Dear Juan

Juan
Dear Juan,

I find myself praying for you in the mornings before the sun rises.  I whisper your name and pray for blessing, encouragement and provision.  Mostly, though, I pray for God to put a new song in your heart.  I remember those early mornings when your face was the first thing we saw at our door….. face beaming in the already hot, tropical sunlight.  You were aglow, knowing you were loved because God had given you a new song in the early morning hours.  And so I pray for new songs, whispered by the breath of God, come alive with your gift of music.

You played for me, entertained us for hours with your gift.  I loved making beautiful harmonies with the melodies you sang out.  You filled our house away from home with music, life and laughter.

You became my teacher.  I couldn’t ever quite grasp the Cuban rhythms or phraseology of some of your songs… but you taught me of simplistic faith.  Stripped of luxuries, comforts, conveniences and companionship, you were a shining beacon of simple faith.  You showed me what it means to follow Jesus without baggage and with total abandon.

You became my friend.  You took such care of our family, always putting us first.  You asked for nothing in return.  I crave the meals you made for us….. your meals taste like Cuba to me.  Mostly, though, I miss the hours spent around the table, talking and praying, playing and laughing.  Those were holy moments.

You became my brother.  You were the form of the body of Christ at her best…. laying aside all self-interest and loving me, your sister in Christ, as yourself and more.  I never doubted you would lay down your life for me, not even in the beginning.  I don’t know the exact moment we became family.  Maybe it was my life-altering moment on the roof?   But I feel that you are my brother with every fiber of my being.  My brother.  My brother.  My brother.  What more fitting a label than that?

I miss you.  We all do.  Our family talks of you often.  We wonder what you’re doing, who you’re with, whether you have food and money for transportation.  But I know down to my core that wherever you are…. whatever miles you are walking on long dusty roads to serve…… I know that you are not alone.  I know your Savior walks with you, and I know he is giving you songs.

I only wish I were there to hear you sing them.

Your sister in Christ,

Rachael

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Missed any posts? Here are the most recent:

A Gathering of Prayer Methods

Using the Lord’s Prayer as a Pattern

Dear Dad, Letter 2

A Gathering of Links XVII

links

I hope you are all in the midst of a fantastic week. I haven’t been posting as much around here. Life has been busy but in a good way. We are knee-deep in church planting, which involves meetings, lots of prayer, small groups, teaching lots of kids, cooking, hospitality, planning music, teaching…. on and on and on and on it goes. But I wouldn’t change it for the world. The people on this journey with me are Jesus people (see link below) and I’m having the time of my life.

I have also been taking some time to think and pray about the direction I want to take my blog. I have enjoyed every step of the journey in blogging, and have come to some conclusions along the way. First, I can’t worry about numbers. Whether I have ten readers or 10,000, I want to have quality content reflective of who I am. Also, while the “fun” posts about decorating and fashion may get lots of hits, that’s not my primary goal here. I will post fun things like that from time to time, but my primary goal is to share my spiritual experiences and hopefully offer some encouragement to my readers along the way. If you have any advice for me about what you would like to see more or less of around here, I’m happy to hear it!

Now let’s get to it! Here are my favorite links from the past several weeks. They are fantastic, so take some time to check them out!

Spiritual Inspiration:

Sarah Bessey with In which I am among the Spanish oaks again

From A Deeper Story, Your Story is Worth Finishing.  Amen.

Also from A Deeper Story, an open letter to my proud heart.

From A Deeper Church, Missional Anxieties.

Also from A Deeper Church, The Jesus People.  I have people like this and thank God for them.

From Winn Collier, The Grace of the Short Life.

At A Deeper Family, The Language of Lament.

Food Love:

Design Mom gives us the recipe for the perfect wing.

Marriage and Parenting:

From Narrow Paths to Higher Places, Letters to My Daughter:  On True Love.

From Sarah Bessey, In which I can’t help myself.  This inspired me to take a look at the wonder of my daughters.

Friendship:

From the wild love, a poem is still.  If you aren’t reading Hilary’s writing, I would highly recommend checking it out.

