FULLY ALIVE!

Your life will be as bright as the noonday sun. Job 11:17


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Time to Fret…NOT!

According to the National Cancer Institute, “in 2016, an estimated 1,685,210 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States and 595,690 people will die from the disease. The number of new cancer cases will rise to 22 million within the next two decades.” Cancer is no respecter of persons.  “In 2014, an estimated 15,780 children and adolescents ages 0 to 19 were diagnosed with cancer and 1,960 died of the disease.”

The New York Times reports that “for three quarters in a row, the growth rate of the economy has hovered around a mere 1 percent. In the last quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016, the economy expanded at feeble annual rates of 0.9 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively. The initial reading for the second quarter of this year, released on Friday, was a disappointing 1.2 percent.”  Profit Confidential writes that there are “more than enough indicators to suggest the US economy will come under serious pressure in 2016.” Wages are falling, US companies increasingly rely on foreign sales, the global economy is anemic and roughly one third of American adults have no emergency savings; about half of Americans could only cover their living expenses for about 90 days which means that if they are not already at their breaking point, they’re only about three months away.

Headlines tell us that the distance “overseas” is not as far as it used to be.  Our eyes are on Russia, China and North Korea.  You cannot flip one page of the papers without noticing alarming terrorist activity in Iraq and Syria and signs of expansion that indicate that terrorism may present on US soil in ways beyond even the horrors that we have already experienced.

Economy in Crisis reminds us that we “import tons of food from third world countries that have much lower standards than we do when it comes to food safety.”  According to their reports, we get seafood from polluted Vietnamese waters and unsafe meats from China.  Add to that the currently unknown (or at least unshared) risks of genetically modified foods and the underfunded, overworked FDA that has resources to inspect only 1-2 percent of food imports.  We cannot be sure of what we are eating much less of the safety of what we are eating.

And then, there is the recent US presidential election.  I am actually less concerned about the final outcome and more worried about what the process from campaign to election says about our country – the polarization, the changing values, the mudslinging, the morality (or lack of) of our leaders and would-be leaders, the violence, the fact that “we” have not overcome but rather are just as divided across race and ethnicity lines as ever.

Time to fret.

Not!

We are commanded in Psalm 37 to fret not.  Specifically, we are told not to fret the evildoers (verse 1) and not to fret the wicked who prosper (verse 7). If we boil it down to the core truth, those are the two things that cause us to fret the most – the evildoers and the appearance that the evildoers are growing, prospering, winning.

Look to 1 John 5:4-5 (ESV) and be reminded, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

Fret? No. Believe? Yes!

Appearances can be deceiving and, if our eyes are upon the world rather than upon the Creator of this world, we will fret. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3, ESV); “his eyes are on the ways of a man, and he sees all his steps” (Job 34:21), and our eyes are to be on Him. Hebrews 12:2a instructs us to keep our eyes on Jesus.

Fret? No!

Believe? Yes!

Trust? Yes!

Rest? Yes!

 


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Lord, Hear Our Cry

The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation. It was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman.  So, as presidents have formally done every year since 1952, President Obama on today, Thursday, May 7, will issue a proclamation urging our country to “turn to God in prayer and meditation.”

No one can seriously question whether our country – our world –  needs prayer.  We are troubled and in trouble.  Just read the headlines or watch a little television as I did earlier today.  Within an hour I heard stories about teens committing suicide because of cyber bullying, women swindling money from unsuspecting men by purchasing fake pregnancy tests, celebrities posing in the nude, men scamming hundreds of thousands of dollars from senior women desperate for love, Syria continuing to use chemical weaponry and families searching for lost loved ones in Nepal.

But I have mixed feelings about this day.  I am not sure we need a National Day of Prayer any more than we need a Black History Month or a Veteran’s Day.  Some things, some people, some history as well as some practices, like praying, need to be a part of every day.  They need to be habit.   I am also skeptical in 2015 of the government’s involvement in prayer.  Yes, the day is part of our country’s heritage born from the first call to prayer in 1775, when the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in forming a nation to the call to prayer by President Lincoln when he proclaimed of a day of “humiliation, fasting and prayer” in 1863.  Those days, those times and those prayers seemed different to me.  It seems there was a time when our country was led by those who truly believed in God, who consistently sought His guidance and faithfully asked Him for wisdom and direction.  Such was the case not just for our national leaders but also the leaders of our cities, towns, communities, schools and churches.  These days?  Not so much.

But according to the National Day of Prayer website, this day “has great significance for us as a nation as it enables us to recall and to teach the way in which our founding fathers sought the wisdom of God when faced with critical decisions. It stands as a call for us to humbly come before God, seeking His guidance for our leaders and His grace upon us as a people.”  This statement is how I have made peace with the day.  And the spirit of this statement is what I pray everyone will embrace – but not just for a day, for always and every day.

The web has been inundated with “model” and “sample” prayers shared for this special day.  These actually might be the first misstep.  Rather than recite a prayer scripted by someone else, I encourage you to embrace the theme of this year’s National Day of Prayer – “Lord, Hear Our Cry.”  Cry out before the Lord sharing what is in your heart.  Don’t worry about the “right” words, embrace the right attitudes – humility and gratitude.  Don’t fret about the “right” posture, pray as the Holy Spirit leads you – standing, sitting, opened eyes, closed eyes, prostrate on the floor.  The theme is not, ‘Lord, Look at Me,’ but rather, “Lord, Hear Our Cry.”

Matthew 6:7 (ESV) reminds us, ““And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.”  On this National Day of Prayer, pray freely.  Pray openly.  Pray passionately.  Pray from the heart, and know that “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles” (Psalm 34:17, ESV).