Archive for ◊ March, 2013 ◊

• Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Okay, I admit it – I tend to be early for most things. I’m one of those “allow extra time” kinds of people. Church starts at 10:00, I’m usually there by 9:50. It’s neither good nor bad – just who I am.

However, I’m always amazed to be sitting in church and see the number of people who arrive late. Of course there’s always the rush-in-the-door -during-the-opening-hymn gang. That’s not really late – that’s more “precise timing.”

Then there are those church goers who arrive 10, 15, even 20 minutes late. What’s with that? There are often extenuating circumstance: alarm didn’t go off, car ran out of gas, the dog ran off with your shoe. There are many good reasons for being late – truly.

But what strikes me is that it’s the same people – every time – who walk into the church late. If it take you 15 minutes to drive to the service that starts at 10:00, why do you leave home – every Sunday – at 10:00 instead of 9:45?

You might suspect that I am now going to chide these people for their tardiness. But au contraire. I applaud them for making it at all – even if late.

Congregants have a choice when it comes to attending their church service: stay home or go. Increasingly, many people opt for stay home. Thus the growing number of church closings in the United Sates and the need for “Finishing with Grace.”

For people like me who arrive on time at church – good! But for those who have to rush to get there – extra good for you. When you’re running late and can’t ever seem to catch up, how easy it would be to say “I’m not going to bother today.” Opting to stay home from church versus rushing to arrive late is the easy choice. Making the effort – even if it means an entire congregation turns to look at you as you walk in the door – is to be commended.

Thank you, late arrivals. We appreciate seeing you and your presence in the service – even if you clomp in during the silent prayer.

• Thursday, March 07th, 2013

“I Will Pray for You” is such a nice thing to hear when times are tough. You get a bad medical diagnosis, you are in a family crisis, your world is out of balance. Knowing that someone is thinking of you – actually praying for you – is a warm and supportive feeling.

Perhaps you even use that kind phrase yourself at times when someone you care about is going through a tough patch.

But what does “I Will Pray for You” really mean? How do different people actually go about praying for you? Do they kneel beside their bed at night and your name comes up, do they pray during a meditative period of the day, are you part of an evening prayer (or morning prayer), is it only at church on Sundays, or is it just lip service and they don’t think of you at all after those words come out of their mouths?

During Lent at my church, all attendees at the Sunday services put their names in a basket. The basket is passed around, we take a name and are instructed to pray for that person during the week. Frankly, the first time we did that I was a bit put off by the concept. I took a name from the basket (someone I barely knew) and stuck it in my pocket. Later that day I found the name in my pocket and left it on my kitchen counter. Every morning that week I saw the slip of paper and I thought about that woman. And – yes – I did a tiny silent prayer for her. It felt good. I guess that makes me a kitchen counter prayer. Of course there is no right or wrong place to pray. We can have others in our thoughts anytime, any place.

About 12 years ago when I got a very serious medical diagnosis, a lot of people said “I Will Pray for You.” That statement from friends at church was lovely, but not a surprise. Then other people – such as work colleagues – would also say “I Will Pray for You” and that floored me. To have a secretary three departments away mention that she was praying for me was quite astounding. It gave me a huge amount of comfort to tally up all those “I Will Pray for You” statements. To this day, I honestly think I made it through that period of my life much calmer because I could feel – yes feel – those prayers.

I never used to say “I Will Pray for You” to anyone. It felt uncomfortable and a little too personal (for me as well as them). After my own experience, I say it more often. Although I will admit that with people I don’t know all that well, I’m more apt to say, “I am Thinking of You.” Not quite the same, but it also shows support.

I’m not a big time “Pray for People” person. But if I become aware of someone who is struggling, yes, I will consciously add them to my thoughts. I pray for some people who don’t even know I am praying for them. And I do global prayers (world leaders and so forth).

Remember this: When someone is having a difficult time, those five words – “I Will Pray for You” – can have a profound impact on that individual’s – and on your own – perspective.