Category Archives: Prayer

Monte Carlo Night: Great Fun for the Holidays…but…No Gambling or Drinking!

Anybody who thinks Sunday school is just for kids has never been to our Sunday school class! In a mega church like Calvary (with about 6000± attendees), it would be easy to get lost in the crowd, so you need to connect with a smaller group of people for friendship and fellowship. Midweek prayer meetings, care groups, life groups, youth groups, music groups…short circles…there are so many ways to engage with other people, but one of our favorites has always been via a Sunday school class. Our class, Heirs Together, has about 120 members and a wide age span, although I think we’re pretty close to the median age with a profile like most of the members, including a similar world view and deep faith although somewhat irregular attendance due to travel, family and health needs. The class has been hanging together for many years, and although the majority have probably been married for 35-50+ years, there is a growing population of singles. (Yes, we’re getting older!)  We have a monthly “event,” and last weekend it was a “Monte Carlo” game night which was super fun and perfect for getting to know people. Therefore, I want to pass it along to you in case you think it also sounds like fun. I’m hoping to try it out over Christmas break when we have many of our kids home, but it could also be used in any group of 8 or more.  I think our Monte Carlo Night was the brainchild of Ed Avink, who’s one of our class leaders and an architect. The only tricky part is that you need groups of 4 people to make it work, and probably at least 8 to make it work well. Here’s how to play: Either number people off into teams of 4 or let them gravitate naturally to a seat at any of the card tables you have set up. We had 17 tables of 4 people, but that’s way more than you need, and actually none of us got to play a hand with everybody.  To prepare, set up a room (or rooms) with one card table, four chairs, 4 score cards, a couple of pens, and a deck of cards on each table. Once people are settled:1. Have somebody at each table shuffle the cards.
2. Everybody takes a cut. The person with the highest card deals. Aces are high. If two people get the same card, then it goes by suit: Spades (highest), hearts, diamonds, and clubs (lowest) 3. Deal out all the cards by going from left to right around the circle. (Should end up with 13 cards per person.) It looks to me like it’s polite to wait until all the cards have been dealt before looking at your hand. 4. Play your hand according to the instructions on the game card. (Obviously, you could make up your own rules and number of hands. Fourteen hands took us close to three hours.) The person to the left of the dealer starts first, but after that, whoever has the highest card wins that “trick” and starts the next round.
5. After all the cards have been played, count your tricks (by team, with your partner being across the table from you) and record your score on your score sheet.  6. The tables are all numbered: 1-??? The two winners move on to the next highest-numbered table and play kitty-corner, so they have new partners for the next hand. The losers stay at the same table they were at but also change positions so that they are sitting kitty-corner and will each have a new partner
7. Play through all the hands.
8. Count up your final points.
9. The winner wins! At our Monte Carlo night, Dean won with some 2,100+ points. The next two tied at 1,900+. Alan and I were in the 1700 range, but some people ended up with 700+, so there’s a huge variation. I’m not sure if anybody needs to know who loses, but there was much admiration for our winner, so that was fun.  Nobody passed out a candy bar or anything as a prize, but everybody brought an appetizer, or a bottle of pop or juice to share, which worked out great, because sometimes you had to wait for the next table to finish before you could play again. Alan and I had several good opportunities for conversations with members of the class that we’d met but didn’t know very well, including one couple that we discovered were married just one month before us (both couples married nearly 46 years now) and had attended the same university, the same year, even living in the same married student housing, although we never met! Best of all, the next morning we learned that one of our newest members, who was widowed last January, shared that the night of our Monte Carlo game night was the night he would have celebrated his 51st anniversary, and he’d been dreading that day for weeks. He said going to the game night and enjoying everybody’s company had turned a terrible night into a blessing for him.  So, if you’re looking for a fun way to celebrate and reach out this holiday season, you might enjoy throwing a Monte Carlo Night! If you do, please let me know how it goes! Or, if you’re lonely and aren’t plugged into a good group for fellowship, let me know, and I’ll invite you to our Carol Sing coming up in December. You are also cordially invited to try out our Sunday school class. Not only is it warm and friendly, the teaching is excellent, and we pray for every request that’s given each week! Let me know, and I’ll tell you when and where . . . and introduce you to everybody! And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).

