Friday, January 27, 2012

Drive-Through Prayer

Sometimes churches can learn tips for reaching people from successful business. Drive-Through windows at fast-food restaurants are very popular for their convenience and speed. It also is a nice way to grab some food  without sitting by yourself at a table and getting pitiful looks from others. 

One United Methodist Church in Atlanta, Georgia has taken these principles and applied them to provide holy sustenance to travelers. The church is located near a busy highway, so it is a prime spot to reach many passersby. Volunteers from the church stand outside holding signs for "Drive-Through Prayer next right."

The program has been gaining attention not only from the people who stop and ask for prayer, but also for people who are prompted to pray for someone as they sit in traffic. 

This is one way that a church has gone outside-the-box to reach out to the community. These church members looked at their church and realized its location could be a prime tool for a unique kind of ministry.

What makes your church location unique? Look for ministries that match that location. Is it near a prison? You could have a prison outreach. Is it in a serene area? Perhaps you could provide a place of retreat for people to de-stress. Is it near a school? Kids could walk down to a Released Time out-of-school program at the church. 

Perhaps your church already does one of these things. Don't stop looking for new ideas! I believe each of you  could come up with a creative ministry to help serve God's people. What is he calling you to do?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Christian Camouflage

"This little light of mine. I'm gonna let it shine...Hide it under a bushel? No. I'm gonna let it shine."

Choruses like this bring our memories to pleasant times singing with church friends. Lovely tunes with a bit of nostalgia. Yet, that's not all they should be. Although this is a popular song for children to sing it carries an important message for all Christians, especially as adults.God has granted us love and grace that should be bursting out from us. It was not given to us to keep for ourselves, but to let it shine for others.Easier said (and sung) then done.

Recently, I forgot my lunch for work, so I headed down the road to the local McDonald's. As I sat down, I noticed a young woman, about my age, sitting in a booth alone. Her face was blotched with red and white patches as tears streamed from her red eyes.

I sat down at a booth, bowed my head, and said a silent prayer for her. I hoped that if I sat there long enough, I might build up the courage to go and offer her a kind word. Yet I kept thinking, what if she doesn't want anyone to acknowledge that she's crying? What if she thinks I am too 'preachy?' I don't know her.

I got up to get some napkins and ketchup and when I turned around, she was gone. I missed the chance. I felt guilty knowing that perhaps the reason that I forgot my lunch that day, was so that I could go to McDonald's and share Jesus' love with this young woman. Yet, I didn't act on it when I first felt the nudge. Instead I waited for some physical holy kick in the tush to prompt me to speak to her. Yet, sometimes just like in hunting, there is only a short window in which to act. You may only get one opportunity.

The incident kept rolling around in my head. I wondered why I was so afraid just to pass by and at least say, "Hi, I just wanted to let you know that I'm praying for you." or "Are you okay? May I help you?" If she didn't respond, I could have just left it at that, and then returned to my table to pray. By doing that she at least would have known that someone in that room and in the world cared about her.

Instead, after she left I kept looking at all of the people who had been sitting around her, just like me. We all had given her a quick glance, and then pretended that we didn't notice that she was crying because we didn't know how to make it better. I'm sure some of them were Christians. Yet, how would she know? We all sat there camouflaged among the rest of the lunch-goers. 

Although we may have sent God earnest prayers, we did not let our light SHINE. She could not feel the warmth of God's love through us, she could not feel the happiness of the rays of SUN and joy we get from having God in our lives. 

I pray that someone later that day did have the courage to share God's love with her. I also pray that God grant me urgency and strength to reach out, despite my earthly excuses.

My pastors offered guidance on how to prepare for this situation. One suggestion was to start each day with a prayer, committing yourself to God's work. In that way, we mentally prepare ourselves for being used by God each day. We can simply say, "Here I am God, What do you have for me today?"

You can also reference John's Wesley's Covenant Prayer

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt;
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low by thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things
to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.  Amen.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Relationships Bloom into Roses

I know I've written about it before, but I think that setting aside time daily to become aware of the positives in our lives make us happier and more grateful people. My sister has a nighttime ritual with her daughter in which they discuss their favorite and least favorite parts of the day, they call it their "rose and thorn."

Yesterday, my sister, nieces, cousin and I visited the Pennsylvania Farm Show. We enjoyed the sights,sounds, taste, touch, and well, not so much the smell at the event. Though even the farm smells, added to the sensory experience that makes the event so wonderful for kids and adults alike.

However, none of the activities or sights at the show made it to the top of the list for my nieces favorite part of the day. Instead the part she enjoyed the most was playing kitchen and reading with a distant cousin that she doesn't see very often.

It is wonderful to know that even in this age of limited attention spans and constant entertainment, people still find the most value in relationships with each other. We do not need to feel intimidated to initiate these relationships with each other. In fact Rachel Held Evans wrote a blog post called "Blessed are the Uncool." She says "We are all uncool. We are all in need of a Savior."

I challenge you to spend a few quiet moment with God and prayerfully listen to what relationships he is asking you to nurture. You never know, the time spent with that person might just be their rose of the day.