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Tag Archive: prayer


He walked through the streets in darkness,

Homeless but not alone,

A man on a mission of reverence

beyond the mundane chore of survival,

in a spirit of grace and mercy.

___

He stopped at Johnson’s Laundry

With it’s Closed for Christmas sign,

He knelt on the sidewalk outside the door,

Quietly saying the Lord’s Prayer,

the only prayer he knew.

___

Thanking “Papa” Johnson

For the clothes left unclaimed,

He left a small package – a crude, homemade cross

With a card on which was scrawled,

“Merry Christmas, from Jesus.”

___

Next was Garcia’s Grocery

For the leftovers not yet spoiled

He knelt and prayed –

Another crude cross,

And the card, “Merry Christmas, from Jesus.”

___

Ten blocks later, Miller’s Hardware,

For his sturdy, cardboard box dwelling,

and timber for his bed,

A kneel, a prayer, a larger crude cross,

And the card, “Merry Christmas, from Jesus.”

___

Too far from home, the mission closed,

He found a bench in the park,

after a passerby bought coffee

and he walked – recalling forgotten memories –

without knowing what they meant.

___

Early the next morning on Christmas Day,

he fought the wind and rain,

through the cold streets to the mission,

where Christmas dinner was served, the soul sustained,

and life again had purpose.

___

The rain stopped, the wind died down,

as he trekked on home,

home – an alley behind the church

white and made of stone,

with a view of the cross on the wall.

___

He turned into the alley

and stopped in his tracks.

Where his cardboard box had stood,

was a sturdy lumber shack,

with a roof, a window, and a door.

___

He opened the door to a sturdy wooden cot,

An orange crate table, his few possessions inside,

with something new on top.

A suit of clothes hung on a hook,

with the laundry marker still on it.

___

He closed the door because he could,

he’d forgotten what it felt like.

Walking to the table he turned on the lamp,

it had been years since he had his own light,

but then his breath went away.

___

Also on the table sat a Bible, brand new,

inscribed with a name he hadn’t used in years,

next to a picture of a family he’d forgotten he had.

He stood staring at them, his mind racing,

memories bombarding his thoughts.

___

He sat on the cot and picked up the Bible,

after staring at the picture a while.

He ran his fingers over the only thing he owned

that wasn’t worn by wear or weather,

with emotions he couldn’t control.

___

Through tears, with shaking hands,

he opened the Bible and read

“Merry Christmas, from Jesus.”

___________________________

© 2009  Daniel L. Roark

Merry Christmas!

Peace be with you.

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Cyndy and I went out in the backyard the other day and discovered that one of the guinea hens from next door had overshot the top of the fence and found herself in our yard. She did not seem interested in exploring our back yard. She seemed intent on finding a way back to her yard, but clueless as to how to do so. She would strut in small circles, moaning with soft clucking sounds between the rose bushes and the fence.

Suddenly, the guinea hen would run for about ten feet along the fence. She would look startled and confused before racing back to where she began. Then she would begin the whole routine over again. As she ran down the fence, she appeared to be looking intently at the fence as if a hole  might open up at any time for her to escape through.

We did not let our dog, Misty, into the backyard for fear she would scare the guinea hen to death – literally. We were not exactly sure what Misty would do. So the hen spent several hours going through the same routine over and over again. Then our middle son, Cameron, let Misty out and she headed for the guinea hen, who flew back over the fence.

Which made me wonder why she did not fly back over in the first place. The obvious answer would be fear and panic. But that’s what made her finally fly back over. Did she continually go through the routine because she secretly enjoying the change, but was worried because she smelled Misty?

As Christians, we find ourselves in difficult situations we have placed ourselves in. When we overshoot a fence we should not be crossing in the first place. We find ourselves pacing back and forth, wasting energy, wondering where God is and why he doesn’t answer our prayers. We look expectantly, as if we will see a “hole in the fence” magically open up so we can walk into a parallel universe in which our problem is solved. But there is no parallel universe – only the one God created.

When God does not answer our prayers in the manner in which we would prefer they be answered, we begin to fear God. We begin to think that if he is not answering our prayers he has an agenda that may well be detrimental to our own, insignificant, agenda. Or even worse, that he is not thinking of us at all. So we keep pacing back and forth by the fence, calling out to any mortal who can hear us.

The fear begins to consume us. Finally, in desperation, we bypass the thought  processes and give ourselves to God’s grace and mercy. The fear pushes us beyond the limits of thought and instinct (understood here as faith) takes over. Surrendering to God’s will, we flutter over the fence and back into familiarity and home, where God put us in the first  place. God gave humans intelligence, but free will keeps us in doubt. We should work on dispelling the doubt and keeping the faith.

