Be strange. Be weird. Be a blessing.

By Erika Rizkallah

I was watching Fox News the other day and happened to see the story about a group of Evangelical church leaders praying over President Trump. Maybe you saw it too.

Erin Burnett, a CNN news anchor, did a segment on it and said, “all these people sort of touching him” was “very strange.” I guess to people unfamiliar with Christianity, the picture may indeed seem strange. However, it’s a basic doctrine of our faith and is called “laying hands” on someone.

The use of hands in forms of worship and prayer is not unusual in many cultures and religions. But I wonder how many “influencers” would object or comment negatively on them . . .

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worship-2289770_1920In Christianity there are no less than 29 passages of scripture on this practice, which has a long history spanning both the Old and New Testaments. It can signify separation of a person or groups of people for a specific task:

And you shall bring the Levites before the tent of meeting and assemble the whole congregation of the people of Israel. When you bring the Levites before the LORD, the people of Israel shall lay their hands on the Levites, and Aaron shall offer the Levites before the LORD as a wave offering from the people of Israel, that they may do the service of the LORD. Numbers 8:9-11

It can also signify blessing, as was done by Jesus when parents brought their children to him:

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away. Matthew 19:13-15

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It’s a practice also used in healing, reassurance and comfort. I’ve had many hands layed on me over the years and I’ve layed hands on many others.

I’ve experienced healing, reassurance and comfort and am glad our President is a willing recipient of prayer. Even though some folks think it’s “weird.”

One of my favorite scriptures about this is found in Matthew 9:18:

As he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.”

The ruler – an important and powerful man – didn’t let his pride or position get in the way of doing all he could to save his daughter.  As a result, she was raised to life.

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There will always be mockers – people who sneer at our faith and belittle our practices. Jesus told us to expect it. But you never know. A skeptic may also turn to us in a time of need, accept a prayer and a hand of reassurance that all will be well.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. Colossians 2:9-10

So . . . Be Strange. Be weird. Be a blessing!

 

God still does miracles. Do you believe?

For you make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands. How great are your works, O Lord, how profound your thoughts! Psalm 92:4-5

Do you believe God still does miracles?

I ask because in this day and age, many don’t. Even Christians. Over the years I’ve heard some influential preachers say the time for miracles is over.

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As if God chose to bless only those living in the first century.

I don’t believe it. The story I’m about to tell you is long overdue because, frankly, I didn’t know how to explain it.

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I also wasn’t sure about the “whys.” I’m a “why?” kind of girl; I spend chunks of time ruminating about the reasoning behind things and events.

In this case, I now know why.

Earlier this year I read a friend’s status update about Facebook having a type of automatic spam filter. I didn’t know this. When she accessed it, she discovered scores of hidden messages. Most were spam, but some were from friends and were several years old.

I was intrigued and decided to check it out. My results were much the same. Nigerian princes wanting to deposit millions into my bank account if I gave them access.

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People offering to help me with my erectile dysfunction, which I, um . . . do not struggle with.

There were also legitimate ones dating as far back as 2012 which were actually important. I had to apologize to several people for not responding. However, one in particular caught my attention because the subject line mentioned my maiden name.

That name is intentionally left off my profile so people can NOT find me.

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Now I’m going to pause for a moment to give you a quick backstory. My beloved father died in 1989, and although I was his next of kin, his ashes were divided. His partner, Charlie, got the bulk of them and I have some in a small box. Charlie and I lost touch and the whereabouts of my dad’s ashes were a mystery.

Deep inside, I’ve carried resentment about it. Not much, but a bit because my grandmother wanted my portion to be buried with her. She doesn’t approve of cremation and wanted him to have a proper burial.

Reading the “spam” message has enlarged my ideas about the universe and shrunk the distance between God in heaven and on earth.

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It came from a young woman I didn’t know existed – Charlie’s granddaughter. She told me she and her father had been searching for me for years. When Facebook became popular she decided to give it a shot.

She had my father’s ashes.

The box they’re in was passed down through her family for 25 years (long after Charlie died) in hopes of returning them to me.

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Mind blown!

For the past several months, I’ve had them in a place of honor in my home. They were a daily reminder of God’s faithfulness.

They’re proof that His love bridges the gap between space and time to answer even our unspoken prayers.

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Now they’re gone again.

A few weeks ago my aunt called saying my grandmother was on the verge of death. Emergency surgery was scheduled for the next day and she wanted me to send the ashes to be buried with her.

I hopped on a plane, lugging the box with me and praying I’d make it in time. I wanted her to know her son was with her.

God answered those prayers too; she made it through surgery. When she came to she told my aunt that God was with her during the surgery. She said she couldn’t see him but she could feel him. This is a HUGE deal – my grandma isn’t (wasn’t) a believer.

Before I gave them to her, my aunt took pictures so I’d have memories of this sacred event.

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Friends, He does answer prayer. Even today. Even the unspoken ones.

 

 

 

 

Called to struggle

By Erika Rizkallah

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

Out of the darkness comes light. Do you believe this?

Whenever a mass killing streams across news headlines I try not to spend too much time in front of the television. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the form of a natural disaster or at the hands of a psychopath.

It’s too painful and I tend to absorb the energy of those who’ve suffered and lost.

However, the Orlando attack resonated with me; it could have been me in that bar. I don’t go to bars now (because I’m sober) but a long time ago, I frequented gay bars in my old hometown. It was the best place for a young woman to dance the night away without being hit on by sloshed and groping men.

Last night I forced myself to listen to the many survivor stories and I can’t get two of them out of my head.

