Lamenting with Habakkuk

I’m finding it helpful and even calming right now to pray with Habakkuk:

How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?
Or cry to you, “Violence!” but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrong?
Destruction and violence are ever before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore, the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.

~Habakkuk 1

More Than Prayers for Uvalde

Thoughts and prayers are good. But they are not enough. If all we offer are thoughts and prayers in the wake of yesterday’s horrific slaughter of 19 seven-to-eleven-year-old children and two elementary school teachers in Uvalde, we are right to be criticized for our hypocrisy and have no one to blame but ourselves for turning people off to Christianity.

We have to offer something more than prayers. If all we do is pray, we’re not really Christians.

When we pray to God, we pray in the name of our Lord Jesus. And we are ordained by God’s Holy Spirit to act as our Lord’s body – his representatives, his ambassadors – on this earth. We are the Body of Christ and it’s on us, Christians, to do something. That’s how prayer works. We ask God for the boldness, courage, and power to do what needs to be done. And then, by his grace, we do it.

I think about Jesus telling his disciples to pray for workers. In Matthew 9 and Luke 10 he tells his followers, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” And then the very next word is, “Go!” Jesus says in the very next verse, “Go! I am sending you!”

Pray for God to raise up workers. Oh, by the way, YOU are the workers!

I think about the inspiring prayer at the end of Ephesians 3. The apostle Paul prays to our God who, yes, “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” But how does God accomplish his will? How does God work in the world? “…according to his power that is at work within us!”

Ronald Rolheiser, in his book The Holy Longing, writes about the Christian’s prayer:

“Not only God in heaven is being petitioned and asked to act. We are also charging ourselves, as part of the Body of Christ, with some responsibility for answering the prayer. To pray as a Christian demands concrete involvement in trying to bring about what is pleaded for in the prayer.”

We must offer more than prayers.

If I pray that young people would be involved in our church, but I don’t seek out any young people for friendship or don’t give young people opportunities for service or leadership, I’m not praying like a Christian. I’m not concretely involving myself in trying to bring about what I’m asking God to do. If my daughter is sick and I pray that she gets well but I don’t drive her to the doctor, I’m not praying like a Christian.

Which brings us to yesterday’s mass shooting, the 27th shooting at a school in the United States this year and the deadliest school shooting in our state. A Uvalde High School student bought two assault rifles on his 18th birthday and murdered 19 second, third, and fourth graders and two teachers inside their classrooms. It is good to pray for the victims of the shooting and their families. It is good to ask our Father to bless that community with his merciful healing, comfort, and peace. It is good to lament the tragedy and it is good to pray for the soul of the shooter and his family. But we’re not praying like Christians if we’re not attempting to do something about the problem.

I understand it seems hopeless. We live in a sick society with a fetish for guns. We drink the water and breathe the air of violence in the U.S. – it’s “our thing.” According to Education Week, there have been 119 school shootings since they started tracking them four years ago. Think about that. A 40-year-old publication dedicated to education matters decided it needed to start keeping a tally on murdered school children. Only in America! There have been 212 mass shootings in this country this year. There are more than 400 million guns in the U.S., with 98% of them in civilian hands, the equivalent of 120 firearms per 100 citizens. One-third of all the civilian guns in the whole world are in the United States. As Lynyrd Skynyrd sang, “Handguns are made for killing; they ain’t no good for nothing else.” And we’ve got more of them here, by a long shot, than anywhere else in the world.

But Christians are a people of peace, not violence. Followers of Jesus are reconcilers, not dividers. What does that look like in your context as it relates to what happened at Robb Elementary school yesterday and what keeps happening almost every day in this country?

I don’t mean these next two paragraphs as prescription, only for discussion and reflection.

If you vote, maybe you cast a ballot for politicians who might change some gun laws. As Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr pointed out last night, more than 90% of Americans favor increased background checks, but 50 senators refuse to bring HB8 to the floor for a vote because “they’re afraid of losing their power.” Maybe you stop giving money to organizations that promote the easy access to and proliferation of assault weapons in our cities and neighborhoods. The NRA convention is in Houston the day after tomorrow. Most of our Texas state-wide office holders will be there and a lot of them are featured speakers.