Peace be with you.

As I mentioned in my previous post, my Aunt Juanita’s funeral was last week. I wrote about my uncle, Jack,  in a post when he died the first week in April.  Our son, Cameron, took this picture of Aunt Juanita at Jack’s funeral with the flag from his casket. After he took the picture, I told her I would come to see her soon. But I never got the chance.

A couple of days later, she stumbled and fell. No bones were broken, but we think she had at least one mini stroke. She became bed-ridden shortly after that. She was coherent some of the time, but she had to be fed and helped by a nurse. It was not long before she could no longer walk to the bathroom by herself. I wanted to go see her, but I was not sure if she would recognize me or be able to have a conversation.

It has been hard on Dad, watching his oldest sister deteriorate. He did not want her to linger if she no longer had her faculties. A couple of weeks after Jack’s funeral, Dad called her to talk about getting things in order pertaining to Jack’s will. At the end of the conversation, Juanita said she wanted to ask Dad something.

“Where’s Jack? Is Jack dead?”

Unfortunately, she did linger after that. From what my parents have told me, they never knew if Juanita would know who they were when they visited on Wednesdays. Sometimes she was coherent and other times she seemed to not have a clue. Which was doubly hard on Dad. He and I talked about praying for her and not knowing what to pray for. We simply prayed that God’s will be done.

Two weekends ago we got the call from Mom that Juanita had passed away. Well, not so much passed away as simply went to be with Jack. They were married for 68 years. When Jack  died, the thought was in the back of all our minds that she might not be able to live without him. Though she said before Jack died that she wanted to try to live alone if he died first.

Naturally, I’ve been recalling memories of Jack and Juanita. They were a natural pair – deeply in love, and devoutly Christian. I think she was re-living their marriage the whole time and her body just had not given up yet. On some level she wanted to keep going, but the urge to be with Jack was just too strong.

There is something sweet and precious about a love that is so strong that the couple cannot be separated for very long. But, at the same time, there is something rather tragic about it.

Peace be with you.

[Find part one here.]

Immediately upon spotting the gun, Antonio felt the man’s left arm come around and clamp his chest under his chin, reclaiming his vise grip on Antonio’s right shoulder. Although he  had an urge to turn his head to see where the pistol was pointed, the preacher decided instantaneously that it would not be the wisest choice he could make. His heart was beating so fast that it seemed determined to fly out of his chest. At the same time his brain struggled between telling his eyes to close tightly to feel the barrel of the gun should it be pointed at his head, and telling them to remain open to eliminate the element of surprise.

Francis dropped the coffee pot, which shattered, sending hot coffee and shards of glass onto her shoes and legs. Her fear of the man holding Antonio and the gun offset the pain in her legs. That, and she was praying harder than she ever remembered praying. She wondered if it would matter to the gunman if he knew Antonio was a preacher.

The instant the coffee pot shattered, Fred Martinez, the owner of the truck stop who was still at the cash register, stepped on the floor alarm under the register that signaled the police. He always had unruly customers, but he had the alarm installed when a late night birthday party got  out of control. With the use of credit and debit cards, the truck stop never had enough cash that he thought someone would rob the place at gunpoint. Especially with all the glass and traffic.

“Pull down the shades, and turn the sign around!” the gunman demanded, pointing the gun at Francis – who fought hard against the fainting spell, which along with her fear, was turning her legs to jello.

Francis was not sure how her legs kept moving, but she moved toward the windows as quickly as she dared. As she reached up for the shade on the last window by the door, she spotted Steve Striden at the pump putting gas in his blue Ford F150. He looked around toward the restaurant. Francis tried to catch Steve’s eye as she pulled down the shade. She turned the open sign around in the window, glancing again toward the pump.

“Lock the door,” said the gunman, who had backed up against the wall dividing the restaurant from the store. “Now this one,” he said after she locked the front door, nodding to the door to his right.

The gunman still held Antonio in front of him. Antonio had said so many prayers they had turned into one long prayer. When the gunman had relocated – pulling Antonio with him – the preacher nearly lost his balance. He was sweating buckets and knew the gunman was, too.

Antonio was struggling to keep his bladder in check against the fear and coffee. But that did not keep him from noticing that the man with the gun and arm around his chest was getting nervous. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

Which was when someone dropped something in the kitchen, Antonio felt the gunman twitch as he pointed the gun toward the kitchen, the gun fired, and Antonio’s ears rang.

