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Prayer and a song

Waking up with a song in my heart, mind and spirit is one of the most encouraging and soothing things I’ve experienced in my faith walk.

Last night I attended our weekly prayer service. I took a long way – a bike ride along the Hudson River Greenway with a pause on a park bench to contemplate the setting sun and my barren life. My spirits were low. My heart was heavy. My mind and my body were extremely tired. Eventually, due to the limited time I had the bike share bike for, I pulled myself from the bench and continued riding until I got to church. I was an hour late but just on time for the message: to ask God to move me beyond my freedom into my full purpose in His service.

I was extremely open and vulnerable by the end of that message, throughout the corporate prayer that followed, the taking of communion and the songs of praise that wrapped up the evening. Leaving the church, I walked to one of my favorite spots in the City, Columbus Circle, to sit and reflect on the city, the people, the lights, the night, and my life. All I wanted to do was cry. I dragged myself home and prepped myself for a nice retching cry to sleep.

The cry didn’t happen. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow. When I awoke this morning, the words, “You are my strength, strength like no other, strength like no other reaches to me” were flowing through my spirit and humming in my throat. All I could do was give thanks for the song.

You Are My Strength

by William Murphy is on repeat for the day

Say this tonight: You are my strength. Strength like no other. Strength like no other.
Now lay your hands on yourself and say: Reaches to me.
The strength of God is reaching for you tonight.

You are my strength, strength like no other. Strength like no other reaches to me. [x4]

In the fullness of Your grace, in the power of Your name, you lift me up, you lift me up. [x2]

You are my strength, strength like no other. Strength like no other reaches to me. [x2]

In the fullness of Your grace, in the power of Your name, you lift me up, you lift me up. [x3]

You are my strength, strength like no other. Strength like no other reaches to me.

I declare whatever your struggle is, you’re going to finish strong!
Thank you for being so gracious. Thank you for being so kind.

Here’s Pastor Carter Conlon’s message from the evening: Thoughts on prayer (8/2/16) Don’t worry, it’s short and sweet (15min).

“My question tonight is: What’s keeping you from going that full distance with God? What is it that you’re afraid of? Are you afraid that provision won’t be there? Are you afraid that your message will be rejected when it’s spoken? What is it that causes you to draw back and say, ‘Lord use me for your glory… except for this… or that… or this…but for anything else, God, just use me for your glory?'”

“The problem is that you want to come out of something but you don’t necessarily want to go in… to what God has for you. You just want to stop halfway. You just want to say, ‘I was set free’ for the rest of your life, but you don’t want to be used of God to set others free.”

Reference scripture: Acts 8, 9, 10

Be blessed as you go and remember to be a blessing.


I love you, O Lord, my strength.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, so I shall be saved from my enemies.

The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of perdition assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me.

In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.

~ Psalm 18, 1-6 (NRSV)


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5 Minutes with Granddaddy / You Are an Incredible Testimony of Mercy

I love my grandfather…surely. But I certainly don’t know him, nor does he know me.

I know him like a story – highlights and references, but nothing of substance. I know what he never gave to me. I know how he willfully resisted helping me when asked. I know that he never came to see me or my Mom and our little family. I know when I showed up to visit, I got a hug hello and a hug goodbye and perhaps some random comments in between. But I never got anything to build or enhance a relationship with.

The two longest conversations I recall having had with my grandfather were while I was in college. Even with loans, grants, a work study and a part-time job, I couldn’t afford the tuition my first semester in college. I had begged my mother to ask her father for help. My mom was so reluctant to ask him for money, she repeatedly told me, “It will do no good. He’s going to say no.” Her way of softening the blow of rejection, I guess. She asked anyway. He said no. Then I asked for myself. He said no again. That Christmas. Granddaddy gave all his grandchildren – except for me – cash gifts. He had a lot of grandchildren. When I called to ask him why he wouldn’t help me when he knew I was struggling and when I asked for help, he responded simply, “You’re not here. They are.”

Perhaps I remember that as the longest conversation because the hurt burrowed deep. The second “long” conversation happened some time later during one of the times I was looking to transfer colleges. While talking to Granddaddy, he urged me to move back to my hometown, Gary, Indiana – a town that had been spiraling into ghost town status for decades – in order to be closer to him and my grandmother. He sweetened his request by promising to buy me a car to get to and from campus in. It was a generous offer. I turned him down. I wanted to move forward, not backwards. There were no opportunities in Gary and I had already become uncomfortably acquainted with the true lack of familial support.