If you don’t vote, maybe you stop going to violent movies. Maybe you destroy your own guns. You might speak against violence when the conversation at work turns to war or crime. Maybe you take the violent and divisive bumper sticker off your truck. Maybe you stop posting and re-posting violent and divisive messages and memes on your social media. If you’re praying for peace in the world, maybe you can start doing something real by forgiving your own enemies in your family or at church, being kind to people who are different from you, reaching out to the lonely and depressed people around you with love and grace and friendship.

Prayers are good. Of course. Always. But Christians must offer more than prayers.

Peace,

Allan

Holy Land Recap

It took fifteen years and a little peer pressure from her new friends in Midland, but my wife Carrie-Anne finally went with me to Israel and it was a blessing that defies description. Our youngest daughter, Carley, accompanied us along with 23 beautiful Christian friends from Midland, Amarillo, Henrietta, Fort Worth, California, and Hawai’i. What a thrill, personally, to share my love of the Holy Lands with Carrie-Anne and Carley, to show them the places that mean so much to me, to experience it in brand new ways through their eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carley endured the twelve-hour flight from JFK to Tel Aviv with earplugs, an eye mask, and an old Nike hoodie pulled together around her face. But once we arrived, she was all in. She would give our trusted guide Anton about 25-seconds at each site and then she’d be off with her camera, climbing the walls, going behind the ropes, breaking international laws. She never was as interested in what was happening as she was in what else might be happening. And her mood was a little too dependent on the kind of food that was available. So we were all much better off as a group when we found real Dr Pepper at that store in Jerusalem’s Christian Quarter (where else?) and that delicious Papa De Pizza. Carley marveled at Caesarea on the Sea, hiked the ancient Serpent Path to the top of Masada, took the obligatory picture with an IDF soldier, climbed all those steps to the top of the tell at Beth Sha’an, and ate a lot of Slim Jims. We laughed a lot. We watched a generational storm together on the Sea of Galilee. And she read the Christ hymn aloud while we worshiped on the banks of the Jordan River.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was a little worried about Carrie-Anne. She doesn’t like to sweat. Which is to say, she doesn’t like to be outside when it’s 73-degrees or hotter. And her hair requires an abundance of preparation and maintenance. But she did it. And I love her for it. She floated the Dead Sea, waded through Hezekiah’s Tunnel, and tried falafel. Once. We sang “It Is Well”  together at St. Anne’s Church next to the Pools of Bethesda and wiped the tears from each other’s faces when we were through. She was disgusted by the garbage at the Tomb of the Patriarchs and enthralled by the view of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. And she helped keep me organized and calm.

Carrie-Anne reminds me how to worship. And how to relax. And how to love Jesus. She is my partner. She reminds me how to receive and give the Lord’s grace. And I praise God that we finally did this together.

 

 

 

 

 

Doug never let up in his enthusiasm for the water and for the climb. Penny made sure we stopped at every single restroom from Dan to Beersheba. Elaine from Hawai’i brought the Macadamia nuts. Dale made sure we didn’t lose anybody. We never even lost Andy, whose motto must be: a picture is worth a thousand words and ten more minutes of everybody’s time. Betsey took a licking and kept on ticking, twisting her ankle and banging her leg up at Dan, but trudging on with grit and determination. Shelley never got her hair wet. Never. Kyle kept reminding us of the Scriptures and the Story. Kara showed us the kind of guts it takes to climb the Snake Path to Masada. Joe and Sara inspired us with their obvious love for each other and the Lord. Gary kept us laughing. Hans became everybody’s favorite fellow-tourist, within about two minutes of meeting him. Martha brightened the bus and every site with her gracious smile. Nanette showed extreme patience while we kept mispronouncing her name. DeAnn rode that camel as well as Kyle rides a horse. Gaye broke her foot the day before we left, but that boot didn’t slow her down at all; it just added a degree of difficulty to all her costume changes.

