A Memorial Day Prayer

This prayer is from A Pastor Prays for His People by Wendell C. Hawley

Father God, we thank you for those of yesteryear who left home and family
     to defend our country;
     we enjoy the fruit of their sacrifice--we worship you in freedom.
Remember your children, worldwide, who want to worship you openly,
     but dare not.
Grant openness to the gospel in those places of satanic oppression.
     Remember those of our extended family required to be in harm's way
     and all our military family.
     Keep them from hurt and destruction.
     Shield them from all harm.
     Enable them to boldly and faithfully live a Christian life,
 and may their testimony before fellow soldiers bear eternal fruit.
We pray all conflicts will end speedily
     and the gospel's power will permeate all those troubled lands.
Give divine wisdom to our national leaders
     that they may govern in ways that honor you.
   

Little Pitchers Have Big Ears by Virginia Hughes

Eavesdropping on two older sisters was my best early listening practice. It was easy to listen when they didn’t want me to hear secrets, plans or anything to do with boys. I had to control my breathing in the next room and knew they sensed me if they said, “Little pitchers have big ears,” which meant they knew I was listening. The conversation would then become guarded, boring and possibly turn to them passing notes back and forth. While my sisters were an endless stream of top notch information, listening to my parents or other adult conversation was disquieting at times. I was piecing together bits of information and incorrectly filling in the blanks, my senses deceiving me, listening determinedly to connect the dots.

In second grade I was listening to our elderly downstairs boarder, Maxine, visiting with two friends when the topic turned to tornadoes. They were trying to outdo each other with what they’d heard about an upcoming storm. One of them said our little town of Frankfort, Indiana, would be blown off the map; so, I asked my family what it might mean. My siblings shrugged, and Mother said, “It sounds like someone thinks Frankfort may be gone forever, but where did you hear such a crazy thing? Are you listening at Maxine’s door again?” I didn’t admit it, but proceeded to have a series of nightmares, tears and beg for a bright nightlight before I confessed I was very sorry to have listened in on Maxine’s conversation with her friends. All sympathy ceased, and I was promptly told it served me right for being impolite and nosy.

Then at 12, I was reading under the dining room table one afternoon avoiding the front room guests, still within earshot in the odd chance the conversation turned colorful. A guest sighed and announced, “There is nothing new under the sun.” It seemed to be out of the blue, her statement, but it may have been connected to earlier ideas too boring for a twelve-year-old to hang onto. The declaration, however, intrigued me. “Nothing new under the sun.” Well, I instantly knew she was wrong and could prove it in many ways.  I’d peeked into the robin’s nest in the magnolia tree and watched the new hatchlings. We were told to leave it alone, that the mother bird would bite us and peck our eyes out. It seemed possible. I hadn’t touched the babies, but I had looked at them many times. The guest stating that nothing was new under the sun received some “Amen sisters,” from everyone. Nearly everyone. No one corrected her.

Surely my father wouldn’t stand for such foolishness. I studied him to see why he had allowed the statement to hang there unchallenged. He didn’t let us get away with wild statements like that for anything. I crawled to a different spot in the dining room and observed him. Glasses in front pocket, he was sitting way back in the easy chair, miles away, quite possibly about to fall asleep. I would seek him later in his study and we would fix this. Later I knocked on his door. When he saw it was me he asked if I was helping Mother as I should be. I knew he was trying to distract me from bothering him.  “Dad, you know how Mrs. Willen said there was nothing new under the sun?” He looked over his glasses, “Oh, did she now?” I explained how he was sitting there at the time and the adults all agreed and how it is not true. Dad answered, “And you should read the Bible a lot more and yap a lot less, as the entirety of human kind and the authors of the Scriptures are older and wiser than yourself.” Dad pushed his Bible toward me where he had turned to Ecclesiastes one verse nine. “Don’t just read the one verse either; read the whole book. Of course, I didn’t understand it on anything but the most literal of levels. It was a sad and confusing thing a bit like riding a merry go round at my age. Dad quizzed me about what I learned. I thought the writer grumpy and disregarding the wealth of information stored there, could not agree with “Nothing new under the sun.”

Every day is new. The baby birds are new. “Virginia, I told you to leave those birds alone!” My mother scolded me from two rooms away. “That mother bird is going to peck your eyes out!” I didn’t dare accuse Mom of eavesdropping on me. I continued with my argument for Dad, “Plus at breakfast I saved another box top. Only seven more and I’ll have a NEW Sally Skater Finger Ding Doll from Post Cereal. I really like the Betty Ballerina doll, but Mother says her tutu is immodest and we don’t dance.” Dad began to laugh, “Oh, if only the wise teacher, who is perhaps King Solomon, had access to a box top cereal doll from the Post Company. That would have surely delighted him beyond measure, and changed the plot lines of Ecclesiastes,” He took off his glasses and blew his nose, laughing and laughing. He began his dismissive finger wave, palm down and fingers scooting me forward in the air from where he sat at his desk. It was his gesture to leave the study. He cleared his throat and stated, “Now listen, you’re a child. Everything is new to you. The writer here is someone who has experienced much more. Just trust me that the teacher’s sentiments will be more understood as you grow older. Keep reading.” He kept laughing and teasing me about wise King Solomon and Post Cereal box top dolls nearly every time he saw me for a few days. When the Finger Ding doll came in the mail months later he laughed again. He often told me it was a good thing I brought a little humor to the table as I was a most vexing child.

