayers were all about me.  I give thanks to God for what he has given me and ask him to please guide me.  It’s an easy tendency to focus only on our own needs.  I also pray for family members or close friends when I’m aware of the needs of someone I know.

This summer I heard a good sermon on praying for others who we don’t know.  When we pray for other people, we’re raising up that person(s) to God’s attention.  We’re telling God that here is a person or people who need his help.  We don’t need to know the person or know all the details of their situation.  We can just ask God to help, to comfort, to heal, to strengthen, to console, to guide, to send angels.   God will know what to do.

I still include myself in prayers, but I now devote considerable time praying for others who I don’t know.  I pray for God to keep safe the children and teachers going back to school during the Covid pandemic.  I pray for the nurses who are overwhelmed treating a constant flow of patients with Covid.  I pray for people impacted by hurricanes and fires.  I pray for people in my faith communities and for people that others ask me to pray for.

I have faith that God listens to all our prayer and he answers them in his own way.  By praying for others, I feel that in some way, I’m helping another person.  I’m lifting them up, placing them in front of God (who is the ultimate healer and counselor), and asking him to help them.

Please pray others.  Prayers work.

 

“So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

 Mark 11:24

Why I Go To Church

– Why I Go To Church –

 

This is a question that some may ponder – why go to church?  I thought I’d provide an answer in the hope that my answer may help someone contemplating this question.

First, let me provide some reasons that don’t apply to my answer.  I don’t go to church because I have to or because of a sense of duty or obligation.  I don’t go because of conventions or to comply with any church rules.  I go because I want to go.

Now, here are the reasons why I want to go.

  • I go because it supports my faith.  There are aspects of my faith that are solitary, that don’t require church – things like believing, praying, my personal actions, and reading the Bible.  But there are aspects of faith that require connection to other people of faith.  Connection is what helps grow my faith and helps make it stronger.  I get connection at church by listening to sermons, witness statements, and attending Bible studies.
  • I go because it pleases God.  There’s no passage in the Bible that says we must go to church, but God does want us to give him praise and worship.  I know God loves me and going to church is an opportunity to give love back to Him.
  • I go to be able to contribute at a higher level and to make a broader impact.  Faith is not just having spiritual knowledge.  Faith is belief in action.  I live my faith.  Being part of a church lets me connect with more people, reach more people, and help more people.  We can do more as a group than individuals.
  • I go to be with and support my church family.  A church is not a building – it’s the people who gather in the building.  I regularly attend two churches – one in Massachusetts and one in Florida during the winter .  I’ve been welcomed into both groups and consider each a church family that I am part of.  They are my spiritual brothers and sisters and I am blessed to know all of them.

I like going to church.  I wouldn’t have said that when I was young.  But now, I enjoy going.  When I go to church, I get my faith batteries recharged.  I do something that pleases God.  I’m able to do things that help others.  I get to socialize and be with a great group of people each week.

Chestnut Street UMC
My church in Massachusetts – Chestnut Street UMC

 

I look forward to going to church.  My faith journey didn’t start until I was 62 and that’s when I started to attend church regularly.  So, I’m a living example that shows it’s never too late to start.

In my travels across the country, I’ve walked into numerous churches on a Sunday morning as a visitor.  I was warmly welcomed at each one and each visit has been a very positive experience.

Beach UMC
My church in Florida – The Beach UMC

If you’re thinking about going to a church or going back to church, I encourage you to take that first step.

If you also attend a church, please share a reason why you go in the comments below. It just might help someone.

Jim Malley

Profound Learning Experiences

– Profound Learning Experiences –

 

I read a recent devotional article where the author wrote about sharing a personal story about a profound experience that taught him something about himself.  I thought about this statement and tried to conger up a personal experience where I learned something about myself.  Try doing it. It’s not an easy task.  But after a few moments, some connected experiences came back to me that all pointed to something I learned.