The Glass Church: Lloyd Wright’s Wayfarers Chapel

If you’re ever in the Los Angeles area and want to spend a blissful day   soaking up the majesty of the Pacific Coast and meditating on our majestic God, consider visiting the “Glass Church.” This National Historic Landmark was built from 1949-1951 by Lloyd Wright (son of the famed architect, Frank Lloyd Wright) as a memorial to theologian Emanuel Swedenborg.
It is beautiful, open to the public, and totally free! Tucked into the hills at 5755 Palos Verdes Drive South in Rancho Palos Verdes, the chapel sits like a silent beacon above the din of traffic . . .and serves as a serene respite from the frenetic pace of Southern California . . .a quiet place to come away and commune with our heavenly Father! The Wayfarers Chapel is both simple and complex. The Glass Church has an elegant, open design
that incorporates nature into its sacred space. But, the complex also has lovely, tree-lined lawns  and plenty of benches where one can sit for a while to rest and reflect . . .  or enjoy gazing out at the vast blue Pacific.  Although I wouldn’t say it’s really a “kid place,”
Alan and I went with our kids and grand children,  and they definitely enjoyed playing with some of the toys in the gift shopas well as meandering along the garden paths breathing in the sweet scents and reading the love stories etched in stone.  Alan and I are having a new addition built for our home.  It isn’t an elegant glass house. (It is a simple sun room.) And, our little lake—though lovely— doesn’t hold a candle to the grandeur of the world’s largest ocean! Nevertheless, beauty is beauty, our Father’s world is glorious everywhere,
and no matter where we live, we all need time to pray and worship!I hope our new addition will offer a warm welcome to all who visit,  and I pray that each of us, as humble temples of the Holy Spirit
(1 Corinthians 6:19), will provide respite for everyone who comes our way! Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty, give unto the Lord glory and strength.
Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name;
worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
The voice of the Lord is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth:
the Lord is upon many waters
(Psalm 29:1-3).

No More Sixteen Going on Seventeen: Meet Number Seventeen!

Last Thursday I left off my tale at the point where my over-due daughter-in-law and I had just spent a marvelous day at Scrovegni Chapel in Padua (Padova, Italy) but had no clear memory of how to retrace our steps to find our car, wherever it had been parked on some side street with a name we couldn’t recall.

Truly, I attempt to practice the advice to “pray without ceasing,”  but normally there are many lapses. Not so this late afternoon! “Which way, Lord? Ah, I remember that shop. Now what? Which way did you say? Down there? Oh, yes, that patch of grass looks familiar. Thank you. Oooo… I don’t remember anything here…” About then Grace would remember something, and together the three of us (Grace and I, led by the Holy Spirit) slowly made our way back to the car.  Thank you, Father! Grace was super tired but still not having contractions, so we drove through quite a thunderstorm the forty miles back to Vincenza, where we were greeted by our family and this rain-drenched rose. We stopped briefly on our way home to buy some herbal teas and other homeopathic medicines the midwife suggested to stimulate contractions, and I picked up a tiramisu to thank the home team for letting us be gone all day. The night passed quietly, but just as we were getting ready to leave for church Sunday morning, Grace’s water broke, and eventually (with the help of two midwives and a lot of hard labor), their new baby was born at home. So, welcome to the family, Baby Marius Rive! His first name is in honor of the character, Marius Pontmercy, who is saved by Jean Valjean in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and later marries Valjean’s daughter. Grace had just finished reading the book and felt that Marius was going to carry on his father-in-law’s legacy of grace and forgiveness. “Rive” is an ancient french word that means “river bank,” and Michael and Grace put the two names together as a blessing and prayer that Marius Rive will be like a river bank to channel God’s grace and forgiveness to others. Isn’t that beautiful?

Channels Only
(Mary E. Maxwell, 1900, Public Domain;
This song is a great favorite of our family)

  1. How I praise Thee, precious Savior,
    That Thy love laid hold of me;
    Thou hast saved and cleansed and filled me
    That I might Thy channel be.

