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A week of prayer, fasting and protest

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”   

~ John 13:34-35

Fast

The third week of January 2017 will long be remembered. From the beginning of the month, I had planned to join the Women’s March on Washington. At the beginning of the week of the March, I thought it best that I also join my congregation in three days of fasting and prayer for healing for our nation. I’ve never been good at church-led fasts. In the past I fell off quick and felt loads of guilt for low will-power and focus. So, this is probably the first fast I joined a congregation in in nearly a decade. Three days, liquids only. During the work week. Within the first 24 hours, at the end of the first work day, I ate a bread roll my manager put on my desk. She shares her lunch with me every day and I usually pass on what I don’t eat. I put the roll in my cabinet but could not stop thinking about it for the next few hours. I eventually gave in to temptation and ate it. The next day when my cube mate shoved her lunch in my face to show me the delicious options in the cafeteria – one of my favs, Indian fare with red lentils, samosas and mango chutney – I blurted out, “I’m fasting! Since when do you shove food in my face?” She apologized profusely since she had no idea. I had no plans to share. But  I quickly realized the open sharing environment with my office chums dictated that I declare my goals for the week. I survived the remaining fast with no further incidents.

Prayer

I attended each of the three nights of prayer service as well. Honestly, I thought I might fall off of that too. Attending service in person has not been one of my preferred activities over the last couple of years. I’ve streamed or played back far more services than I’ve shown up for. The general shallowness of interaction with congregation members has left me disenchanted and uninterested in showing up for “fellowship” that doesn’t last beyond a greeting and a song.

Inauguration week was different. I felt compelled to join my prayers to those of my congregation and lift my voice in praise and supplication. I didn’t want to go protest without first girding myself in worship. The third night of prayer service was the first night of inaugural protests and I was euphoric. I left work early to head to a rally in Columbus Circle that was essentially a call to action. The theme was 100 Days of Resistance. The goal is to get people to reach out to their representatives every day to voice their concerns and express their hopes for the direction this country moves in. I didn’t want to leave the rally but I didn’t want to miss prayer service either. After an hour and a half I high-tailed it down the street to my church. It was the perfect ending to a great day and a great send-off to the Women’s March on Washington.

Protest

The Women’s March was phenomenal. Overall the energy was amazing. Except for one instance. There was a Christian group posted up on Pennsylvania Ave down the street from the Capitol. In a space where crowds representing every imaginable issue in America today stretched as far as the eye could see in every direction, this was the only spot of contention, anger, disrespect and hatred that I encountered. I stood there observing for a bit, spellbound, trying to hear the words that were being shouted and chanted. Looking around in a daze to read the signs people were holding up. I walked around the circle of people to get a better vantage point and perspective on what was being said by whom. My heart ached. I wanted to grab the bull horn from the man in the middle and simply say to the angry crowd: God loves you! Ask me how much!

Jesus didn’t come to us to tell us how horrible we are. He didn’t walk through the streets pointing out people and calling out their sins. Where in the Bible does it say Jesus told people they were going straight to hell? Jesus has never been about condemnation. He is, and always has been, about hospitality, welcome and acceptance. He is a teacher. His lessons enlighten us as to our true nature and purpose in Him.

So, I stood there listening to protesters shout at the evangelists, “God Loves Me! God is about love!” To which the evangelist responded with a verse about love. Then there were those protesters who were mocking and cursing the evangelists for which they received further judgement for the evilness of their hearts.

I debated just walking up to the speaker and just pulling him aside. In the end I walked around to one of the men encircling the speaker and holding a banner. My conversation. With him can be heard on this video.

“Condemnation vs. Love”

Condemnation vs. Love from LaShawnda Jones (NS) on Vimeo.

I approached him with the words, “As a Christian Woman, this is hurting my heart. We are to proclaim God’s love to people. There has to be a softer way for you to deliver this message.” He brushed me off with, “We are each called differently. This is how we serve.” Yet when the speaker got tired of getting shouted down, he walked over to the man I was speaking to and essentially said, “I’ve had enough, your turn!” To which the man who was adamant about his service, declined with a sharp shake of his head and refuse to enter the center of the lion’s den. I called him out for that to. He wasn’t interested in anything I had to say.

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.  