All the experiences involved extremely stressful events that happened to me.  One was an arrest and two where serious illnesses. In each of these experiences, I felt I had just fallen down a deep dark hole and was all alone.  But in each event, I reached out and asked for help from others.  In all three, I sought mental health counseling because what was going on in my head just didn’t feel right and I was scared.  In one of the illness events, I sought God’s help because I was at the end of my rope.  It was the first time I had prayed in years.

And here’s what I learned about myself from these experiences.  I always thought of myself as a pretty self-reliant guy.  I can solve most problems, fix any broken item, and overcome most obstacles.  It’s not a macho or ego thing.  I’m an introvert and sometimes don’t want to bother other people with my problems.

But in these events, I couldn’t deal or resolve them on my own.  I needed help and an internal force triggered me to reach out for help.  I learned that being self-reliant doesn’t work.  We need the help of God and others to deal with stuff.  And now that I learned that lesson, I don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for help.  Always to God because I know he’s always there for me.  I also learned to be there for others who are reaching out for help.

If you’ve had a profound experience where you learned some about yourself, please share it in the comments.  Your experience may help someone who reads it.

Surround Yourself with Good

– Surround Yourself with Good –

 

This past Sunday I listened to two sermons on the internet.  In the first, the pastor preached about John Wesley’s three simple rules – do not harm, do good, and love God.   Her sermon focused on the “do good” rule and she gave several examples of simple things we can all do to do good.

In the second, the sermon was about giving up sin.  During the sermon, the pastor made a quick comment about how his cable TV service was shut down and he couldn’t watch any news.  Although initially frustrated with his lack of TV service, he later realized that throughout the rest of the day he felt quite good because he hadn’t watched any news that is usually filled with politics and unrest happening in the country.  The absence of seeing the news let him focus more on the good things around him.

There’s a lot of Troubling News

I didn’t connect the dots on these two sermons until later in the day.  As I was sitting on my porch, I thought about the absence of good things in many people’s lives.  We now have to fear COVID-19 every time we venture out of our homes.  Many have loneliness because of the stay at home guidance.  Most of what we see in the news recently has been about protests for better justice and equality, some people behaving badly, job losses from businesses shutting down, the increasing death toll from COVID-19, and political leaders critiquing each other.

It’s easy to get caught up on all this, especially if we spend a lot of time with TV or online content.  I have sympathy for those impacted by events and pray for those suffering from Covid-19 and the conflicts.   But, it’s also frustrating because most of us can’t directly change what we see happening.

Choose to do Good

But, we have some choices.  The conflicts and troubling news will always be there.  It’s good to be aware of what’s happening, but we can choose not to dwell on it.  We can decide to turn it off.   We can pray for God’s help and guidance.  We can decide not to judge and take sides.  We can decide to not listen to or read comments from people driven by hate.

And in place of those things we can decide to do good with our actions and our speech.  Doing good doesn’t require money or much effort.   For example, here are some easy things  that I try to do every day;

  • Say thank you for everything (I thank my wife any time she cooks, does the dishes or does my laundry),
  • Hold the door open for someone,
  • Wave at oncoming drivers or walkers even if you don’t know them (this is quite common in small midwestern towns),
  • Let someone go before you through an intersection,
  • Give a good tip for a takeout sandwich or meal when you get the chance (I started telling any cashier to keep the change when I’m due any coins as change),
  • Look someone in the eye, smile and say Hi or Thank-you using their name,
  • Call, write, txt, or email a friend just to check in and say Hi.
  • Buy some extra canned goods or canned soup when you shop and drop it off at a food pantry, and
  • Offer to help someone in the grocery store (e,g, can I reach that for you, would you like to go ahead of me, I’ll return that carriage for you).

These are all small things but they matter.  Especially to the people receiving your good actions.

Surround Yourself with Good

In addition to my individual actions, I find it helpful to try and interact (and surround myself) with positive people.  Being part of a couple of church communities helps me with this.  I attend church regularly and also attend bible studies.  I had to reach out and engage to become part of these communities but I am glad I took the initiative because it has been very rewarding.  It helps to reinforce and encourage me to do the good things Jesus taught us to do.