Recently, I prayed, “Dear Lord, I have nothing to say. I am so tired of myself saying the same things. Asking for the same things, chewing and chewing on the same things. I am so bored with myself; how bored must you be with me? I am going to listen now. I want to hear your voice. I need to hear your voice.” I promptly fell asleep until the next morning. I tried the prayer again while awake and alone; all conditions set for quiet time. I found myself staring into space, Scripture verse written twice on the page to hold my attention. The page was covered with doodles and a grocery list begun on the side. While driving, I prayed again to hear his voice. In short order I was complaining aloud about things I have no control over such as drivers making dangerous lane changes and ubiquitous road construction.

As I begin to write about listening, I realize I am weak, but his Word is strong. I hope to learn to do better as I explore the idea. I wonder if I have ever listened. Truly listened to God even one time. Ever? Or if I’ve been in a cosmic argument stirring doubt and fear punctuated by the occasional seed of hope around and around my whole life. It isn’t just being still, though that’s a start. It isn’t just being quiet, though that’s a start. We learn to not speak, but that isn’t listening, it’s waiting for one’s turn. So, I will walk with the promises I read in his Word. I will sing truths. I will practice listening in active worship. I will walk in his world, listening to the waves, wind, bird calls and the thunder. I won’t listen because I’m told to but choose to listen because I want to hang onto his every word. I want to be a little pitcher with big ears listening, listening for his still, small voice.

What in the World Is Going On? by Wil Triggs

The Sunday night of missions festival Bob Enstrom came up to me at the evening service excited about summer. I got to know Bob several years back at the summer book group, and he was an enthusiastic participant when he was in town.

We talked about different summer plans. I couldn’t talk to Bob without feeling lifted up; this meeting was no exception, his interest and care always genuine. Bob encouraged me when he heard some of what I was thinking about with this summer’s group. He told me how much he enjoyed participating, told me some of his plans, and then it was time to head over to the Global Café.

Bob seemed to be in fine shape, but Tuesday of that week, I received word of his unexpected death. 

Yesterday I went to his funeral. Right after, I headed to the prayer for the persecuted church group. In it, we lifted up people, churches, countries where being a Christian is costly.

We prayed for Andrew Brunson, whose trial is scheduled for this week. We prayed for the Korean Americans who are possibly going to be freed in the days ahead. We prayed for one who came to faith at a church service where one of our congregants preached in a hostile country. We prayed for churches in Nigeria, China, Kenya, Ethiopia. We prayed for refugees in many countries, some facing repatriation. We prayed for the persecutors, longing for Saul-to-Paul conversions all over the world. You can see our prayer sheet from yesterday here. Feel free to join in the prayers.

So there’s a lot of suffering in this world. It can get heavy. As I write this, I’m listening to ChurchFolk, finding some solace in the music of friends singing “Jesus Lives and So Shall I”

Jesus lives though once he died

In the ground he was forsaken

Yet the stone was rolled aside

How the gates of hell were shaken

Death obeys Him, yes it must

Jesus is my hope and trust,

Jesus is my hope and trust.

Time is short. All of us—we’re just passing through. We don’t have forever to do whatever it is God has designed for us. And I’m thinking of how every prayer and every encounter we have with people is precious and can’t be taken for granted. 

God, I need ears to hear and eyes to see. There is a particular “wonder” to today—whatever it may hold, whoever I meet, whatever happens to me or the ones I love or the people who are “the enemy.” I want to go forward like Christ, more mindful than I’ve been of my call to be like Jesus, a diplomat, an ambassador, representing to this world I know so well, the other world, the one that though I don’t know it so well, is my real home. Let us live as a city on a hill, salt, light, a lamp on a stand. 

Surprises and Gospel Opportunities

Life for global worker Joan has always been full of surprises and gospel opportunities in her host country. This morning, Joan muses about a neighborhood wedding, English clubs and the Apostle Creed—all in a day’s work for Joan.

A few weeks ago, there was a wedding reception for the son of the M family who lives next door to me. Since I hadn't received an invitation, I asked a friend who lives a few houses from me, if I should go. She said, "Yes, you must go or you will offend them since you live next door."

Reluctantly, I put my gift of money in an envelope and headed to the wedding. Much to my surprise, when I arrived, the groom's aunt met me, took my arm, found two chairs and sat me down beside her. She stayed with me throughout the reception and introduced me to everyone as her friend next door. We took pictures and they insisted that I was in the middle of each photo.

Later, she walked me home, came inside and we chatted some more. She has already returned for another visit, invited me to her home and was delighted when I gave her a copy of the photos I had taken.

This is a miracle since we have lived next door to this family for 16 years and they have never spoken to us. Pray for this new friendship to grow.

On another front, the English Club continues to be a blessing to the students and to me. One of the young M students recently said that he was born a M but didn't really believe any religion at all. When he comes to the English Club, he enters in to the discussions of the Bible. We have a mix of Catholics, Christians and Ms who come each week. God is working in their hearts as we study his Word together.

I have several more groups of global workers and pastors’ wives who are eager to learn English. What a blessing for all of us as we pray together for people in this country to know Esa (Jesus). God is building his church.

And there’s Siwi, my M friend, who works in another city but messages me every day. Please pray for her and her brother, Angga, that God will continue to grow our friendship and they will open their hearts to know Esa.

Last Sunday, I attended an English service in a church here. As we read the Apostles' Creed, together, I thought, Here I am in another culture, in another country, reciting the same creed in the same way as I did at College Church. This is what heaven must be like.

On this Missions Festival weekend, Sunday’s Connections features an article by Cheryl Warner, “Living in the Sun Rise.” It's a good read,too. Cheryl and her husband, Charley, live in Ukraine and serve with Barnabas International. Enjoy this special weekend with our missions people.