For Fun:

At A Beautiful Mess, An Abstract Painting Anyone Can Make and this adorable guest room cart.

From Jen Hatmaker, Hope for Spicy Families.  Hilarious.

 

Also, my friend Jen at Girl in the Garage is celebrating her one-year blogging anniversary!  Congrats to you!  I love her blog and seeing all the amazing transformations she so masterfully accomplishes!  You inspire me, Jen!

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That’s it for me today.  What have you been reading lately?  Any great blogs or books?  I’m always open to suggestions!  Be blessed!

sig Missed any posts? Here are the most recent:

A Gathering of Prayer Methods

Using the Lord’s Prayer as a Model

Dear Dad, Letter 2

And you can subscribe to Rachael Gathers HERE!

 

A Gathering of Prayer Methods

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Last week I posted about Using the Lord’s Prayer as a Pattern in our prayer time.  This is the model I use most often in my personal prayer time, but I have been studying various other types of prayer in the past few weeks.  I turned to the Bible first and foremost.

Today I want to briefly share five other methods of prayer that I like to use.  I hesitate to say “method” in the same sentence as the word “prayer” because I don’t think it’s necessary to have a formula to talk to God.  At the same time, I like to search scripture to see how others have connected to God in their prayers throughout church history.

I recognize that this isn’t a complete list.  This is just a launching point for me and hopefully will motivate someone to think of prayer in a different way.

1.  Intercession

I Timothy 2:1:  First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all people.”

Intercession is defined as the action of intervening on behalf of another.

When we intercede, we stand in the gap for someone who isn’t able to pray for themselves or when God simply calls us to pray for someone with a pressing need.  Jesus was the ultimate intercessor when he stood in our place on the cross.

Isaiah 53:12:  ….because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

In my experience with intercession, I will feel a sudden, urgent burden to pray for a certain person or situation.  Sometimes it happens during my normal prayer time, but it has also happened in the middle of the night or as I go about my day.  I simply can’t shake the feeling and stop what I’m doing to pray until I feel a release from God.  Sometimes I don’t even know what to say in this time of prayer, which is in line with Paul’s words in Romans 8:26:

For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

I have learned from experience that when I feel God is calling me to intercede for someone, it is important to stop and respond to the call.  You never know what difference your prayers may make.

2.  Meditation

I think many Christians overlook this very Biblical form of prayer as not to associate ourselves with many other religions that focus on meditation.  In my opinion, we do ourselves a disservice by ignoring the practice of meditation.  Meditation is mentioned throughout scripture and is especially prevalent in the book of Psalms.  David was called a man after Gods’ own heart and spent much time meditating on the greatness of God.  Perhaps we will understand the heart of God more clearly if we too spend time pondering his greatness and beauty.

In my personal experience, meditation is also important because it forces me to close my mouth and listen.  What kind of relationship do we have with God if we are the ones doing all of the talking?  Psalms 46:10 says… be still and know that I am God.  I think there is a level of knowing God that comes only in stillness.

I always have a journal handy during my quiet times of prayer in case I feel God speaking something to my heart.  I love to read back through my journal and see how God spoke something through scripture or through the Holy Spirit when I needed it most.

3.  Common Prayers

Common prayers are very new to me.  As a Pentecostal, common prayers weren’t part of my particular church culture.  My step-father told me, however, that in his Apostolic Bible college, they often prayed common prayers.  They are basically prayers that can be read together by a group of people.

I find common prayers particularly beautiful and meaningful, knowing that millions of Christians have prayed the same words, based primarily in scripture, for hundreds of years.  There are many resources out there for common prayers.  I have taken several of them and altered them slightly for my own personal use.  If you would like a copy of the morning, midday, evening and night-time prayers I use, please e-mail me at rachael@wearegathering.org or comment below.  I will be happy to send you a copy.

4.  Lament

Jim Wilson from the Soul Shaping Bible study defines lament as “inviting God into your sorrow and experiencing His presence in the depths of your pain.”