I wish I had softer memories, kinder thoughts to dwell on as I’m confronted with the end of my granddaddy’s life; but these are the memories that I had to acknowledge and overcome so they would not be all I had to look back on in the future.

I wasn’t keen on visiting grandad in the hospital. I’m not a fan of hospitals in general, but Granddaddy has lived a relatively healthy and active life into his late eighties. I don’t recall him ever being sick or hospitalized. He’s become less mobile over the last few years, but he was still getting around and maintaining some independence. A few weeks ago, at the beginning of December he had a massive stroke. A few days later he had a second massive stroke. He went into a coma shortly thereafter. My internal debate about visiting him came to a head when I learned about the coma. From an uncomfortable amount of experience with death and loss, I knew his days were short. That surety drove me across the country with a determination to be present for the opportunity to touch his skin and kiss him as I told him I love him and bore witness to God’s love for him. These weren’t fully formed thoughts on the way to the hospital. I actually had no idea what I would say or do once I got there, but was elated to have experienced a flow of love so natural and fluid, I’m convinced he heard everything he needed to hear. His toes were stretching and curling in response to my words.

I spent half a day getting to him and had only five minutes at his bedside… but it was all I needed to say what I had to say… what I was sent to say.

On the drive into Indiana from the airport, I listened to a sermon titled You Are An Incredible Testimony Of Mercy  by Pastor Carter Conlon. It calmed me. It centered and focused me. It confirmed what I considered to be my mission to speak life into my granddad before he left this world.

I didn’t understand that so clearly until I showed up… until I got there to bless his life in person with all the love God has poured into me flowing through me.

That was on Sunday, December 20, 2015.

Today, Thursday, December 30, 2015, I received the call that my granddad has passed on. I was already grateful for the five minutes at his bedside, but now it will be the most prominent memory of the two of us alone and take over as our longest and deepest conversation.

Mercy, grace and love on your journey, Granddad.

2015-12-31 01.23.05

You Are An Incredible Testimony Of Mercy by Pastor Carter Conlon, December 6, 2015

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Thoughts On Faith and Prayer: BEAUTY FOR ASHES

by Pastor Carter Conlon

Listen here: Beauty for Ashes

(9min 31sec)

Reference verses

Isaiah 61:1-4

The Lord’s Message of Freedom

The Lord God has put his Spirit in me,
because the Lord has appointed me to tell the good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort those whose hearts are broken,
to tell the captives they are free,
and to tell the prisoners they are released.
He has sent me to announce the time when the Lord will show his kindness
and the time when our God will punish evil people.
He has sent me to comfort all those who are sad
and to help the sorrowing people of Jerusalem.
I will give them a crown to replace their ashes,
and the oil of gladness to replace their sorrow,
and clothes of praise to replace their spirit of sadness.
Then they will be called Trees of Goodness,
trees planted by the Lord to show His greatness.

They will rebuild the old ruins
and restore the places destroyed long ago.
They will repair the ruined cities
that were destroyed for so long.

Luke 4:20-27

Jesus closed the book, gave it back to the assistant, and sat down. Everyone in the synagogue was watching Jesus closely. He began to say to them, “While you heard these words just now, they were coming true!”

All the people spoke well of Jesus and were amazed at the words of grace he spoke. They asked, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”

Jesus said to them, “I know that you will tell me the old saying: ‘Doctor, heal yourself.’ You want to say, ‘We heard about the things you did in Capernaum. Do those things here in your own town!’” Then Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, a prophet is not accepted in his hometown. But I tell you the truth, there were many widows in Israel during the time of Elijah. It did not rain in Israel for three and one-half years, and there was no food anywhere in the whole country. But Elijah was sent to none of those widows, only to a widow in Zarephath, a town in Sidon. And there were many with skin diseases living in Israel during the time of the prophet Elisha. But none of them were healed, only Naaman, who was from the country of Syria.”

2 Chronicles 7:14

Then if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves, if they will pray and seek me and stop their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven. I will forgive their sin, and I will heal their land. 