    • Refrain:
      Channels only, blessed Master,
      But with all Thy wondrous pow’r
      Flowing through us, Thou canst use us
      Every day and every hour.
  2. Just a channel full of blessing,
    To the thirsty hearts around,
    To tell out Thy full salvation,
    All Thy loving message sound.
  3. Emptied that Thou shouldest fill me,
    A clean vessel in Thy hand;
    With no pow’r but as Thou givest
    Graciously with each command.
  4. Witnessing Thy pow’r to save me,
    Setting free from self and sin;
    Thou who bought me to possess me,
    In Thy fullness, Lord, come in.
  5. Jesus, fill now with Thy Spirit
    Hearts that full surrender know,
    That the streams of living water
    From our inner man may flow.

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.” (Isaiah 41:17-19)

In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
(John 7:37-38).

Good Friday: Practicing the Resurrection Principle

Are you anxious about some challenge in your life? Good Friday is the perfect time to remember the Resurrection Principle, which a friend shared with me from Reader’s Digest. By the way, do you ever read Reader’s Digest? My parents subscribed when I was a child, but I didn’t even know it was still in existence until I looked it up today on Wikipedia and read that it’s the largest paid circulation magazine in the world. So, maybe you’ve read all about the Resurrection Principle already, but if not, let me pass along what my friend suggested: “Prayerfully wait three days before becoming anxious about any problem, because most of the time, the problem will be resolved.”

At first I thought, “What? Usually only the most insignificant issues are resolved in three days unless it’s good news about a test or something.” As I considered the challenges in my life that tend to make me anxious, I felt like almost all of them are long-term, on-going difficulties which are out of my control and often take years to resolve. However, it occurred to me that Christ rose again after three days, and that’s the most significant resolution of any problem in the world!

So, like leprous Naaman in 2 Kings 5, I decided to try the Resurrection Principle and see what happened. I found that prayerfully waiting three days rarely brought a clear resolution that chased the clouds away and left me with no further need for faith or dependence on the Lord. However, as I practiced praying earnestly for three days before freaking out, I discovered that most problems were resolved in this way: I learned to lay them down at the feet of Jesus and find peace. It is completely worthwhile to follow 1 Peter 5:7, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

Does God love us? Yes. Does God have the power to help us? Yes. Will God answer our prayers in a way that makes us more like Christ and brings glory to Himself? Yes. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).If you’re struggling with anxiety this Good Friday, why not start practicing the Resurrection Principle? Develop the habit of praying earnestly for three days before you allow yourself to give in to anxious thoughts. Hopefully, this will keep you from jumping on the anxiety roller coaster at all, and perhaps you, like me, will more often be able to find a sense of serenity and rest even in the midst of life’s battles, knowing that God loves us, hears us, and will answer our prayers! Let’s allow the resurrection power and ministry of Christ to flood our souls with light in the darkness, transforming us from anxious souls into spiritual beings.

The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him” (Lamentations 3:25).

Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

(Thanks to Bob Hardee for the two photos with scripture verses imprinted on them!)



You Must Strengthen Your Core!

Here is a meditation and some beautiful photos that my friend Charylene Powers shared with me, with a spiritual analogy that the Lord gave her during her morning prayer time recently. As the end of 2017 approaches and we consider where we’ve been and where we’d like to go next year, perhaps this will encourage us.

