Thursday, January 29, 2009

integrated prayer

I mentioned that I've given up on the hour-a-day prayer style and I think I'm free enough from the condemnation that it is what "good Christians" do to share about why I think it is more problematic than beneficial for living a Jesus lifestyle. I am by no means saying that we shouldn't pray, but we need to remember that there are many more ways to do it.
I've been reading the gospels a lot lately and have been interested in how Jesus prayed. He did get up early in the morning, but we don't see that he did that every day as many evangelical pastors would encourage us to do. (Some would even want us to drive to the church's building to do it!) He also taught that we ought to pray in our "closets" because it isn't for show. Even more interesting is that he says he only does what he sees his Father doing. How does he know what his Father is doing if he isn't in prayer?
Oh, I guess that begs the question, "what is prayer?" I'd say it is conversing with God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It's talking, listening and responding to the topic at hand. What do you think? What is prayer?
I've realized that I've slowly been integrating this kind of prayer into my daily life. No, I don't knell down and pray each morning. Yes, I do try to "pray continually" as Paul says in 1 Thess. 5:17. No, I don't have a nicely bound prayer journal that I use every day where I list the people I'm praying for. Yes, I do pray for many different people throughout the day as God brings them to my mind.
Sometimes it's rather random. Sometimes it's more structured because I know someone has a specific need at that day or time. Often though, if I see/hear a prayer request I will just pray for the situation right away. If someone calls me and says they need prayer I'll say, "OK, can I pray for you right now." How many times have you ever told someone, "I'll pray for you," and then you never did it. Next time just pray for them right away and then ask God to bring them to your mind again when he wants you to pray again.
I do still love the times when I can have an hour or three with nothing to do but pray and read the scriptures, but I don't plan for that everyday. Often but not always, Naty and I will spend extended time in prayer, reading and meditation on Sundays since we don't have our church's gathering then. It is amazingly refreshing. Take a Sunday "off" sometime and try it.
The past two days we had two snow days so each morning we spent an hour plus reading, journaling and praying. That's quite exciting when you have two young children you are also caring for at the same time!
Aside from the Bible I was reading The Challenge of Jesus by N. T. Wright and The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch yesterday and today. I've read both books before, but I learned so much more from them as I read the past two days. Even getting to that reading was out of some questions and prayers that came as I was reading the Bible and thinking adout making disciples. It's all connected. When you keep asking God questions in the "every day", he'll start to bring you ideas and answers.
So the hour a day idea, well, it's that, an idea. I think it is a good start, but if you only keep your prayers to a certain amount of time at a certain time of day my guess is that's where you'll keep God too. He is uncontainable and we need to let him into all of our days. Reading Hirsch's book today I came across this quote from Romano Guardini's book The Lord, "The task of the Christian consists of transposing Christ into the stuff of his (or her) own daily existence." What better way to do that than to integrate prayer into everything that we do?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

answered prayer (continued)

Saturday we got together with Victalina, her boyfriend Ismael and their son Ismael Jr. Naty made some spaghetti and we had a wonderful meal and spent the entire afternoon talking. They came at 1:00 and left a bit before 6:00. We were supposed to be at a birthday party at 3:00, but just went later. It was so neat to remember "old times" with Victalina and meet the two Ismaels.
Now, we have Ismael Jr. at our house because his mom and dad have started working nights at FedEx so we are babysitting him from 9:00 at night to 6:00 in the morning. We invited them to just move in with us so that they wouldn't have so many expenses, but they decided not to. We'll see how long they both keep working at night. Right now, Ismael Sr. is working two jobs, one during the day and another at night. He doesn't plan to keep it up too long, but while he does, we'll be taking care of the baby at night. Naty loves having a little baby in the house again. So far it's been pretty easy, little Ismael is a pretty good sleeper, he slept all night last night. We'll see how it goes tonight, he's crying right now!
We keep praying, loving and hoping that the whole family will completely surrender their lives to Jesus.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