The first was about a guy who’d made it out unharmed. On the way, he found a man who’d been shot three times – one was a life-threatening shot in the back. He helped him to a waiting police car for transport to the hospital. The officer had him shove his shirt in the bullet wound and instructed him to bear hug the guy all the way to the hospital. It was a human tourniquet and would help keep him from bleeding to death. Bloody and hugging the injured man, the good Samaritan said, “Can I pray for you?” He then cried out to God on the man’s behalf and comforted him, telling him everything would be alright.

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He silently begged God that his words would be true. His prayer was answered.

The next story was told by a man hiding in a bathroom stall with others when the shooter came in. He says they begged him not to shoot. The killer laughed and sprayed bullets. The survivor told the reporter the laughter sounded satisfied. It was a laugh unlike any he’d ever heard before.

He then went on to say, “It sounded like it came from another world.”

I don’t doubt it. The Bible clearly states that our world is increasingly evil. Because of this, we’re called to struggle.

We are called to strenuously resist our own evil inclinations and fight against the forces of darkness. We’re called to struggle in prayer.

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Prayer is our weapon. Faith is our shield. His word is our sword.

Today will you pick up your weapons and fight with me?

 

Helping kids understand prayer

By Erika Rizkallah

The other night as we were praying together my son, Sam, said, “Mom, how do you talk to someone you can’t see?”

“Well, it’s the same as talking to anyone you have a relationship with. Like me or dad.”

“Yeah, but how do you know God’s real? We can’t actually see him.”

“We can’t see the wind, or germs, or sound waves but we know they’re real. We may not be able to see them, but we know they’re real because we can see the effects. We see trees sway, we catch colds from other people and somehow we can hear music on the radio.”

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“I know but it’s still hard.”

We joined hands and I prayed, thanking God for all the things he’s given us and for helping us “see” him through answered prayer.

The truth is, sometimes it does feel awkward to talk to God in our heads or out loud in front of others. But it’s a gift to be cherished. To be able to speak to the creator of the universe and have him answer is beyond comprehension.

And that’s ok. He already knows how we feel about it. He searches our hearts and minds – so keep talking! As with all new things, eventually it will get easier.

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Sunday blessings to you friend!

Father’s Day: My loss is gain

I lost my earthly father 25 years ago; it seems hard to believe it’s been so long. Devastating is the only word I have to describe my feelings at the time. My father was my world – nothing else could take his place in my life. But I know God took him in order to make way for himself because his death was what made me seek after God in the first place.

As always, his timing was perfect because while I was seeking, he brought another man into my life, the man who would later become my husband and the father of my children.

My loss paved the way for two more fathers: God himself and my husband Sam. So I consider my loss gain.

Father’s day is difficult for those of us who’ve lost our dads. But if you (like me at the time) haven’t yet met your Heavenly Father, I urge you to look up. Seek him. He is as real as the earthly father you’ve lost and is just waiting to meet you.

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Psalm 68:5 says: A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.

Finding and knowing him is as simple as talking to him in prayer. In the quiet of your heart and mind, all you have to do is ask. Here’s an example of prayer: Father, I want to know you and to have you in my life. I believe you are the one true God. That you sent your son to die on the cross for my sins and then raised him from the dead. Jesus, come into my heart and cleanse me. Guide me to my father in heaven and make me into your image that we may be one in spirit.

And if you’re blessed and will be celebrating your earthly father today, that prayer is for you as well. Two fathers are better than one!

Struggling with prayer: 5 Tips to jumpstart your prayer life

Is regular prayer a struggle for you?

If so, don’t worry. Like everything new and unfamiliar, becoming a prayer warrior takes time and practice.

I’ll never forget the first time I went into Starbucks. For months I heard people talking about the delicious coffee drinks and I desperately wanted to experience what all the buzz was about. But I was intimidated. I knew there was a method – a certain way of ordering and a special lingo.

And what on earth was a Frappuccino?

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I stood in a long line with others and watched them, trying to figure out the process. I strained to hear above the din of the cafe with no luck. Then I looked at the overwhelming menu. I selected a drink and rehearsed saying it (in my head), while trying to look like I belonged.

Finally it was my turn and I lost my confidence.

“I’ll take a regular coffee please.” I said.

“What size and blend?”

“Just regular.”

“A tall?”

“Is that a regular?”

“It’s a tall. We have three sizes.” (slight smirk)

“Ok that’s fine.” I said.

I paid for my “tall” coffee feeling stupid, awkward and a grande bit proud. I did it. I was in!

After the first time I got better. It took awhile, but one day I was comfortable and could order without feeling like a moron.

Prayer can be like this at first. The beauty though, is that there isn’t a process. God loves hearing what we have to say despite our fumbling. Unlike a barista, he doesn’t smirk. Prayer is simply a private conversation between you and God.

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Tip # 1 – Start Small

Begin by thanking God for your food each time you eat. This is a pattern Jesus practiced every time he ate with his disciples.

Tip # 2 – Ask For Help

God loves when we trust and rely on him. We all face difficult tasks, problems with people and have personal concerns. Pick a challenge each day and ask him for strength, clarity and guidance.

Tip # 3 – Look Around

Opportunities for prayer are all around us. Choose a family member, friend or neighbor and ask God to meet whatever their needs may be. This is called intercession.

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Tip # 4 – Get On Your Knees

Bedtime is the perfect time to meet with God in peace and quiet. Thank him for the day’s provision and ask for protection and restoration of your body while you sleep.

Tip # 5 – Be Bold!

Getting uncomfortable is sure to jumpstart your prayer life. Ask a friend what they need prayer for and then pray with them out loud. This can be done in person or over the phone. Our friends are encouraged and comforted when we ask for God’s help on their behalf.

Prayer takes practice, but I promise if you actively work on it you’ll grow spiritually by leaps and bounds.

Your Turn: Which of these tips will you choose this week and why?