The beginning of my aforementioned “fortunately…unfortunately” week was a week ago yesterday, when the computer crashed as I was starting to backup the most recent files. I only lost the recent files, which was regrettable and annoying, but not a major loss. I did not know I lost the files until I took it to the technician. The saga that ensued made the loss of files irrelevant.

I took the computer in on Monday morning. He kept saying he would call me at a particular time, but I had to call him back each time. The last time I called Monday evening he was about to install the operating system. I asked him if he would get the files off of the hard drive first. Meaning no computer for another day.

Tuesday afternoon when I called, the tech ask if I had a flash drive to copy the files to. I drove back up to the store with my external hard drive. Which is when I learned what files were missing. Or so I thought at the time. Suffice it to say, the tech was off on Wednesday which made Thursday afternoon the earliest I would possibly get my computer back.

Which was maddening. Our middle son, Cameron, let me borrow his computer in the meantime. Which helped me get online, pay bills, and so forth. But without the programs I needed, I could do little else. I was still in limbo as to whether they would be able to retrieve my files from the hard drive or not.

Trying to concentrate on writing was more difficult than usual. My mind kept wandering,  thinking of software I would have to replace or find the installation disk for. Thinking of files I was not sure were included in my last backup. And simply feeling completely out of sorts because my routine had been upended and thrown into the corner behind the waste basket.

Of course I was praying. Even so, I was not sure God, other than being with me through the Holy Spirit and his grace, could provide digital assistance. I did, however, feel the moments of comfort – letting me know God was with me, regardless. Yet the situation dragged on.

I finally got my computer back and re-installed most of the programs. Which extended the period of feeling out of sorts with no control. Hours upon hours of waiting for files to load and  updates to run. Having to restart my computer for the changes to take effect and wait for even more updates to run.

Everything seems to be loaded and running at the moment. At least until I think of some other program I no longer have and need to load again. There was one odd thing though. I was going through the file containing  what the technician retrieved from the hard drive. I figured if there was nothing in some of the files, I might as well delete them. Fortunately, I started with an insignificant file.

When I hit delete, I found myself waiting for the computer to delete thousands of files that were not supposed to be there. Which would explain why they could not find anything on the hard drive after he had transferred the files. It also leads one to think that the files are potentially retrievable. So after I sufficiently recover from last week’s episode, I’ll find someone who can possible retrieve them. I don’t want to get my hopes up and have them trampled on again any time soon.

But come to think about it, maybe God has gone digital after all.

Peace be with you.

I wrote an earlier post about the hens next door (the rooster, thankfully, has found a new home elsewhere). Our neighbors now have four different colored hens which are white, tan, black, and grey-striped. The black hen recently discovered she could fly over the fence into the front yard. Her choice of direction for her escape was quite intentional. Dogs could be heard barking on the other side of the fence of the other three sides of the backyard.

The hen has taken to wandering from her yard through our yard to the yard on the other side and back again, pausing at length under the bush at the far corner of our house. She also likes the bush next to the front door. She struts so close to the house that we can hear her clucking from inside. When I walked out the front door the other day, the dust flew as she scampered away from behind the bush. Unfortunately, she gives our dog, Misty, added incentive to try to escape when someone opens the door.

In the past few days, the black hen has become more curious and adventurous. She was wandering across the street, exploring the entrance to the driveway across from ours. But she mostly hangs around our front yard and her own. However, when I walked out into the backyard this morning, my assumption that her direction of escape was intentional was torn completely asunder.

The hen was strutting away from me about ten feet ahead. I was glad I had not brought Misty out with me. She strutted around the yard and seemed to be trying very hard to ignore the fact that I was there. As if she just ignored me, I would not notice she was there. She did not cluck at all, presumably so I would not hear her and become aware of her presence. She had acted the same way in the front yard. Yet, even though the hen tried to ignore me, she had to face the fact that I was still there and was not going away.

Which I tend to think is how we are with God at times. “I am just one person out of billions on the planet. Maybe if I try to be insignificant, God will not notice my presence or recent transgressions.” Then, at other times, we wonder why the Lord does not respond when we pray. We cannot have it both ways.

Try as we might, it is beyond our ability to fly underneath God’s “radar.” No matter where we go, God’s presence is always with us. He knows our smallest transgression – and forgives us with his grace. He is present when life is most difficult – supporting us with his grace. We just need to have faith, ask for God’s forgiveness, and accept his grace.

Peace be with you.