There’s a saying that I hear at the end my yoga class – “May the light in me honor the light that shines in you”.  The goodness we see in others reflects into us and likewise, our goodness reflects into others.

As Jesus said in Matthew 5:16 – “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven”.

Jim Malley

Chapter 24 of Luke Says It All

– Chapter 24 of Luke Says It All –

 

I usually learn something new each time that I read a passage in the Bible.  Even if its a passage that I’ve read before.  When I read a passage, something new stands out; a sentence, a word, or a message that I didn’t pick up on before.

Chapter 24 of Luke

Such was the case during a recent Bible study that I attended during Easter week.  During this study, we were reading and discussing one chapter in Luke.  It was chapter 24, which describes the resurrection of Jesus.  I’ve read this passage a few times prior to the study.

It describes how four women went to Jesus’s tomb, found it was empty, encountered two angels, and then went back to tell the other disciples what they saw.  Then it describes two disciples walking to Emmaus and encountering Jesus.  The final passages describe Jesus appearing to his disciples and later ascending to heaven.

When I read it this time, there was a similar message that stood out in each of the settings that I mentioned above.  When the women go to the tomb, they are expecting to find Jesus’s dead body.  When they encounter the angels, one says “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?”  And then in verses 6 and 7,  he reminds them what Jesus told them – “Remember how he told you, ……. that the Son of Man must be handed over to the sinners, and be crucified, and then rise again.” 

Later during the walk to Emmaus, the two disciples are discussing what happened to Jesus and lamenting the loss of him as a redeemer.  Later in the discussion, Jesus chides the two for not remembering when he says – “Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?”  He then interprets for them all the things about him that are foretold in the scriptures and ” their eyes were opened”.

Then Jesus joins a larger group of disciples in a room.  They are overjoyed to see him.  He reminds them -“..everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”  In verse 46, he says to them – “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise again from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations,.. “.

The Message

When you read this chapter, it’s easy to get sidetracked by the statements and reactions of the other characters (the women, the disciples).  But if you focus on the angels and Jesus, we are reminded three times why Jesus came to earth.  Jesus was fulfilling what was prophesized in the Old Testament.   He came as the Messiah to save us.  Not as a warrior or like one of the kings that we read about in the Old Testament, but to pay the price for our sins.  He came to forgive us.  He gives us the opportunity to join him in his kingdom where he ascended and sits at the right hand of his Father.

That’s the main message of the New Testament and it’s summarized right there in Chapter 24 of Luke.

Jim Malley

Sharing God’s Gifts

-Sharing God’s Gifts-

 

I recently read Eric Clapton’s autobiography that he wrote in 2007.  In case you don’t know, Eric Clapton is a legendary blues guitar player who became famous in the 1960’s and 70’s playing in bands like The Yardbirds, Cream, Derek and the Domino’s, and Delaney and Bonnie.  He’s also had a very successful solo career.

I knew quite a bit about Clapton’s music career but learned some new things about the man from reading his book.  For me, the most noteworthy things were not about his music or guitar playing, but about his faith and humbleness.  Here’s a summary of three things that stood out.

Addiction & Recovery

Clapton got addicted to heroin in the 1970s.  He went into rehab and got clean from drugs but immediately turned to alcohol drinking over 2 bottles of alcohol every day.  He went through an alcohol treatment program at the Hazelden clinic in Minnesota.  Clapton stayed sober for a few years but relapsed in 1987.

He went back to Hazelden a second time.  During his times at Hazelden he was able to abstain from alcohol but when he was about to be released for the second time he realized that he had done nothing to deal with his desire/need to drink.  Days before he was about to be released, he became scared and terrified.  He knew that unless he did something he would go right back to drinking.