~ 1 John 4:16-21

From Behind. Womens March Jan 21 2017.jpg

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Film: A Dream for Christmas (1973)

On Christmas day I watched a lovely movie about new opportunities, hope and perseverance. A Dream for Christmas was made in 1973 but is set in 1950. It should be on a classic Christmas movie rotation every year, but it’s not. I had never seen it nor heard of it before and I think that’s a shame since it’s a really good story about a family working together through change and challenges. It’s a slice of life and a looking glass into an every day poor African-American experience pre-Civil Rights Movement. Very intriguing. Very warm. Very well done.

a-dream-for-christmas-black-holiday-moviesA Dream for Christmas is a story about Reverend Will Douglas and his family moving from rural Arkansas in 1950 to Los Angeles to pastor a church. Unbeknownst to the Reverend Douglas, his new church is scheduled to be demolished with the rest of the block by a developer intent on building a shopping mall. Familiar story, isn’t it? Yes, this is also a very modern story of overcoming money and opposition with hope and faith while working towards a goal.

Treat yourself, your family and your friends – watch and share.

A Dream for Christmas
(1973, starring Hari Rhodes, Beah Richards, Lynn Hamilton)

The picture on this link is clearer: https://youtu.be/0wLZ1ZPlOrY

New York Times Review: http://www.nytimes.com/movies/movie/14754/A-Dream-for-Christmas/overview

 

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Sermon: SPEAKING FOR GOD IN A HOPELESS TIME

by Pastor Carter Conlon

Click here Speaking for God in a Hopeless Time to listen.

Notes from the sermon

“Sometimes we miss the power of God because of it’s simplicity. We think it should be more complicated.”

John 20:13-16  “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”

“Jesus appeared as an ordinary person. He never appeared in recognizable form. He was still Jesus, but not in the form people expected to see Him in. He appeared as a Gardener. How amazing is that? He was telling us that He will have a body here on earth. Many bodies in the form of ordinary people walking in the power of God.” ~ Pastor Carter

“You and I are not called to be super stars. We’re not called to have all the answers. We have an answer within us. We’re called to be just ordinary people with faith and compassion. There’s been more done in my life through words of assurance and tender hands than every prophets that’s ever lived in the Kingdom of God.” ~ Pastor Carter

Luke 24:13-27   “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

“Suffering and sorrow and confusion and darkness does not mean that we’ve lost the battle. We have to be able to explain to them, which He did – He opened the scriptures and showed them that it is the plan of God to send His Son, and have His Son die on a cross and to take the sins of the world upon Himself, to be placed in a grave and to be raised again from the dead on the third day – so that forgiveness and life and victory could be brought back for those who put their trust in Him. Sometimes darkness has to come before the dawn. Sometimes suffering has to come. You see, we’ve allowed a gospel to be preached that it’s all sunshine all the time. How do you explain when things start going the other way?” ~ Pastor Carter

“No matter what you’re suffering, no matter how dark it is, what God promised you is what it’s gonna be!” ~ Pastor Carter

John 21:4-14  “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.”

Romans 8:34-36  Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

“Cast the net on the right side of God. Get back to where the power of God is! The victory…the battle…everything we long for is in Jesus Christ!”

Ephesians 1:17-22  Spirit of wisdom and revelation; the hope of His calling.: ...that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

“There is power in speach. We are the only thing in creation given the ability to willfully speak the Word of God.” ~ Pastor Carter

2 Corinthians 5:17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

“Lord, some of these things are so simple, they’re deep… but you have clearly shown us the pattern. Until the day we get home, will you help us understand these things? Embrace these things? Help us to meditate on these things today? And will you comfort us in our confusion and sorrow that we to willl comfort others? In the name of Jesus, amen.”

“We take something so simple and we make it so complicated. Then it becomes frustrating. And with the frustration comes fruitlessness.”

I’m trying to get back to the simplicity of just being a Christian.

God loves you.

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A grown man cried in my arms tonight.

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Photo credit: Life is Color

February 14, 2014

I wasn’t expecting much from the day when I awoke this morning. It’s been snowing heavy in the northeast this week. Yesterday I braved the weather and went to work. This morning, before getting out of bed, my dominant thought was: please let it be bad enough outside so I’m justified in staying put and working from home. After dragging myself out of bed, I tripped into the living room to look out the window.

As I pulled back the curtain and opened the blinds I was nearly blinded by the brightness of the sun bouncing off the pristine white snow piled high on my patio.

My first thought was: It’s beautiful out.

Second thought: All this snow will melt in no time in the blazing mid-30 degree sun.

Third: There’s no excuse not to go to work.

On the agenda for the day was lunch with a friend and Bible study after work. Staying home to work didn’t really save me from anything because I had other commitments that required me to leave my apartment.

