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Prayer, Plain and Simple

Prayer, Plain and Simple

A Prayer for Domestic Violence

posted by Mark Herringshaw

Shocked, sickened, grieved….

At the moment I’m sitting in my Caribou Coffee shop trying to collect myself. I come here most Monday mornings, and over the months have struck up friendships with several regulars. Five minutes ago Gayle, who works behind the counter walked over to me and pointed to the front page of Friday’s St. Paul Pioneer Press. I’d read the article over the weekend but the name and face hadn’t registered. “Do you recognize her?” she asked me. I paused and looked at the pictures of Pamela Taschuk and Allen Taschuk beside the headline, “Lino Lakes man kills his wife, then himself.” “She comes in here all the time, and talks and laughs with that group of retired guys who always sit around the fireplace. Can you believe it?” she said, shaking his head. Suddenly, the woman’s face looked vividly familiar to me; the tragedy hit home. “God, help her son, Gayle mumbled as she walked back to pour another cup of coffee for the next person in line.

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I read the article again, this time with a sickened heart and far more focus. The report said that Pamela Taschuk had recently complained to officials that she feared her husband who had a violent history might kill her. “Allen is like the guys in the stories you (hear) where the wife leaves the husband and then he kills her,” Pamela Taschuk told police the day she filed for divorce. On Thursday last week, she stopped by the Anoka County attorney’s office to check on the legal case against her husband. Later that evening, she attended a support group for domestic-abuse victims and within two hours of arriving home was dead. The Taschuks leave behind a sixteen year old son.

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I’m prompted to pray – for this grieving and confused young man, for their extended family and friends, and then for all the women suffering in similar situations. Domestic violence is epidemic. Let’s join together now and ask for the tempering peace of God to intervene – at this moment – in the thousands of individual relationships poisoned by the threats and fears of violence. Please join me in this prayer. If you know of someone personally who needs God’s saving hand, add your own words below…  

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“God of peace, there are many places and many people who do not experience your peace. Right now there are many, many women and children who live under the dark weight of the fear of violence right in their own homes. We pray for your protection, and for wisdom for friends and officials to help bring that right protection to them. We pray for the many men who themselves feel powerless and confused about their relationships. We ask that you would help them find healthy ways to work out their frustrations and to find hope without resorting to destructive impulses. God, work in our country to stem this epidemic. We ask for your perfect peace…”

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On Mahatma Ghandi’s Birthday – A Challenge to Pray to a Personal God

posted by Mark Herringshaw

Today is Mahatma Ghandi’s birthday. Ghandi, the spiritual and national father of post-British India is renowned for his none-violent strategies of revolution that led his nation into independence.

In my new book, The Karma of Jesus I tell a story of Ghandi recounted by the Christian writer E. Stanley Jones. Here’s that excerpt.

When the bell sounded at 3:45 AM the pilgrims who had come to Mahatma Gandhi’s ashram in Sabarmati, India rose and silently processed to the river bank to say their prayers. In 1927 Stanley Jones stayed there with Gandhi eight days, and each morning joined the prayer march under the stars. The experience had a profound impact on him. In Christ at the Round Table Jones recalls listening to the droning chants, then the quaint, sad voice of Gandhi expounding on the Bhagavad Gita. He marveled that such a slight man, wearing only a loin cloth of cotton spun on his own wheel wielding nothing more than his own personal discipline, good will and a strategy of non-violent civil disobedience could command such power, a power he imagined might one day bring the mighty British Empire to its knees.

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Following one of these prayer walks Jones approached Gandhi to tell him about the “Round Table” gatherings he had initiated across India where people from many faiths came to share how their religious faith impacted their personal experience. Gandhi seemed intrigued and agreed to have a similar heart to heart conversation with Jones. Jones kept confidential most of the intimate details of their discussion, but he did relay one telling exchange. 

Gandhi began. “The more I empty myself the more I discover God,” he confessed. “The world is a well-ordered machine and we may discover God in obeying its laws, but no miracles are to be expected, and it may take ages.” Gandhi then went on to acknowledged that he hadn’t yet found spiritual enlightenment. Jones recalled reading a steely determination and what he named “noble despair” in the pundit’s eyes, as if he had braced himself for a long uncertain struggle.   

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When Stanley Jones returned to his own cottage near the compound’s spinning room, Gandhi’s words haunted him. “The world is a well-ordered machine… No miracles are to be expected… No miracles are to be expected…” Was this the best hope from the best of men? If the Mahatma, the “Great Soul” had not found enlightenment, what hope had an ordinary man?

Jones recalled his own experience. 25 years before he too had felt bankrupt and despaired of every reaching God. Then he’d given his soul to Christ, a person, not a machine. At that moment a miracle had happened. He knew it. It had not taken ages. It had taken only a moment of surrender, a simple exchange of life for life. The next day Jones met Gandhi again and he shared this story. The two men walked and talked and wept together, yet each out of very different state of heart.

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Karma exists, Jones concedes. The world is in fact a “well-ordered machine.” But mechanics need not define the baseline. The “Karma machine” might have a Designer, Someone with a will independent from the design itself The “Everything” behind everything could be a Person. Seeing things this way gives the world a very different look and feel.

God is personal. We can meet him and know him and relate through prayer to him personally. E. Stanley Jones’ challenge to Gandhi is also a challenge to us… A challenge to pray!

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Reactions to David Letterman and Roman Polanski: The New Normal?

posted by Mark Herringshaw

I’m perplexed – though not terribly surprised – by the base, tribal audience reactions to the revelation last night that David Letterman has been blackmailed by a woman – among several – with whom he had a sexual affair. No surprise there, I suppose. But what disturbed me was the audience reaction – a rowdy, soccerhoodlum level “hoot” explosion of mass approval.