I don’t think God expects us to come into his presence in prayer and ignore or try to hide our pain.  God wants transparency and can be with us in even the darkest times.  I encourage you to further study the spiritual discipline of lament.  It has transformed my prayer life.  Studying lament has shown me what my heart already knew…. that the times I have felt closest to God were the times I was suffering the most.

If you want to see examples of lament in the Bible, check out Jesus’ prayer in the garden before his crucifixion, the book of Lamentations, Job or Psalms.

5. Praying Scripture

Hebrews 4:12 tells us The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Some of the most powerful experiences I have in prayer are when I take scripture and use it to pray for myself, others, or specific situations.  We can claim promises from scripture, speak blessings, exercise our authority over the enemy, and encourage ourselves when we pray scripture.

Many times when I am praying, I feel led to read a certain passage of scripture.  I will then pray about the application of that scripture to my own life, my family, my church or the church body as a whole.  There are so many online resources for praying scripture.  I will recommend a few:

http://www.kenboa.org/text_resources/free_articles/5399  This is a huge collection of scriptures to pray, divided by category.

http://www.circleofmoms.com/christian-mommies/scriptures-to-pray-over-your-children-259246  From Mom Circle, this is a fantastic list of scriptures to pray over your children.

http://www.memverse.com/ This is a free online tool to help memorize the scriptures of your choice.  What better way to pray scripture than to memorize them!

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I know this was a long post, but I had a lot of information to share!  Do you utilize any of these prayer methods in your prayer time?  What other types of prayer do you use?  I would love your feedback!

(Follow Rachael Gathers HERE!)

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Using The Lord’s Prayer as a Pattern

Lord's-Prayer

When I reflect on my life and progression as a follower of Jesus, few things show such marked growth as my prayer life.  I don’t say that to impress you, let me assure you.  My prayer life has highs and lows, lulls and progressions, and even shallowness and depth.

My parents taught me to pray by example.  They were a praying set.  One of my fondest memories of my dad is hearing him in the prayer room before church, praying in Spanish.  Now I often do the same.  My early prayers were typically selfish and short, but I imagine God was pleased that I was talking to him at all.  As I grew up, I prayed for longer periods of time, with a bit more consistency and more on the behalf of others.

In my teenage years, I heard a message on using The Lord’s Prayer as a pattern in our prayer lives.  My prayers have never been the same.

Just think about it, the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.”  Jesus himself responds and says, “pray like this.”  Whatever follows the “like this” is pretty important in my book.  Jesus wasn’t asking us to recite word for word the prayer time after time.   He was giving us an important glimpse into the spiritual realm and how we should be spending our time in communication with God.

Here is my very brief take on using the Lord’s prayer as a pattern. (You can see Matthew 6 and Luke 11 to read the prayer in context.)  There is a lot of information on this topic in books and online if you’d like to know more.  I also have a printable guide to stick into your Bible.  If you’re interested, e-mail me at rachael@wearegathering.org

Our Father in heaven

We recognize we are talking to our heavenly father who loves us and wants what is best for us.

We acknowledge this and thank him.

Hallowed be your name

A time for worship and praise.

His name deserves to be glorified.

We enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven

We align ourselves with the plan and purpose of God.

Not my will but yours be done.

Pray for God’s kingdom to come to our lives, our church, & our world.

We desire to glorify God by making disciples of all nations.

Give us this day our daily bread

A time to bring our requests before God.

Recognize he knows what we need before we even ask.

Our requests should align with the plan of God.

And forgive us our debts as we have also forgiven our debtors

Acknowledge any bitterness or anger we are harboring.

Forgive the person and pray for them.

Only then do we repent and ask for forgiveness.

We turn away from our sin toward God.

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil

Pray for the enemy to have no place in our lives.

Pray for God to empower us to walk in righteousness and holiness.

(Doxology) For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen.

We can end our prayer with worship and praise.

We ask all in the name of Jesus.