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Thoughts On Faith and Prayer: ALL AND NOTHING

by Pastor Carter Conlon
The Thoughts on Faith and Prayer messages short sermons (15-20 min) given during my congregation’s corporate prayer service on Tuesday nights. I’m really excited to learn that they are being recorded and can be shared. This is a great message about the totality of what we are called to be in Christ Jesus.

Be blessed. Be a blessing.

Listen here: Thoughts On Faith and Prayer: All and Nothing

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Listening to Still, Small Voices

Still, Small Voices was the title and content of my pastor’s sermon on December 14, 2014, delivered a week after I posted my fury over lack of indictments for the murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner in Let Ferguson – and the United States – burn!

I have long believed that either my pastors are paying attention to what I write and respond via their sermons or God is answering me directly through them. I truly believe the latter. 😉 Honestly, when I began listening to this sermon that Sunday morning, I was still burning in anger and frustration. I literally put my hand up and said, “I’m not even trying to hear you! There’s nothing still and small about me right now! My rage is too loud!”

But even as my hand was raised to push the message away, I apologized immediately for my rejection of it. So after sprouting my anger, I opened my ears and prepared to receive the message that was for me.

I didn’t take notes then, but I listened.

God is good. He maintains His hold on those who belong to Him.

I accepted His gentle rebuke just as I accepted my anger, outrage and frustration. I know everything in my life works to my good and my life works to glorify God.

Trust that there is a purpose for whatever passion threatens to consume you. Submit your passions to God and He will mold you into the instrument He needs for such a time as this.

Know you are blessed as you walk in your purpose and your passion.

To God be the glory,


SERMON: STILL, SMALL VOICES by Pastor Carter Conlon

Quote: In a place of graciousness

Therefore the Lord will wait so that He may be gracious to you, therefore, He will be exhalted that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice. and blessed are all those who wait for Him.

When you finally discover that you have no strength inside of yourself, that your own palns, mannerisms are not going to work for you in this hour. I will wait for you until you’ve exhausted all your efforts – even righteous efforts – and I will be gracious to you there. In a place of graciousness – a place where the strong and the weak negotiate; and the poor and needed are shown kindness. When you finally run out of gas, I’ll come to you and I’ll speak to you. I’ll speak to you in soft, quiet confident way that will settle your heart and give you the strength to go forward. There is such incredible power in a small, still voice.

~ Pastor Carter Conlon.

Amen. And thank you, Pastor Carter, for being an instrument and a messenger.

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SERMON: Don’t Draw Back by Carter Conlon

Galatians 6:12-18

Some people are trying to force you to be circumcised so the Jews will accept them. They are afraid they will be attacked if they follow only the cross of Christ.[a] Those who are circumcised do not obey the law themselves, but they want you to be circumcised so they can brag about what they forced you to do. I hope I will never brag about things like that. The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is my only reason for bragging. Through the cross of Jesus my world was crucified, and I died to the world. It is not important if a man is circumcised or uncircumcised. The important thing is being the new people God has made. Peace and mercy to those who follow this rule — and to all of God’s people.

So do not give me any more trouble. I have scars on my body that show[b] I belong to Christ Jesus.

My brothers and sisters, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

Hebrews 11: 6  Without faith no one can please God. Anyone who comes to God must believe that he is real and that he rewards those who truly want to find him.

Hebrews 10:38-39 Those who are right with me will live by faith. But if they turn back with fear, I will not be pleased with them.” Habakkuk 2:3–4

But we are not those who turn back and are lost. We are people who have faith and are saved.

Genesis 15:5-6  Then God led Abram outside and said, “Look at the sky. There are so many stars you cannot count them. Your descendants also will be too many to count.”

Abram believed the Lord. And the Lord accepted Abram’s faith, and that faith made him right with God.

2 Timothy 4 3-4  …because the time will come when people will not listen to the true teaching but will find many more teachers who please them by saying the things they want to hear. They will stop listening to the truth and will begin to follow false stories.
Galatians 1:9-10 I said this before, and now I say it again: You have already accepted the Good News. If anyone is preaching something different to you, let that person be judged guilty!

Do you think I am trying to make people accept me? No, God is the One I am trying to please. Am I trying to please people? If I still wanted to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Galatians 5:25-26 We get our new life from the Spirit, so we should follow the Spirit. We must not be proud or make trouble with each other or be jealous of each other.