From the side of the therapy pool my Back Splash instructor looks down at me with compassion and understanding in her eyes and says, “You MUST strengthen your core.”  It is a bone chilling January morning. As I back out of my driveway, the snow crunches under the weight of my car tires. I’m leaving for the MVP therapy pool in the darkness of early morning. My back pain has pretty much put a halt to life as I have known it. Immersing myself in the warmth of the therapy pool every morning is about all I can do.  One morning a week, I am attending a Back Splash class offered at MVP. There are usually ten ladies in attendance; all of us with muscle and joint problems. Our instructor directs us to the deep end of the pool, which prevents us from touching the bottom of the pool.  She continues to instruct us saying, “place the swim noodle under your arms and hang straight down, straight as a pencil, back straight, legs together. Look straight ahead; your head is the eraser.” These instructions sound easy enough. However, as I try to follow her directions, my legs float off to the right. I struggle in the water trying to control my body, and I attempt the pencil formation once again. This time my legs float off to the left….and this is when I hear, “You MUST strengthen your core!”   After weeks of daily trips to MVP and attending my Back Splash class, faithfully practicing all the exercises that I am being taught, I am finally able to hold a perfect pencil formation as my instructor counts off the seconds.  Spring is approaching, I am back on my bike….riding down the bike path, enjoying a strengthened core and the freedom that brings.   I have another core: My spiritual core. How do I strengthen my spiritual core? The same way that I strengthen my physical core. Daily, I must practice the spiritual disciplines that keep me on the path that God has asked me to walk. “Not turning aside to the right or to the left.”  In Celebration of Discipline, R.J. Foster tells us “God has given us the Disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of receiving His grace. The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that He can transform us.”  ……hence as I practice spiritual disciplines, it is God who strengthens my spiritual core.   As I read and mediate on God’s Word, the Psalmist tells me, “His Word is a lamp to my feet, a light to my path.” The path God has chosen for me. “The Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” This is my powerful promise from God.  Prayer is how I communicate with God. I hear His “gentle whisper” and feel His “Divine nudging.” In Luke one of the disciples asks, “Lord teach us to pray.” The Lord will teach me to pray as He taught His disciples. When I do not know what to pray the Holy Spirit directs my thoughts. The more I pray the more, I long to pray and “praying without ceasing” becomes a reality in my life not just a desire.   Fasting has been a part of the Christian tradition for centuries. It is a discipline that Christ talks about in Matthew… “when you fast.” Why am I not pursuing this discipline like I do the other disciplines? Probably because I think it sounds like too much work and sacrifice. Maybe this is the discipline that would bring me closer to God ….. The key to my success in strengthening my physical core has been my daily trips to our health club and practicing all the exercises my caring instructor has given me….hence leading to the healing of my body and the freedom that brings.

The key to my success in strengthening my spiritual core is the same: Daily coming to my heavenly instructor and embracing the spiritual disciplines that He is teaching me….hence leading to the healing of my soul and the freedom that brings.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice
behind you saying ‘this is the way; walk in it’.”
(Isaiah 30:21).

 

The Many Faces of India

We were having dinner with friends last weekend, and the question came up: “What did you love best about your trip to India and Nepal?”   Certainly visiting the Taj Mahal  and our flight-seeing tour of Mt. Everest were phenomenal highlights,  but I think the most fascinating and compelling aspect of our adventure  was being immersed in a seemingly unending sea of people,  each with a face that arrested my attention and captivated me.  Did  you know that India is second only to China in population  (1.4 billion in China versus 1.3 billion in India)  but is only the 7th largest nation by land area?  Putting this into perspective for Americans: America has a land mass of 9.5 million square kilometers and a population of 324 million people.  India has about a third as much land (3.2 million square kilometers)  and over a billion more people!   So, the population density feels totally overwhelming!  On the other hand, I was fascinated by the faces.  The children and young people were beautiful,  and the old people had faces that I’d really only seen in pictures.  I don’t know how old some of these people were, but they looked ancient, like I imagined the aged patriarchs might have looked thousands of years ago.  And everywhere, people were working, bearing heavy burdens,  living with a patience born of suffering and the determination to survive.  I fell in love with the people. Their beauty. Their courage.  Their strength. Their productivity.  I’m sure there are many desperate and dark works of evil in India  (as there are in America too),   but what I saw was people who were surviving in conditions  that most Americans would consider intolerable.  No wonder Mother Teresa spent her life trying to help!  There is such amazing need…such overwhelming need…such endless need.  It has really made me stop and pray. “Lord, what would you have me to do?” Over the next few weeks, I hope to share more about India and Nepal,  but please know that behind all the trappings of culture  and the surprises and problems we encountered,  the people of India and Nepal are dynamic and wonderful. Each one is a unique creation handcrafted by God and stamped with His image.

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” Genesis 1:26-27).

 

Wildfires: Lord, Teach Us to Pray!