 

What’s gotten in to us? A millionaire in his 60s “sacks” female employees in their 30s… Anywhere else in corporate America this would be slammed as an unethical abuse of power. Sure, it happens all the time, but that doesn’t make it right. And just because a man can make us laugh – often about other people’s sexual improprieties – we offer him a pass and cheer the fact that the “blackmail” is being punished while is sordid and sick obsession for conquest is considered “normal.”

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Take this along with the utterly baffling reactions to Roman Polanski’s arrest from the entertainment and media elite and we might detect a trend: We’re moving from an acceptance of sexual freedom to an acceptance of sexual abuse. Troubling,to say the least.

 

I’m praying today for an awakening conscience in our nation. This doesn’t begin in the mob, where the problem is detectable. Crowds make up their own rules. I’m praying instead for a stirring of the sense of right and wrong, good and bad, pure and impure in us as individuals. A conscience is a personal thing, but universal in its standards. God has given every human a truth detector built in and he speaks to us about what is and isn’t right and good. He’s codified this in the Ten Commandments but also within our inner conscience. Join me in this prayer: that our own consciences would be sensitized. Taken together enough awakened consciences might save this nation.

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 “God, you have given us a conviction of right and wrong. Forgive us for dulling and rationalizing away our conscience. I ask now that you would give my conscience a “tune up.” Refresh my sense of decency and my detector of truth. Help me to love good and hate evil and to clearly tell the difference. Spread abroad this movement of conviction. In Jesus’ name…”  

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Building a Healthy Spiritual Immune System

posted by Mark Herringshaw

He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love (Ephesians 4:14-16).

 

The H1N1 pandemic – Swine flu – has gone global. Most cases are not critical, but some have proven deadly, especially when the virus weakens an otherwise healthy immune system and the patient contracts a secondary bacterial infection.

 

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H1N1 is also a parable. There’s a wider spiritual lesson to take from the microscopic conspiracy playing out inside the body of anyone of us who battles this sickness. Greg Berglund, a pastor and medical doctor, recently gave me a crash course in virology. What he told me shed new light on the Biblical picture of the church as the “Body of Christ” and the need for that “Body” to sustain health.  

 

Viruses, Greg tells me, are fragments of human DNA and RNA. They are not themselves “alive.” Scientists call them “obligate parasites,” because they are obligated to rely on living cells for mobility and regeneration. Viruses like H1N1 attach themselves to cells and “trick” them into allowing them inside their nucleus. The cell reads the human components of the viruses DNA sequence and wrongly determines its safety. In isolation, a virus has NO potency. But once it hijacks a healthy cell it will ransack the nucleus, and force it to reproduce and distribute copies of the virus’s code. These copies then repeat the process, and the disease spreads.

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Again, viruses have no power unless they are invited in. If the body’s wider immune system fails to detect, early on the true identity of the invader, the individual cell loses the battle – every time. In other words if the Body isn’t healthy, the individual won’t survive an assault from a contaminated environment.

 

Catch the lesson here? Evil forces in the world want to hijack our lives to reprogram our destiny and spread their corruption. There’s a real devil out there a he’s intent on spewing a pandemic of destruction. His weapon – sin – has no power in itself unless, and until, we allow it inside. Once we do, our internal DNA is corrupted and we’re afflicted with a “disease” that compromises our intent. As individuals we can be fooled into opening the door to sin’s infection. Our one hope: a healthy immune system IN THE WIDER BODY of which we are a part. This collective effort can spot the danger and snuff it out, either before infection or if need be, in an all out war after it hits.

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As individual cells can’t survive alone in a hostile environment – they must be part of a healthy body with a vibrant immune system – so we as human individuals can’t survive in a world teaming with spiritual viruses unless we’re connected in a healthy Body – what the Bible calls the “Body of Christ.”

 

Paul’s analogy in Ephesians 4 (above) drives this point home. Throughout his letters Paul uses the phrase “Body of Christ” to describe the entity created when followers of Jesus gather. The Christian community is a LIVING ENTITY. We are individually members – “cells” or “organs” – in this larger system, and Jesus is the “Head.” Together, we make up the presence of Christ himself again on the earth. You and I have a corporate identity that is just as vital and eternal as our individual identity. As Christians we are a “me” and we are an “us.”

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We live in a dangerous world. Look around. Americans today are more angry, fearful and pessimistic than at any time in our collective memory. There’s a pending sense of danger and doom. Something dangerous seems waiting in the wings, a pandemic of paranoia. Do you feel it?

How can we survive living in this toxic environment? We make friends, come together, and secure our relationships with other followers of Jesus. We MUST connect in with a healthy body, a Church community. If we don’t stand together in times like this we won’t stand. There is a devil out there and he’s strategizing to take us down, cell (or individual) by cell. Without the immune system of the whole Body we’re toast…

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Application: Get connected with other followers of Jesus! If you’re fighting alone, you’re bound to lose. Prayer is multiplied in power when we agree with others and make it a collective petition to God. Make this a top level priority right now. Get tied into a community of Christians and leverage the whole immune system of that Body to help you stand against the infection of a dangerous environment. Procrastinating on this can have deadly results!

“God, unite us with each other. We need the power of our collective faith to help us stand against the strategies of the Devil. I pray for every person reading this, that we will find a specific group – even a small group – of fellow followers of Jesus to help us detect and fight the viruses of the enemy. Give us courage and determination to make the changes in our lives necessary to find and cultivate these relationships. Thank you for providing this for us. Thank you for giving us friends. You tell us that life is a team sport. Place us in that team! In Jesus!…”

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