2 Corinthians 5:17  If anyone belongs to Christ, there is a new creation. The old things have gone; everything is made new!

Additional verse references:

Philippians 4:13

2 Corinthians 11:23-28

Isaiah 38 

Notes & Quotes

“Get up! God sent you here to do a job, get up and get it done.” ~ Brother Troops

Don’t succumb to the unbelief of the moment. Don’t draw back. God called you for this moment.

People will offer you an alternate way – full of religion, but not full of faith. They offer things that require a lot of human effort. Don’t trust it.

You have life in the Spirit, you do not need exterior signs of God’s presence in your life.

If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. Without faith it is impossible to please God. To please God you must first believe that God is.

Don’t believe speech that has no power or no life – man-centered, man-focused. Theses speakers draw to themselves, not to Jesus.

The biggest assault on the Church of Christ is always from within.

I am not going to draw back. I am going to move forward by faith.

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SERMON: If Only David Had Called For His Chariot by Pastor Carter Conlon

Revelation 2:1-7 – To the Church in Ephesus

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.

“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’

1 Samuel 17:23

As he talked with them, behold, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.

All the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were much afraid. And the men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel. And the king will enrich the man who kills him with great riches and will give him his daughter and make his father’s house free in Israel.” And David said to the men who stood by him, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” And the people answered him in the same way, “So shall it be done to the man who kills him.”  ~ 1 Samuel 17:23-27

Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!”  ~ 1 Samuel 17:36-37

Notes & Quotes:

“If you are going to be used of God, you’re gonna have to press through the envy – which is part of the cup of leadership – evil speech. You are not going to get into leadership without this hazing (if I may). You want to lead in the body of Christ, you get prepared for the lies, the rumors and innuendos, the envies that will all come your way. And that will challenge the very core of who you are as a Christian, as a follower of Jesus Christ. Ultimately we are called to represent the one who went to the cross and gave Himself for all of mankind. And said, ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do.’ You will never be a genuine leader in the body of Christ or in the kingdom of God without suffering some of these things.” ~ Pastor Carter Conlon

“God promises to bless, but we make the choices. You make the choices. I make the choices. The blessings are not unconditional. We can’t walk away from God and expect the same blesses we had when we were with him. They can be taken away. Your choices will change your future.” ~ Pastor Carter Conlon

“Press through the unbelief!”

Success is a dangerous place to be – because you can fall asleep.

Candlestick = your testimony; your light; your strength.

Don’t lose your testimony due to your choices.

Additional reference verses:

1 Samuel 18:7-9
Matthew 16:25
2 Samuel 7
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Link to sermon here: The Battle of Familiarity by Pastor Carter Conlon.

August 25, 2013 – We will all fight the battle of familiarity. It’s part of our sin nature to become bored with what we are doing. We can become familiar with the presence of God, ministry and relationships. Today we are reminded that when God touched us He gave us a specific purpose on the earth. It is by the grace of God alone that we will settle it in our heart to finish the race that God has set before us.

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by Pastor Carter Conlon

Click the link to listen: Is The Report of Your Death True?.

Key verses

Romans 6:1-14

So do you think we should continue sinning so that God will give us even more grace? No! We died to our old sinful lives, so how can we continue living with sin? Did you forget that all of us became part of Christ when we were baptized? We shared his death in our baptism. When we were baptized, we were buried with Christ and shared his death. So, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the wonderful power of the Father, we also can live a new life.

Christ died, and we have been joined with him by dying too. So we will also be joined with him by rising from the dead as he did. We know that our old life died with Christ on the cross so that our sinful selves would have no power over us and we would not be slaves to sin. Anyone who has died is made free from sin’s control.

If we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. Christ was raised from the dead, and we know that he cannot die again. Death has no power over him now. Yes, when Christ died, he died to defeat the power of sin one time—enough for all time. He now has a new life, and his new life is with God. In the same way, you should see yourselves as being dead to the power of sin and alive with God through Christ Jesus.

So, do not let sin control your life here on earth so that you do what your sinful self wants to do. Do not offer the parts of your body to serve sin, as things to be used in doing evil. Instead, offer yourselves to God as people who have died and now live. Offer the parts of your body to God to be used in doing good. Sin will not be your master, because you are not under law but under God’s grace.

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