While hurricanes are flooding America’s southeastern seaboard, over 100 wildfires are devastating America’s northwest, and it’s now one of the worst years in U.S. history for acreage burned! I was praying yesterday with three women from California and Washington state, where smoke and heat are making it hard to be outside in some areas. My brother, who lives just east of California’s Bay area, said his thermometer read 114° a few days ago and was over 100° for several days, although it’s now “cooled” down to the 90°s. Yikes! Don’t you wish we could somehow take some of the drenching rains from the east coast and deposit them as showers of blessing on the west coast to stop the fires? There are so many horrible situations around the world where we cannot change what’s going on, but I know the God who can. What? Is God that powerful? Yes! “Ah Lord God! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee” (Jeremiah 32:17). But…could it be possible that the fires and hurricanes are actually fulfilling God’s word? Yes again. Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps: Fire, and hail; snow, and vapours; stormy wind fulfilling his word…” (Psalm 148:7-8).

I know from the book of Job that righteous people can (and do) suffer, but I also know the Bible is full of admonitions for people to return to him after they have forsaken his word and his way, which is what we, as Americans, have been guilty of doing. Unprecedented epidemics of pornography, drugs, alcohol, and other addictions are running as rampant as forest fires, destroying our homes and families. We’re being flooded with hurricane-force winds of ungodly cultural changes, where our morality has turned black into white, exalting as good what God’s word condemns as evil.

God’s word is clear to us: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:1-2). America is on fire and is being flooded morally and spiritually. Could it be that God is using the fires and floods we see physically as a merciful reminder to us to turn from our sins and repent?

I’ve been listening to a wonderful series by Jim Berg, called Quieting a Noisy Soul, and one of the things Jim teaches is that God is merciful!  However, true mercy is “rescuing us from our miserable condition,” not giving us whatever we want! Anyone who is living apart from God’s love and laws is in the most miserable condition of all, because they are separated from God and without his eternal life.

God’s word calls us to repent and come to him: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7). There is a way to recover from addictions…and it starts by turning to God for help: “Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death” (Psalm 68:20 NIV).  “And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart” (Jeremiah 24:7).

Are you in need of a Savior? “I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour” (Isaiah 43:11). God can do what no one else can do for us! He can send showers of blessings on the West Coast and turn away the hurricane from the East Coast. Even better, He is also able to cure us of our addictions and teach us the truth so that we won’t be “carried about with divers and strange doctrines” (Hebrews 13:9). There is no one else who can, which is why I say with King David, “In him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence” (2 Samuel 22:3).

If you’re in need of spiritual counseling, you can contact me at my email address as a last resort (my name written out as one word—kathryn w armstrong—via gmail), although I would also like to encourage you to find a trustworthy, godly pastor or Christian counselor who lives in your area and with whom you could have better contact.

If you’re interested in joining with me in prayer for ourselves and our nation, please feel free to join our weekly on-line prayer group, which meets every Thursday at noon (EST). You can access it here:  https://aqueductproject.org/prayer-center/

(then, after you’ve opened the above link, click on the link within it that says:  To enter the Prayer Center and to join a live video conference call, please click here.) Here is more information on the next one:

Thursday, September 14, 2017, at 9:00–9:30am, (UTC-08:00), Pacific Standard Time
To determine the time of this service in your local time zone, click here.
Prayer Leader: Mary DePuy

If you’re interested in learning more about how to pray, please join us in a weekly seminar on prayer, which is occurring at noon (EST) every Monday for the next 9 weeks. Information and how to access it can be found here:

https://aqueductproject.org/prayer-seminar/

Here is more information on the next prayer seminar:

Monday, September 11, 2017:
Prayer in the New Testament
Lecturers: Matthew Dereck and Jonathan Armstrong

In this first official class period, we will introduce the spiritual discipline of prayer as the proper beginning point for theological study. “Theology” means “God-speech,” and we must learn to talk with God before we can learn to speak properly about God. This session looks into Jesus’ prayer life and his seven prayers recorded in the Gospels.

(Let me know if you have any trouble accessing these resources, and I can try to help you figure it out. It’s pretty easy, but I had trouble the first time, too, so I know it helps to have someone “walk you through it.”)