Prayers for Afghanistan

The scenes and pictures coming from Afghanistan are horrific. The violence, the deaths, the frantic people trying to escape, the fear, the devastation…Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers. When something this shocking happens, it is time to pray. When something this heartbreaking is continuing for days on end, it is time to go to the Lord and immerse ourselves in his presence.

As I have been thinking and praying about these events over the last few days, my mind keeps returning to Jesus’ words to the crowds of people who gathered on a hillside to hear him teach. We know this as the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus acknowledged the people that nobody ever sees, and spoke directly to them in the Beatitudes. The poor in spirit, the ones who were grieving, the meek, the persecuted…all of the broken people who were the ones that he loved and cared about, even unto death:

Matthew 5 (New International Version)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are the Afghan people, who are poor in spirit.

Blessed are the U.S. Military families who mourn.

Blessed are the meek women and children, oppressed by a system that gives them no status or protection.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness as they flee.

Blessed are the merciful, who lend aid at their own peril.

Blessed are the pure in heart, who see God all too soon.

Blessed are the peacemakers, attempting diplomacy in a system of terrorism.

Blessed are those who are persecuted. May they find freedom.

Pray with me:

Loving and Gracious God, we lift up the people in Afghanistan and pray for their safety and well being as the forces against them move with a strong and mighty arm. We pray that you would shield them from evil and protect them from harm. Watch over our military, who have placed themselves in harms way as they fight for the cause of freedom. Lord, help those who have fled and now find themselves to be refugees in foreign lands. We pray that the world would acknowledge the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding and rush to their aid. We pray for the women and children. And we pray for our government leaders, that they would be strengthened and emboldened to act swiftly and securely to bring this situation to an end. AMEN

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. “All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish. Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them. Those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all. (Isaiah 41:10-12)

Do Not Be Dismayed by Victor Miles

No Time for Goodbye

A girl I love is a few months away from graduating from High School. We met a few weeks ago in the “before-time” at a local coffee shop and talked about colleges, scholarships, growing up, and life in general. The sun illuminated her strawberry blond hair as we sat at an outside table with not a care in the world. As I said, it was in The Before.

Now that we have arrived in The After, I can only see pictures of her on FaceBook. She just had her senior pictures taken. What I probably won’t get to see is her dressed in a cap and gown walking across the stage. I won’t see a hundred shots of her in her prom dress with her boyfriend in a matching tie. I won’t see beach pictures of her running in the waves on a rare day off from her summer restaurant job. And we had no time to say goodbye.

Teachers who miraculously scrambled to put their lessons online with one day‘s notice are just now allowing themselves to grieve the loss of being with their kids in person. Healthcare workers are having to quarantine themselves in their garages or at the hospital for fear of infecting their children at the end of work. My Alma Mater just announced that Spring Semester is over. The students moved out weeks ago, thinking they would be back after an extended Spring Break. Now it’s over, don’t come back. It was so unexpected, they had no time for goodbyes.

I miss my congregation so much it stings my eyes every time I think of them. I miss Miss Jean’s sweet bent-over hug. I miss Bonnie’s grin. I miss Jonny’s laughter. I MISS SINGING TOGETHER. God, I miss singing together. I miss them all. I didn’t know that the last time I saw them would be the last time I would see them. No time for goodbye.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus reminds us that we are blessed when we mourn:

Matthew 5 (The Message)

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

When everything you know and love gets stripped away, there is God. For such a time as this, we were made to seek him out for comfort and companionship. Blessings WILL happen in The After.

“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

This is especially poignant for The After. Being stuck inside allows us to get our inside world put right.

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

The After is a time of no goodbyes, but also a time of saying hello to a whole new set of blessings we never would have discovered in The Before. God is with us. We are with each other.

And the good news is, we are one day closer to the end of this thing. Thanks be to God.

One Day Closer by Wende Pritchard