answered prayer

I've learned to pray differently over the past year or so. I'm not sure if you ever read the book The Hour That Changes The World but I did back about 10 years ago. It basically says that you need to pray an hour every morning to be a good Christian. Well, I spent many years feeling guilty because I couldn't/didn't do that. Over the past two years, I've adopted a more of a pray at all times strategy that I like a lot better. Nothing against the hour every morning people, but that's not me and I'm not feeling guilty about it any more!
Last weekend we had a house church network retreat and spent Saturday afternoon out "on the street" passing out $20 Giant Eagle gift cards to people we thought could use them or get them to someone who could. "On the street" for Naty and I meant driving around in our mini-van with two sleeping kids for two hours taking turns giving out the cards while the other person stayed in the van with the sleeping kids. We got to bless several people, but the biggest blessing to us came tonight.
On Saturday we decided to drive around a neighborhood that we hadn't visited for quite a while and were thinking about a friend of ours named Victalina. Naty discipled and baptized Victalina about 3 years ago when we were still a part of the Spanish church Iglesia Cristiana Hispana. Victalina spent many days and sometimes nights at our house and even traveled to Belleville with us once. Since then she basically disappeared from our lives. We knew that she had a boyfriend and had heard through the grapevine that she had a baby. But had never seen her in about 2 years. Saturday while driving through Lincoln Park we just started to pray for her and decided to drive by the house where she used to live and pray for her and her family asking God that he would reconnect her to us somehow. We prayed that she would come to us, knowing that she knows where we are and that she can come anytime.
Well... while we were driving around Lincoln Park, she saw us! She called Naty tonight to tell her and to ask if she could come and see us again! She said that she was too ashamed to call us because of all that she had done. Naty told her that it didn't matter, we still love her and have longed to see her again. They talked for about a half an hour and she and her boyfriend and eight month old son are going to come to visit us on Saturday! We are thrilled! Thank you God!
Keep praying, it is so worth it!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

making disciples vs. church

It has been a long time since I just sat down and wrote out some of what I've been thinking about discipleship. It's in the blog's subtitle, but lately all I've done is post about our family's travels. We have been doing more than traveling. We have actually made several new friends that don't really know a whole lot about Jesus and living the Jesus life and we are starting to share more with them.
Naty and I have done a lot of thinking and talking during these past two weeks that we had off school about what it means to make disciples instead of just focusing on starting house churches. We've changed our ideas about what church really is, but we still have more to learn about what making disciples means.
Jesus didn't commission us to go and "plant churches" or "go and be the church". He said "go and make disciples". What does that mean? What does it not mean?
The locus of our ministry still centers around gathering. Is gathering discipling? we aren't sure. So this past week we finished up the book of Mark with our little group and talked about what it means to go and "Preach the Gospel to all people." We confessed to our group that we have done more inviting than going and we want to start being go-ers. For us that means that instead of gathering for church at our house, we want to keep gathering at other peoples' houses. We shared an idea that we have about keeping on coaching them as they go and meet with other people, but that we would also like to meet with other people, but don't have time to do it right now. Everything seemed to click so we are going to go in that direction. Eventually instead of meeting weekly with our group, we are hoping to gather monthly for a time to share, celebrate and pray for each others' disciples. We'll see how it all works out.
While this post was in the draft mode yet, waiting to published, our friend Guy Muse, a missionary in Ecuador, wrote about the conflicting visions that we are trying to follow. Naty and I were encouraged by his words and I highly encourage you to read what he wrote. We are so grateful to people like Guy who have been on the disciple making journey longer than us and we deeply long to keep learning more from people like him.

coming home

Here are a few shots of our last day in Belleville and on the way home. The day after we got home Naty got strep throat and was out of commission for two days. Fortunately she's feeling better today!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

happy new year!

Welcome to 2009! Since we were in Belleville we got in on the best New Year's party in town at our church. The youth group did a variety show and then they dropped a whoopie pie to welcome in the new year. Here's the footage for you. It got a little shaky because Naty was scared that she might get some of the splatterings on her!