When God Seems Absent

There is a rock in the flower bed outside the office door to the backyard. If you glance at it quickly, and use your imagination, it looks like a heart. If you look closer, it still resembles a heart – just a little misshapen. Each day I walk outside (except during inclement weather), I glance over at the rock and take comfort from its presence.

I cannot remember when I saw it for the first time, but I remember seeing it for the first time. It was not one of my better days and seeing the rock cheered me up. I thought it was there for me. A sign that God was with me.

Part of me feels a little silly getting comfort from a seemingly random vaguely heart-shaped rock. Regardless, I still feel that comfort. On a difficult day, when everyone seems to have me in their sights, the rock is still there. Letting me know I am never completely alone.

Then one day last week the rock was gone. There was an indentation in the flower bed where the rock had been. It had rained recently, but there was no corresponding deposit of soil. Our dog, Misty, often buries food and digs it back up later. Cyndy and I thought we knew most of her spots, and she usually covers it back up. Regardless of the reason, the rock was gone.

I felt lost. Which I feel rather silly admitting, but it is true. I walked around in circles, looking for where it might have ended up. The day did not seem right without the rock in its proper place. The rock had been a sign of hope. Was its absence a sign of the opposite? My mood was altered without a discernible reason.

The temperature was beginning to get colder. I would kick around and peer through the grass and leaves, but it was not a thorough search. I would tell myself that it really was not worth it and I would just have to get used to it not being there. But the feeling of emptiness did not go away. When I went back outside, I found myself circling the area again, with the scenario repeating itself.

A few days ago I was searching again – closer this time – and dug up a couple of rocks. I felt around and dug a little further. I do not know what caught my eye or caused me to dig where I did. But there was the heart-shaped rock. I placed it back up in a place of relative prominence near the bricks that border the flowerbed.

I do not know if the rock is from God, but I would like to think he is using the rock – so to speak – to get a message across. If not to me, then through me, by my telling of the story. But I do know that there is a message here – one way or the other.

We tend to take God for granted. We see the signs, and feel strangely warmed, but we simply come to expect them rather than appreciate them. We do not take time to thank God for the grace he bestows upon us. We take the fact that God is always with us, no matter what we do, way too literally. We forget our part of the covenant.

Then something happens and we think God is not there. We walk around in circles, looking for him. We shuffle the grass and leaves wondering where he could be. Then we get desperate, praying that we will find him. After digging a little bit, putting forth effort and praying, God makes himself known to us. Letting us know he never actually left us in the first place. He did not fail us. We failed to live up to the faith God has in us.

Peace be with you.

He walked through the streets in darkness,

Homeless but not alone,

A man on a mission of reverence

beyond the mundane chore of survival,

in a spirit of grace and mercy.

___

He stopped at Johnson’s Laundry

With it’s Closed for Christmas sign,

He knelt on the sidewalk outside the door,

Quietly saying the Lord’s Prayer,

the only prayer he knew.

___

Thanking “Papa” Johnson

For the clothes left unclaimed,

He left a small package – a crude, homemade cross

With a card on which was scrawled,

“Merry Christmas, from Jesus.”

___

Next was Garcia’s Grocery

For the leftovers not yet spoiled

He knelt and prayed –

Another crude cross,

And the card, “Merry Christmas, from Jesus.”

___

Ten blocks later, Miller’s Hardware,

For his sturdy, cardboard box dwelling,

and timber for his bed,

A kneel, a prayer, a larger crude cross,

And the card, “Merry Christmas, from Jesus.”

___

Too far from home, the mission closed,

He found a bench in the park,

after a passerby bought coffee

and he walked – recalling forgotten memories –

without knowing what they meant.

___

Early the next morning on Christmas Day,

he fought the wind and rain,

through the cold streets to the mission,

where Christmas dinner was served, the soul sustained,

and life again had purpose.

___

The rain stopped, the wind died down,

as he trekked on home,

home – an alley behind the church

white and made of stone,

with a view of the cross on the wall.

___

He turned into the alley

and stopped in his tracks.

Where his cardboard box had stood,

was a sturdy lumber shack,

with a roof, a window, and a door.

___

He opened the door to a sturdy wooden cot,

An orange crate table, his few possessions inside,

with something new on top.

A suit of clothes hung on a hook,

with the laundry marker still on it.

___

He closed the door because he could,

he’d forgotten what it felt like.

Walking to the table he turned on the lamp,

it had been years since he had his own light,

but then his breath went away.

___

Also on the table sat a Bible, brand new,

inscribed with a name he hadn’t used in years,

next to a picture of a family he’d forgotten he had.