Lunch was heart wrenching. My friend is dealing with life altering issues from various areas of his life he believes he has to be a bulwark of strength for. I left him with the message: Gentleness is strength.

From my own experience, it’s when I try my hardest to be strong – exhibiting my idea of strength, anyway – that I am the most brittle. In my brittleness, I easily break. However, as I learned again that evening, it is in my gentleness that others see power and strength in me.

After lunch, I headed to the office. I did my best to be productive on a Friday afternoon before a three-day holiday weekend (*wink, wink*). On my way to Bible study I actually stopped in the McDonald’s next door to my church for a Shamrock shake. It’s my favorite special shake and I haven’t had one mixed with chocolate in years. (Side note: This is how the enemy distracts us – in very innocuous ways.) I was going to take the shake to go but decided to sit and enjoy it. But when I finished I was in no hurry to leave. I sat there staring out the window looking at people rush past, half listening to a conversation of two foreigners, one African and one European, discuss their origins. The African was claiming he was from America. He had one of the thickest African accents I had ever heard and the European wasn’t convinced either. Oddly enough, the European claimed he was from France and he didn’t sound too French either…. Anyway, I found myself sitting there listening to their debate about origins and identity for several minutes after I had finished my shake.

Eventually, I made my way up to the Bible study. Sat in the back of the room. Attempted to take notes. I was so not interested. I wanted to go home. Since I had missed most of the study (leaving work late and sitting in McDonald’s), it was over in no time. Yet, I sat there in my seat. Playing with my device. The woman in front of me left the room, but not with her things. The man sitting next to her turned to me and said, “God bless you, sister.”

I responded in kind. In the next breath he was pouring  out his heart. He’s a veteran. He has nightmares from multiple tours in war zones. He recalled parachuting with comrades behind enemy lines and seeing his fellows getting shot down in the air. Worst yet, he shared the horror of holding on to a fallen soldier as a shield. And worse than that, later seeing his best friend get shot in the head next to him while they were in a dug out. His mom and sister died in the States while he was away fighting. Even worse than all that, when he finally returned stateside with shrapnel in his body, he was denied benefits and had to fight for treatment. On top of all that, he’s homeless.

As he looked at me, tears filled his eyes and he asked me, “How can I ever get these thoughts out of my head? How can I stop seeing these visions over and over again? Is it possible for me to have peace? I want the peace that Christ offers.”

Perhaps it goes without saying, but I will say it anyway: I saw this man as the reason I fought my lethargy all day. I hadn’t experienced loss, death and homelessness in the same way he had, but I had experienced it. I knew what it was to be a target of an enemy intent on stealing my next breath and all my hope. I knew what it was to wonder if God was even paying attention to me, if He was even aware of what was going on in my life. I shared that with him, then I asked him two questions: (1) Can I share a scripture passage that helped me this week? (2) Can I hug you?

He said yes to both.

I intended to read Philippians 4:1-9 to him. I had been meditating on this passage during the week. But a few sentences in, I realized the chapter had advanced on my tablet. I looked up and told him, “This passage is intended for you, because it’s not the passage I turned to.”

1. From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus. I am an apostle because that is what God wanted. Also from Timothy, our brother.

2 To the holy and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ that live in Colossae:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father.

3 In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 because we have heard about the faith you have in Christ Jesus and the love you have for all of God’s people. 5 You have this faith and love because of your hope, and what you hope for is kept safe for you in heaven. You learned about this hope when you heard the message about the truth, the Good News 6 that was told to you. Everywhere in the world that Good News is bringing blessings and is growing. This has happened with you, too, since you heard the Good News and understood the truth about the grace of God. 7 You learned about God’s grace from Epaphras, whom we love. He works together with us and is a faithful servant of Christ for us. 8 He also told us about the love you have from the Holy Spirit.

9 Because of this, since the day we heard about you, we have continued praying for you, asking God that you will know fully what he wants. We pray that you will also have great wisdom and understanding in spiritual things 10 so that you will live the kind of life that honors and pleases the Lord in every way. You will produce fruit in every good work and grow in the knowledge of God. 11 God will strengthen you with his own great power so that you will not give up when troubles come, but you will be patient. 12 And you will joyfully give thanks to the Father who has made you able to have a share in all that he has prepared for his people in the kingdom of light. 13 God has freed us from the power of darkness, and he brought us into the kingdom of his dear Son. 14 The Son paid for our sins, and in him we have forgiveness.