He had no idea what to do but something came over him and he fell to his knees and began praying.  He knew that he was at the end of his rope and wasn’t going to make it on his own.  Clapton had a Christian upbringing and on his knees, he asked for God’s help.

A few days later, he felt something had changed inside him.  “I had found a place to turn to, a place I’d always knew was there but never really wanted, or needed, to believe in.”  He left Hazelden in 1987 and has never touched any drugs or alcohol in over 33 years.

Clapton knew he would always need God’s help to sustain his sobriety.  So ever since that first day when he got down on his knees and prayed he continues to get on his knees and pray twice a day and asks for God’s help and gives thanks for all he’s been given.

Sharing His Gift

But his powerful story of sobriety doesn’t end there – it gets better.  In the 1990s Clapton built a house on the island of Antigua.  While spending time there, he noticed that there were many people on the island who had problems with alcohol.  He talked to his business manager about doing something for them when he got the idea to build a treatment clinic for the local people.  He bought the land, started construction, and engaged a health care provider to partner with him to build and run the clinic.

During construction, the healthcare provider backed out of the project. There was no one to help fund the construction and no people to operate the clinic. His manager advised him to abandon the project because Clapton didn’t have the money to fund all the construction and fund operating costs for the treatment programs.

Everyone was telling him to stop the project. But Clapton didn’t feel he could abandon the clinic.  Although he had no idea how to fund or staff the clinic he knew that his own sobriety was dependant on sharing his gift with others.  That’s right – he knew he had been given an incredible gift that saved his life and blessed him.  He knew that in order to sustain that gift he needed to share it with others.  He proceeded to personally fund all the construction and engaged with the local government leaders on the island to gain their support for the project.  With help from others, he hired a person from the Betty Ford clinic to oversee and run the treatment programs.

He began fundraising by holding auctions and concerts to fund what is called the Crossroads Centre.  Many of his friends in the music business contributed their time and money to the effort.  He auctioned off over 100 of his own guitars and sold off most of his art collections to fund the center.  He raised millions and his dream of a clinic became a reality.

Humbleness

At the end of the book, Clapton does not talk about his accomplishments or career highlights.  He doesn’t mention what he’s done, awards, recognition, or what he’s achieved.  Instead, he writes about what he’s been given.  The gift of sobriety is the most precious because he knows without it he would not have his family and probably would be dead.  He also highlights the people who helped him and inspired him.  Most are other musicians who he learned from and helped him.  At age 71, Eric Clapton doesn’t look at what he’s done or accumulated, but what’s he’s been given.

It’s a good way to look at things and it caused me to reflect.  My faith and God’s grace is a precious gift.  But, it’s not something that I should hold as something private and keep to myself.  God’s grace is a gift that was meant to be shared.  When I think about what Jesus did on earth I quickly realized that’s exactly what he did.

Our lives are not ledgers of accomplishments, skills, and possessions.  Our lives and faith are gifts meant to be shared with others.

 

 

The Faithful God

– The Faithful God –

 

I started the new year with newness, hope, good health, and potentials in life.  But on January 2nd, my new outlook was tested by an accident close to home.  This accident came to me in the form of a vision before the day it happened.

On January 1, I saw a vision of a car accident and my husband was in this accident. The vision of the accident kept coming to me throughout the day.  I brushed it off as irrelevant.

On January 2, my husband went to work early.  I got up at 7:30 am was in good spirits looking forward to my day of prayer at church that afternoon.  But something was different that day  I could hardly get out of bed.  I had no energy.   My body resisted as I made my way to the bathroom to take a shower.

I got dressed and made my way to the couch.  I still felt weak and laid down.  I wanted to get up but felt so sleepy, my eyes were heavy.  I tried to roll off the couch so I could leave for church.  Despite my effort, I could not get up, so I slowly made it back to the couch.

Eventually, I got up so I could email the church Leadership Team that I would not be in the office because I was not feeling well.  I went back to the couch to reflect on my day. I felt restless and I could not focus.  I turned on the TV to watch the news, but none of the stories interested me. I began to think about my life and my hope for 2020, and I felt a little down because I thought about my health.

