Beliefnet
Prayer, Plain and Simple

An outbreak of cholera is spreading across central Haiti and raising fears that the dreaded disease could reach the vast tarp tent camps that shelter hundreds of thousands of earthquake survivors in the capital, Port-au- Prince.

By early this morning, nearly 200 people were confirmed dead with Cholera, and thousands more are sick. It’s the impoverished Caribbean nation’s worst health crisis since the massive January 12 earthquake.

“God we pray again for Haiti. We pray for healing for those battling Cholera. We pray for protection against the disease for those exposed to the infection. We pray for a divine intervention to stem this epidemic. God, stop the spread of this horrible affliction. We pray too for wisdom and courage for medical and governmental officials who must make wise decisions regarding this crisis. Bring relief and comfort and eventual healing to all of Haiti. Return this island to the beautiful destiny you have her and her people. In Jesus…”

My friend Jeff was out of work for 18 months. His unique set of experiences, training, and education was both an asset and a liability: In this economic environment is particular field just wasn’t providing many openings for him. It was a painful struggle for Jeff.

But instead of defeat and despair Jeff got creative and began to think outside the box. With the counsel of some friends and consultants Jeff “translated” his unique skill set into a package that fit perfectly need in the marketplace: He became a professional mediator.

Starting a new business is a challenge, and many, even most fail the first year. The risk takes courage, creativity, tenacity, and energy times two! In this present economy many people are finding a need to step outside their comfort zones and launch new careers. Left with dead ends in their own sectors, they are reinventing themselves and starting new businesses – never easy. For all those out there tacking the challenge of a new business, God’s blessed best!

“God we pray today for those launching new businesses and careers. It’s a challenging time in our economy. This presents dangers but also new opportunities. Thank you for the creativity and courage you have given to make these ventures possible. As they have taken steps of faith, give them the energy and tenacity they will need to prevail. Give them perseverance to press through discouragement. Give them hope that their labor will be fruitful. Bring them a team of friends and colleagues who can encourage them the give them wise counsel. Bring them into contact with just the right customers. May their new venture fit a real need. God, bless them indeed!”

 

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Reprieve! Looks like the end of the world may have already happened, and we all blinked and missed it…  It turns out the ancient Mayan calendar, thought be some to predict the apocalypse does not end come to an end on December 21, 2012. That’s comforting news… I suppose.

A new book “Calendars and Years II: Astronomy and Time in the Ancient and Medieval World” (Oxbow Books, 2010) argues that the standard conversions of dates from old Mayan to the modern calendar may be off by as much as 50 or 100 years. This throws the hyped 2012 date off by decades, meaning the deadline may have already passed, or could still be an indeterminate day in the future. Gerardo Aldana, University of California, Santa Barbara professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies headed the new research.

As a Christian I’m curious but unimpressed by end-of-the-world talk. Yes, the Bible teaches that time and space as we experience them had a beginning and will have a specific end, with the return of Jesus. God created. He began the story and will end it. This foundational belief is core to the way we understand the universe, and our own place in it. History is a story… HIS Story… This belief prompts us to live our lives with sobriety and a sense of urgency and yet a settled peace and trust that Jesus has all in hand. In one sense we’re sympathetic to the Mayan doomsday believers – we see an end coming.

On the other hand the Bible tells us not to worry about days and deadlines. We can never know specifics about the ending, Jesus warns us. Instead, he says that we should live with a constant anticipation, always on the alert, holding loose to the moment because the end could be today. Jesus taught us to “Live this day as if it will be our last – in this mode.”

Christians never live with doom or fatality. We don’t live as if this day will be our literal last, but that it may well be our last here and now. Christians have no “end point.” We have no deadlines. We are living forever in a form of existence we cannot now imagine. There is urgency in us, but never panic or fear or dread.

This sense of “ending that isn’t an ending” frames my moment by moment life. I have a lot to complete in my life. But if I don’t get to everything – by 2010 or whenever – that’s okay. I’ve pretty much determined that I’ll never learn to play the piano in this life. Okay, I’ll save that for what comes next.

“God, you began things. You will end them. I trust you with the details. I know the end of the story: for all those who lean in and trust you, the tale concludes, “And they lived happily everafter.” I’m living today banking on that premise. In the meantime help me prepare my own life and my character to live forever with you. Help me to live each moment in synch with your Spirit, and while I am here to bring others closer to a relationship with you. The end of the world is coming, but it is not the end. And while I can’t know details and dates, I don’t need to know that. I know YOU, and that is enough. I’ll trust you with the fine print. In the meantime, I’m here and at work at my post. I’m enjoying cups of good coffee, knowing my sons are relishing their stay in Hawaii, watching joy of my daughter staring at her new diamond ring… End of the world… Whatever! In Jesus I live today… and tomorrow securely.”

The Crystal Cathedral has filed for bankruptcy protection. Trustees of the glass megachurch in Orange County decided to file for Chapter 11 after some of its creditors sued for payment. Creditors could be owed between $50 million and $100 million.
Crystal Cath.jpgThe church was started by the Rev. Robert H. Schuller in a rented drive-in movie theater in 1955. Schuller’s ministry rose to national prominence through his television broadcast, “Hour of Power.”  But faced with a $55-million budget deficit and a 27% drop in revenue over the last two years, in January the church began cutting programs and selling property around the church’s sprawling 40-acre Garden Grove campus. Chapter 11 is their latest strategy to attempt to recover the ministry.

In some ways the plight of the Crystal Cathedral exemplifies the status of what some call the “Christendom” expression of Christianity. All over the western world signs of “post-Christendom” are glaringly evident. In small town America, many church buildings are just half full at best on Sunday morning.  In urban centers hundreds of Christian churches are converting to daycare centers or restaurants… or mosques. The massive, ancient cathedrals of Europe are mostly vacant at traditional times of worship. The signs of a decaying tradition are too stark to miss.

But… even while Christendom fades, a new season of faith is rising. New forms of Christian faith are taking root in the very shadows of the declining edifice of an old order. Coffee shop churches, fellowships in homes and college dorms and yes, even on line are opening new forms of and fashions for followers of Jesus to gather, worship, seek and learn and serve in the name of their Lord.

I am sad for the decline of ministries like Crystal Cathedral. Robert Schuller was a pioneer and bold visionary who sought to bring Jesus in a new way to his generation. I am sad to see it struggle. I am sad, but not in despair. The message of Jesus may move through seasons of change, but Jesus always rises to meet the needs and necessities of each generation. Many through history have pronounced Jesus and his teachings “dead and buried.” But always, he rises again! It’s happening now once again. Look around!

“God we thank you for the ministry of Robert Schuller and the Crystal Cathedral. We pray that they will recover from this crisis and continue to find ways to minister to their world. We pray for the creditors who extended trust to this church. Help them recover as well. We pray too for all the many other churches struggling for survival in this new day. We pray as well for the many, many new communities of Jesus-followers finding new ways to express their faith in you. Give them courage and creativity, as Robert Schuller had for his era.  Nothing is sacred but you. Church structures come and go, but THE CHURCH never fades. Bless your Church today, Jesus!”