Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Liz shared her story one Sunday morning in church not long ago, and I asked her if I could post it here . . .

My Journey to Know God through Prayer

Priority. That would be a great word to describe my history of praying. But only if you insert the words “lack of” in front of it. Growing up in the church that I did, I was taught about prayer and others led by example on how to pray. Only, my understanding of prayer became something like this: Fold your hands, close your eyes, and begin “Dear Heavenly Father.” And we are supposed to do this mainly at meal times and before going to bed at night. Also, a little tid-bit about my years growing up is that I went to a Lutheran school from Kindergarten through fourth grade. The only prayer we did at that school was the Lord’s Prayer. And not to say that those ways are bad, because I do see significance in it all and have experienced the beauty of the Lord’s Prayer. I recently realized that I did not feel freedom to pray however I wanted to. In fact, I bet there were times that I was praying, such as “Please don’t let me get caught cheating on this test”, or “Please make the yelling stop”. But the problem here, is that I never considered that prayer. I was only “thinking out loud”.

Well, my life continued and I got into high school and heard talks about prayer in youth group. Most times, it consisted of step-by-step instructions to pray. “First, thank God for something goo d in your life. Second, ask God’s forgiveness for the sins you committed. Third, pray for someone you know who needs prayer. And finally, close your prayer by thanking God for his love. Amen.” Again, not that this is bad, but I felt as if I needed to pray in this way, or I wasn’t praying at all. Well, I wasn’t consistent with this way of praying. So, I tried journaling my prayers. But after several days, weeks, and a couple of years of not writing, I realized that journaling maybe wasn’t a priority in my life, and making the time to do that was too hard because I want to go have fun.

It wasn’t until I showed up here (Open Door Fellowship) that I started to hear how other people pray, and hear people talk about prayer, that I realized I have freedom to pray however I want, whenever I want, and as short or as long as I want. I realized that my thoughts can even be prayers. You mean, I don’t always have to say my prayers out loud and in a certain order? What a concept! So through this, I began noticing little moments throughout the day where God has been with me and helped me through a hard conversation, or was laughing with me. And in those moments I acknowledge God’s presence in my life and thank Him for it. I have began to feel a sense of comfort knowing that God is always with me and He does not have any expectations for me when it comes to prayer. He just wants me to know He is there. And He gets excited when I feel free to pray in group settings, as well as privately between He and I.

A major hard part of this journey that I recently realized, is that I have difficulty trusting God. I have been hurt by men in my life that are “supposed” to be trustworthy, have my best interests at heart and be highly influential in my life, to help me develop my own identity. And then I was hurt by others throughout my life journey and lost trust in people. And here is this God, whom we refer to as “Father” in a relational way, but I didn’t know how to trust someone with the deepest intimacies of my heart. So, I have also been on a challenging journey of learning to trust God with who He says He is and that He cares about me and loves me as if I am the only one in the universe. I am continually learning to trust my Abba like I’ve never known, and feeling safe because He adores me wherever I am at in my journey. So now, when I think of a word to describe my prayer journey, I choose Freedom.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009


One of the men's small groups in our church got talking about prayer stations that reflect issues and struggles men can relate to. From that conversation, but even more directly from his own life experiences, one of the men in our fellowship, Jeff, (click here to read Jeff's story) envisioned and created this station, which was not just for men, but for everyone. It consisted of a big plywood wall, painted to look like brick. Next to the wall was a stand with the following printed on it:

Once again, here I am at the wall. Sometimes I feel like I have been shoved into it, at other times I feel like I have run into it full force. Either way, here I am back at the wall. I hope that things will feel different when I am here at the wall. But, it never does.
At times I come to the wall and it brings me some relief. The relief does not last long, but I keep coming back here anyway. I feel trapped and alone. No one could have the thoughts that I do. No one could be suffering in sin and humiliation like me.
To me the wall represents something that I can not get over, through or around. It represents that bondage that keeps me from community, from real relationships and from real relief.
At times the wall is so familiar to me that I find it comforting. The wall finds no comfort in me. It is only there to destroy me. For the strength of this wall is only found in my destruction.
I wish someone would give me a sign that I am not the only one facing this wall.
"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." 1st Corinthians 10:13
The same verse was painted in big letters over the whole expanse of the 8' x 8' wall, with other words inserted to amplify the meaning. For instance, near the words "a way out" were lettered "red light," "a door," "phone call," and "rescue."
On the stand near-by were pens, a glue stick, and small slips of paper, on which were printed:
I am tempted by ___________
just like everyone else.
It was an invitation to each of us to fill in the blank with our own personal areas of temptations, and stick it on the wall, identifying ourselves with the rest of humanity in our capacity to be tempted, and in that revelation, also identifying ourselves with the truth of God's faithful provision of release and relief in temptation, as stated in the verse.
I put "fear," and was reminded again this morning of how I can live in anxiety regarding tomorrow, or next week or next month, when I am not trusting God in the moment, today.
Over the week we watched the wall fill up with these small, and yet huge, proclaimations, as words and phrases like, "anger," "selfishness," "pride," "things," "other people's acceptance," "food," and "fear" begin to cover the wall. Many of the areas of temptation of course were repeated, and some were unique; but there was a universality in the sense of struggle and also freedom in "putting it up there," even anonomously. I imagine for some it was perhaps the first time they had taken an opportunity to put their personal areas of temptation into words, even to themselves.
Take a moment to read back over "THE WALL." Imagine you had access to one of those little slips of paper. What would you put? Trust God and someone else today enough to "put it out there," knowing that you are not alone in your temptation, and that the next time you are tempted, He will provide a way out.