And Elaine was Elaine. As always, my dear ministry partner wisely and faithfully handled the schedules, the hotels, the keys, the tips, the luggage, the communion meal, the meetings, the brochure, the reservations, the COVID protocols, the questions, and the preacher. For ten years Elaine was at my side in Amarillo, keeping me from blowing my leg off, reminding me of names and dates, bailing me out of trouble, managing my impulsive behavior, and deserving so much more credit than she ever received. I miss her terribly and appreciate her very much. It was so much fun going to Israel with her again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

More than a couple of times, Anton told us that no tour group does more than we do in ten days. Kyle counted up at least 41 different sites we explored together, from Dan and Caesarea Philippi to En Gedi and Jerusalem and Jericho and Nazareth. We prayed at the Western Wall, recited the Apostles’ Creed in the Jordan River, sang at the Garden of Gethsemane, and ate more than our share of ice cream and shwarma,

 

 

 

 

 

Every paragraph of Holy Scripture contains geography, landscape, architecture, people, food, customs, dress, animals, agriculture, and ritual that serve to communicate the history and fact of our God and his activity in our world. And now we’ve been immersed in it – physically, emotionally, spiritually. We’ve explored the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes first-hand. We’ve embraced the story of our Lord’s faithful love as it swells and deepens to penetrate our hearts and souls in brand new ways.

And I can’t wait to go back.

We’re doing it again in November 2024. We’ll start taking reservations in October 2023.

Shalom!

Allan

Israel Eve

Finally! We really are – finally!  – going to Israel! After two-and-a-half years of COVID-related starts and stops, replanning and rescheduling, refunds and double-deposits, we are really heading back to the Holy Lands for the first time since 2018.

Elaine and I are taking a group of 26 this time: 15 of us from the Golf Course Road Church here in Midland, five from the Central church in Amarillo, and six other wonderful folks from Hawaii and California and Wichita Falls. This is my fifth trip to Israel and this time, for the first time, my wonderful wife Carrie-Anne is going with me. We’re also taking our youngest daughter Carley and I cannot wait to see the sites and share the experiences through them and with them during these eleven glorious days.

Of course, this means no cheeseburgers and no Tex-Mex until May 21. So after we took our PCR tests – three negatives – and filled out our Green Pass forms, we had our “last lunch” together today at Blue Sky and our “last supper” at Ajuuas.

From here on out it’s shawarma, schnitzel, and falafel in one of my favorite places in the whole world with some of my absolutely favorite people.

Shalom,

Allan

What a Mom

Happy Mother’s Day, Carrie-Anne. You are the absolutely perfect mom to each of our three daughters. You are a no-nonsense straight-shooter with an endless supply of selfless compassion and grace. Lots of grace. Always grace. And you consistently know exactly how much of what each girl needs at the exact right time.

You’re the same way with me, too. Encouraging. Challenging. Supporting. And loving. Faithfully loving.

I love you, darling. We all four thank God for the ways you reflect his glory in our family.

Allan

Surround Us, Lord

Surround us, Lord.
Surround us with the light of your presence, bright within this dark world.
Enable us to be overcomers of fear and temptation.
Enable us to be victors over sin and despair.
Enable us to become that which you would desire.
Lord of creation, Lord of salvation,
surround us with the light of your presence.

Surround us, Lord.
Surround our family within the shelter of your outstretched arms.
Protect them in each moment of their daily lives.
Protect them in the decisions they face.
Protect their homes and relationships.
Lord of creation, Lord of salvation,
surround our families with the light of your presence.

Surround us, Lord.
Surround this city with your love and hope.
Create a desire to listen to your message.
Create a willingness to understand and respond.
Create a need to reach out to Christ Jesus.
Lord of creation, Lord of salvation,
surround this city with the light of your presence.

Surround us, Lord.
Surround this world with the joy of your salvation.
Where there is sickness and disease, bring healing.
Where there is hunger and despair, bring hope.
Where this is violence and oppression, bring release.
Lord of creation, Lord of salvation,
surround this world with the light of your presence.

Amen.

Peace,
Allan

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