I began to see the vision again which I had seen the day before.  I saw the accident happening, my husband and his car in this accident. I did not worry at all but I felt the heaviness of a force coming over me, which put me to sleep.

I woke up when my son called me telling me that my husband was in a car accident on his way home from work.  I jumped up feeling so light and free and ran upstairs to get the whole story from my son. I came downstairs feeling that I had reclaimed myself.  My energy returned and I slowly sat down.

I could not wait to greet my husband.  I said to myself, was this God testing my faith? Was this a way of God reminding me not to focus on my 2020 plan because there was no need for it.  Why was I making a plan and not meditating on his Word and promises?  My husband’s car was totaled but he walked away without a scratch or whiplashes.

When my husband walked in the door that day, we hugged each other and I said to him. “Honey, God still needs you around.”

We are humbly grateful for our living and faithful God.  His Word rings right to me and I love him with all my heart. He proves to me without a doubt of his faithfulness. I reflected on one of my favorite Psalms, Psalm 91. I invite you to read this great Psalm and meditate on it.  Know that God watches over us and protects us from all harm.

Pastor Sela Rousseau

 

Because you are devoted to me,  I’ll rescue you.
I’ll protect you because you know my name.
Whenever you cry out to me, I’ll answer.

Psalm 91:14-15 (CEB)

 

 

 

Why I Love the Word of God

– Why I Love the Word of God –

 

Sister Sharon McAdam-Bennett

I believe that any person, who reflects on their feelings in regard to religion, will be filled with intense wonder.  All who are truly religious will be so filled with love to it, that it will be difficult for them to find words to express the intensity of their affection.

God provides great wisdom and benefit to me through His word.  I embrace God’s words and laws.  I know that acceptance of God’s law is the way of life.   As a believer, I enjoy His law and teachings.  By thoroughly immersing myself into the Word of God (the Bible), I have more understanding than my enemies, teachers, or elders.  I have more control over sin and the greatest happiness life can give.  Nothing known to mankind offers anything better.

I meditate on God’s laws throughout each day and work to apply them in every facet of my daily life.  Keeping the precepts (words that point out, highlight, the right way) of God fresh in my mind helps me become a wise and understanding individual.   I’ve found that earthly knowledge and book learning, by itself, does not produce true character and wisdom.  Rather, it is focused, concentrated, and disciplined obedience to God’s commands that produces true character.

The past 2 years have been extremely challenging for me.  I relocated to Massachusetts and changed jobs.  I had a difficult time passing a test that I needed to obtain my teaching license in MA.  After several attempts, God’s grace shined on me and I was able to obtain my license.  In fact, it is God’s grace that grounds and empowers everything in my Christian life.  Grace is the basis for my Christian identity just as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:10 – “By the grace of God I am what I am.”

I continue to grow my faith by continually studying His word through Bible study.  Also, I decided to take it a step further and become a Lay Servant.  I recently completed the Lay Servant course work and can now play a greater role at my church.  I also continue to shine the light of God in my classroom through subtle but impactful things I do with my students.

Finally, I know that God is always with me.  It’s not because I can always feel his presence, because I often cannot.  Also, it’s not because I can see how Christian faith lifts me above the struggles of life, because it does not.  I know that God is always with me because the Word of God teaches that God is always with us and will never leave nor forsake us.

It is important that we recognize that our lives are sustained by the Word of God and by the knowledge that we gain from His Word.

Sharon McAdam-Bennett

How God Has Helped US

– How God Has Helped Us –

 

Sometimes when I’m talking with someone about faith, a question comes up about how do we know whether God really exists.  The person asking the question is usually looking for some type of empirical evidence that God exists.  It’s a question that many may have.

One way we know God exists is based on His presence in our lives.  Many Christians have experienced God in their lives

I thought it might to helpful to hear some direct statements from faithful people I know about what God has done for them.