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There are a few components of the Lord’s prayer that are important to notice.  First, notice the pronouns.  Jesus used “our” and “us” instead of “my” and “me.”  We should not be selfish in our prayers!  Including others in every component of our prayer time allows others to benefit from our prayers.  I often pray on behalf of my family, my community, my church and the global church.

As I have matured a bit in my prayer life, I have recognized that most of this pattern in the Lord’s prayer is devoted to getting my heart right.  I used to spend so much time praying for my list of wants and needs.  Now, I spend the majority of my time in repentance, acknowledging that God is Lord of my life, and aligning my life with HIS purpose and will.  When I take the time to get my heart aligned with the plan of God, my requests naturally are in alignment with his will.  When I am in a flow of the Spirit during my prayer time, I don’t necessarily have to spend an hour giving God my list of requests.  I simply speak them in faith, believing that God knows what I need before I even ask.

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There are certainly other forms of prayer, some of which I will cover in a post next week.  However, the Lord’s Prayer is what I come back to time after time in my prayer life.  I pepper in meditation, journaling, intercession, common prayers, and praying Scripture, but the majority of my prayer time follows this simple yet profound pattern.  Who, after all, is more qualified to teach us to pray than Jesus himself?

What about you?  Do you use the Lord’s Prayer as a pattern during your prayer time?  What other forms of prayer do you practice?  I would love your feedback!

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Missed any posts?  Here are the most recent:

Dear Dad, Letter 2

Gathering Fashion Inspiration

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Dear Dad, Letter 2

Dear Dad,

I have seen the photos so many times…  you as a little boy, living in a foreign land I couldn’t even fathom.  The stories of your childhood delighted and enchanted me, although you were never the source of the magnificent stories.  They usually came from Grandma or Mom, glimpses into a life that seemed impossibly far from the life I shared with you. You were quiet about your undeniably challenging childhood.  But those stories I heard made you superhuman to me…. special, special, special.  I wanted to be like you.  I wanted people to tell stories about my life in a faraway land, full of challenges and adventure.

Cuba2 Cuba3

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It was a typical day for us in Cuba…. October 29th, 2012.  You had been gone for 15 years and we had been traveling to Cuba for the past five.  Our little family was bouncing along the Cuban roads in a church van filled with various Cuban pastors and friends.  One of them?  Your friend, Armando Roca.  He has become a friend to us, Dad.  He has been our guide, translator, cultural adviser and endless source of entertainment.  I had asked Bro. Roca several times to take us to the house where you lived in Cuba.  He always assured me it was so close, yet he always postponed it for another day.

This day was different.

Sometimes I wish I had a little warning for the big moments of my life, just so I could prepare myself emotionally and mentally.  I had no time to prepare for turning the corner and seeing this house.

Cubahouse
The funny thing, Dad, is that this house was within walking distance of the house where we always stay in Havana.  I had probably walked and driven by it multiple times.  But this was the moment that God chose to introduce me to my past.

Do you recognize it?  In spite of the weathered exterior, the unsightly fence, damaged roof and the overall neglect…. surely you recognize your childhood home.

I can’t describe the depth of my desire to sit down and talk with you about your life here… the very same town where we do much of our work in Cuba.  I know bits and pieces… how you went to an English school, played on the grounds of the famous Tropicana, the way you could hear the music late into the night.  I know about the humidity and the hard work of planting a church, the language that was as natural to you as English.

But Dad, I long to know what it was like for you.  Did you love Cuba the way I love Cuba?  Did it feel like home the way it feels like home to me?  Did you realize you were right in the middle of history and a brewing revolution?  Did you leave behind people you love the way I have left behind those I love?  Did you walk along the Malecon, breath taken away by the magnificent beauty of the ocean beating against the sea wall?

I had mere minutes at your house.  Some day I will go back, introduce myself to the owners and stay to soak it all in.  On October 29th, 2012, I had brief, hurried moments.  You can tell by the photos how rushed we were, what a whirlwind it all was.  But our photo, taken just steps away from your photo, is a prized possession.

Cuba cubafamily

House 3511.  In a city we both call home.

Love,

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Read Dear Dad, Letter 1 HERE!