He stood staring at them, his mind racing,

memories bombarding his thoughts.

___

He sat on the cot and picked up the Bible,

after staring at the picture a while.

He ran his fingers over the only thing he owned

that wasn’t worn by wear or weather,

with emotions he couldn’t control.

___

Through tears, with shaking hands,

he opened the Bible and read

“Merry Christmas, from Jesus.”

___________________________

© 2009  Daniel L. Roark

Merry Christmas!

Peace be with you.

There is a rooster next door. Which would be insignificant if we lived in the country, but that is not the case. The family thought they were buying a third hen. I am not quite sure how that worked, but I have to assume it is possible. The rooster is apparently not so sure himself that he is, indeed, a rooster. His crowing has not been tremendously loud – though still annoying – but it is also not refined. He almost sounds hoarse.

I do not know whether it is attributed to his lack of experience or his cognitive insufficiency, but this rooster has no idea when he is supposed to crow. While he does crow in the morning, the crowing does not coincide with the rising of the sun. He is also prone to crow at any time of day, particularly if the hens are clucking. He began crowing about 11:30 the other night. Apparently, to this rooster, porch lights, airplane lights, or even lightning bugs resemble the sunrise to our neighboring rooster.

The rooster’s annoying crowing got me to thinking that we all go about our daily lives “crowing” about insensitive drivers, people who will not put their phones on vibrate during meetings or services, those who make us wait for no apparent reason, and the person who looks at us as if it is our fault when we know darn well it certainly is not. At the same time, we pray, and ask for God’s help to get us through some – ultimately at least – minuscule situation. A situation which must appear to God as relatively insignificant as those fleeting incidents that tick us off during the day.

All of us must admit that we know someone who constantly crows. About how good a Christian they are perhaps. About how they do not understand why people do not see things their way. And so on and so forth. Unfortunately, we must also admit that we do some crowing ourselves.

When it occurs to me – often in mid-sentence – that I am crowing on, shall we say, I try to quickly change course. After, that is, finishing the sentence that gave my mouth a bad taste. If I tarried too long over the line, my face goes flush with embarrassment. At least it feels like it does. I can recall times in which it was evident in the look on the listener’s face that I had indeed blushed. Their look also let me know that I had been caught crowing. Which made me want to become part of floor and slide away.

Maybe the rooster’s crowing irritates me because he reminds me how irritating I can be sometimes. Even though I’m not the only one he irritates with his incessant shouting. But when I am walking around the backyard complaining out loud about the people who bothered me throughout the day, I feel my face slowly become flushed. If I could see God’s face, I would see that knowing look. The look that makes me realize the only one I am fooling is myself. I am merely crowing needlessly. It then occurs to me that praying sincerely might be a good idea.

Peace be with you.

[Re-posted from former blog.] Christianity in Crisis 21st Century, written by Hank Hanegraaff, published by Thomas Nelson, is a book every Christian should have on his or her bookshelf. I wished I had read Hanegraaff’s first book, Christianity in Crisis when it was published in 1993. It would not have changed my views, but would have given me a source to which to turn for proof in my discussions on the subject. I commend Hanegraaff for having the faith and mission to read and listen to these preachers of fallacies and their obvious distortion of God’s word in order to alert the general populace of Christians – many who have themselves been deceived by prosperity and faith healing preachers.

In the 1970’s, after a night of sitting with my jaw on the floor while watching the 700 Club, Pastor Gene Scott, and the like, I wrote a song called Buy One God (Get One Free) portraying the ridiculousness of the prosperity gospel. At the time, I felt alone in my convictions, not even being able to bring the subject up in church. Now I find that I am not alone – thanks to Hanagraaff and others – but the problem has grown much larger and more ingrained in our society and economy.

It is not necessary that I repeat some of his arguments here – he does an excellent job and you must read it for yourself. Although you will be completely repelled and incensed at the audacity of these false preachers – which under other circumstances would leave you feeling lost and praying that it was not so – Hanegraaff points out the fallacies, which offsets the discomfort brought on by their demented interpretation of scripture.

In chapter seven, Back to Basics – as well as the appendixes – Hanegraaff leaves the Christian readers with positive thoughts and theology on their journey through the teachings and theology of these false “prophets.” The reader finishes the book with the comfort of knowing that there are those such as Hank Hanegraaff to point out the false preachers and their fallacies.

Peace be with you.

I was given this book by Thomas Nelson for reviewing purposes. I was not required to write a positive review, nor did I receive any compensation other than the book itself.

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