Friday, April 24, 2009


A high-school student, Mia, along with another student, Meghan, and other friends and family, created the peace station, a canopy of "flying" doves overhead, based on an idea the Lord gave her one day. She will tell the story of it in another post, but for now here are some photos, and the text Meghan composed and wrote out based on Mia's ideas, for the hand-lettered board in the peace station:
"The House of Prayer is here to bring us back to the Father. It is a place for us to sit before our Lord and allow Him to shower His grace on our hearts. It is in His presence that we are reminded of our purpose here on Earth. We have a purpose because God made us His beloved children. “And behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’” Matthew 3:17 These words spoken over Jesus, are a statement of significance that we all bear. We all are given purpose. When we understand and fully believe this testament we are filled with God’s peace, an inner peace absolutely indescribable and overwhelmingly satisfying.

The Dove is a symbol of peace and further, a symbol of our purpose here on earth that God has given each and every one of us. Having received this beautiful truth we are filled with the inner peace necessary to ready our hearts to face the world with heads held high and hearts ready to shine brightly with the unconditional love of God. Jeremiah 29:11 says “ ‘For I know that plans that I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

God promises that if you believe what He says is true about how much He loves you, you will be filled with His glory and His peace and in turn love others as He has loved you.

Remember, God is always working, moving, living in us and He is humbly waiting for us to receive His beautiful peace. He is bigger than any challenge you may ever encounter and He has a plan for your life so intricate and beautiful that only God could build.

If you wish to take home a reminder of God’s love, our purpose, and a peaceful heart please do so. Take a dove and decorate it however you like. You may write what this dove means to you or a verse that rings true to your heart."

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Our college ministry director, Joel, had an idea for an area where people could kind of quiet themselves before entering the main sanctuary during our week of 24/7 prayer. I loved the basic idea, and I definitely saw the need. I have stood near the entrance in past years of 24/7 and watched as people sometimes rush up to the entry doors, hurry in past the inner black curtains which seperate the foyer from the sanctuary, and then enter all the way in, only to kind of glance around, walk quickly to the left, then to the right, restless, searching, as if they are on a scavenger hunt in a shopping mall, and if they don't see what they want quickly enough, they need to move on. They were no doubt coming off busy days, fitting this time in between other commitments, and it was hard to know where to rest, or how to start.

Joel had the idea this year to transform our little "everyday" prayer room, which is literally not much bigger than if it truly were a prayer closet, into some sort of a calming entry area. I can't remember what he called it, but I kept finding myself referring to it as a "decompression chamber."
Joel was going to enlist some of the students from our college ministry to help with his vision, but he was incredibly busy, and as it turned out, two of the other college ministry leaders, Clark and Suzy, stepped in and took it on, both developing and bringing about the vision, and enlisting a few students along the way.
When I first saw Clark working on it . . . I admit . . . I wasn't sure. I LOVED his vision to take pictures of many of us and hang them to underscore "I am, you are, we are the house of prayer," and how that connected us with each other and with the theme before even entering. But I wasn't sure how this simple idea would create the peaceful transitional area we had talked about. There had to be more.

But that really was it -- less was more -- and it was just perfect! The photos, hung in a grid-like design with soft lighting, and the chairs lining the walls of the room, opening up a feeling of space in the small area, created a soothing, warm and comforting "waiting room" feel -- a place to rest, calm down, focus, center, etc., until one was ready to enter.
Suzy hand lettered some signs, one near a box on a desk, with some blank cards and pens, where people were encouraged to sit and leave their cares, burdens, concerns, behind before entering. Many did, and over the week the box filled up.

On the door next to the entry into the foyer, she had written an encouragment for people to stop and take some time before entering any further. I saw many folks ready to hurry into the foyer, see the sign, stop short, and then turn back into the room to sit for a while. Some for a long while.

It made me think of a quote from "Clinging: The Experience of Prayer" by Emilie Griffin, where she talks about why and how it is so hard to set aside time for prayer, even if it's only five minutes. She goes on to say that perhaps it is not the five minutes for prayer that is hard to set aside, but the twenty minutes beforehand, that we intuitively know we will need before we are even settled enough to enter into the five.

This entry area, this "decompression chamber," helped people enter in not just physically, but mentally and spiritually, by providing a peaceful transition point from the hurry and rush of their busy worlds and lives, into the quiet and peace of an oasis of time with God.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Just outside the sanctuary -- our 24/7 poster on a sign that says, "QUIET ZONE -- Please keep conversations and noise outside this area." Funny how scarce quiet or even more so, silence, is today . . . even in church, where almost every moment of even the services are programmed with vocal or instrumental music, media with soundtracks, preaching, sharing, announcements, and in case there is a moment of silence here and there . . . cell phones going off! The stillness is almost foreign, because we are not used to the "emptyness" of it, and yet when we can really quiet OURSELVES, and enter in, it is rich and full. It creates space for us to begin to be able to hear our own thoughts, questions, concerns; and to hear the heart of God speaking in between the pauses.
And if we're honest, we'd have to admit that at times we are reluctant to enter into the silence, because deep down we agree with Pink, who says, "the silence scares me because it shouts the truth."
Maybe that is why we need the reminder and encouragement to enter into the quiet zone, risky as it may be.