 

“I reached out for God’s help at a challenging time in my life.  Later, when I develop a relationship with God, I realized He’s been looking out for me and helping me my entire life.”

James

“For me, God is life and light of the world and especially in my life. I am nothing without Him. Through all my struggles and frustration God has always brought me out even when everything seems hopeless. God is a constant presence in my life. He has never and will never fail me. I have learned to be faithful and to wait on His timing because He is an on-time God. As the songwriter says, “Great is thy faithfulness. All I have needed thy hands have provided.” As such I live my life believing this and is striving “to become the evidence of God presence in the world.”

Sharon

“I most feel God’s presence in my life, and I’m filled with His peace and joy, when I act on His call to help those in need.”

Mike

“I need God’s strength to help me get through these troubling times.  I’m grateful for knowing His truth.  I’m  also filled with hope and joy at the promise of His coming kingdom.”

Ethel

“My faith and the church family has helped me through the bad and good times.”

Denise

“I encountered many challenges in the past 4 months.  I traveled away from my family and congregation to attend school in Washington DC.  Facing an unfamiliar environment and learning to adapt to school after twenty years was difficult.  Then there were funerals of dear friends and helping church members facing difficult illness. These were huge burdens but, I am grateful for the Lord’s faithfulness.  I know and believe that these challenges will pass.  As read in Lamentations 3:22-23 – “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end.” One by one, God has removed my burdens. Each day, I feel liberated. I thank God for his constant presence in my life.”

Sela

God exists in all of us.  He created each of us and knows all about us.

For us to know God and feel His presence, all we have to do is reach out, to study and follow His Word, and start believing.

His grace, love, and peace are available to all.

Jim Malley

 

A Prayer Answered, A Call Given

A Prayer Answered, A Call Given

 

During 2013, I suffered from a very rare and serious skin disorder.  This disease caused the skin on my arms and legs to blister part.  It came on very quickly after I began taking a new drug for my colitis.  It was very painful and life threatening.

It took 4 doctors to diagnose what I had. Having a chronic incurable disease like colitis was bad enough. This new disease was 10 times worse and really challenged my mental ability to deal with another serious illness.

Every morning I’d awake to see more skin shredding off my arms and legs  The drug the doctors gave me to try and halt the blistering wasn’t working.  I became scared seeing my body fall apart.  When the fear set in, I began praying. 

Turning to Prayer

At that time, I was not a faithful person and hadn’t prayed or gone to church in over 40 yrs.  But, I was at the end of my rope and needed help.

I prayed a simple prayer asking God to help me. I prayed dozens of time each day – “Dear God, please help me.”   The doctors treating me were great and eventually the drug worked.  It took 6 months to stop the blistering.

I prayed nonstop during those 6 months.  It took 7 months for my skin to completely heal.  I do not have any scars from that hideous disease and never had a reoccurrence.  God had surely helped, healed, and cured me. 

Hearing God’s Call

Life was good after my recovery.  But, I never forgot how God had helped me and I somehow wanted to maintain a connection with Him.  I guess God knew this because about a year later, I got His call.

I remember one day a recurring thought popped into my head.  “Seek Him Out” was the message that kept playing over and over.  I sort of knew what it meant, but I was undecided on what to do about it.

During the Fall of 2016, the message was still playing in my head everyday – “Seek Him Out”.  I began an effort researching faiths and religions.  I was serious about it, researching theologies, key figures, and church histories.  I decided that when I went to Florida for the winter I would seek out a church based on my research.

In January 2017, I walked into the Beach UMC in Fort Myers Beach, FL  Other than for a wedding or a funeral, I had not been in a church for over 40 years.  I knew no one at this church.  But within 10 minutes of being in the building, I felt a great joy come over me and knew I had just done what God wanted me to do.  And the message stopped playing in my head.

At age 62, I had answered His call and began my faith journey.   It would  mark the start of a new and very rewarding chapter in my life. 

Jim Malley