The Impact of Prayer Group on My Life

By: Lisa Vaupel, Sunday Morning Prayer Group LeaderPraying Hands

I’m a therapist by trade meaning I hear people’s trouble and work with them to try to repair some of the hardest parts of their lives. In many ways, I’m a fixer. It can be a messy, stressful, and draining job. Don’t get me wrong though, it can also be hugely rewarding which is why I do it.

Due to the nature of the work, I often lean on my coworkers for advice on how to take care of myself and the children and families with whom I work. Many of my coworkers aren’t Christians or they are the Christmas and Easter kind of Christians. I’m often hesitant to share much of my faith and how Christ and my church community are a support to me, but one time in the last year I found myself in a position to share a bit more.

We were all sitting around and talking about the things that “fill us up.” Since the work we do can be draining, we often focus on “self-care” and making sure we are taking care of ourselves so that we can continue to be effective therapists. I found myself sharing with my coworkers about the Sunday morning prayer group at enCompass and how it feeds me.

Early on Sunday mornings I make my way to church and some people might think, “I need that time to just stay home and rest or relax…” But me, no. I need the time to refuel. I make my way to the room where we meet to pray just after settling my boys down with Jess, Darcy and Kaitlyn. I usually have a cup of coffee because I need that too. Our group is small which is perfect for me. The faces are familiar, welcoming and loving. I know that they genuinely care about me, my family, our church, our world and our God.

What happens when we come together is truly miraculous. I often walk in a bit burdened, tired, and sometimes feeling isolated. I leave feeling heard, supported, loved, and encouraged. Each time it happens. I know I can walk in and share my latest parenting struggle or the crazy nearly unbelievable thing that has happened in my family. There won’t be judgement, only love. I can share it, I can cry (if I need to) and we will pray. I hear the burdens of others and it is an honor to sit with them in their struggle.

There is something about praying with others that is more freeing than praying by myself. First, when I pray with others I’m more focused. On my own I’m often not disciplined as much as I would like, and I struggle to keep myself on track. In the group, I slow down enough to wait for God to speak. I also am able to hear the prayers of others which often ring true with what I am sensing in my own heart and it is encouraging. My heart says, “Yes, yes God. That is the prayer I want to speak!” Other times others pray and I am challenged by their perspective. Perspective is another thing I often gain. Too often I am stuck in my own circumstances and bogged down, but this small group of prayers – with the help of the Holy Spirit – help to break me out of my circumstances and help me to really experience God.

My coworkers still don’t know or understand the depth of what I experience in our little prayer group, but someday I hope to have the opportunity to share more and more with them. I want God to use this group not just for my good, but for His. I guess it is used for his good through me because what I gain from this group allows me to continue on in my week with the energy, perspective, and freedom that I have in Christ. God is good!

Photo credit: Andythedreamer via / CC BY-NC-SA

Skepticism, Cynicism, and Adaptation

By: Brett Carey, Worship Leader

BrettA wise man, who has been a leader in the church for many years, said some profound words to me the other day. “Brett, I admire your skepticism about the church, but don’t ever let it become cynicism. The church has too many cynics but not enough skeptics.” My cyclical cogitation concludes that the church creates cynical conduct caused by cognitive dissonance concerning the current culture, which causes my cynical cerebration towards the church. Do I seem cynical? Well the answer is yes, because I am also speaking to myself as much as anyone else.

I know that it might be odd that I’m confessing here, but after being born in the suburbanite, “Minnesota nice” culture of church life, I find it hard to not be cynical. I can easily make a laundry list of things that bother me about church culture, certain styles of worship, the potluck running out of tater tot hotdish, and it goes on. It even becomes easier when I can say that the church made me think this way. “Well, they were cynical first, so it’s fine.”

The way that cynicism has played into my life is I tend to think that my way is the correct way of living. I’m a person who doesn’t just enjoy being free-spirited or spontaneous, and I have a hard time understanding structure in some aspects of life. Now this is different than the majority of the way American society is set up, and especially today’s church culture. But in my cynicism, I always tell myself that people would be better off if they were more like me or if they thought like I do. The reality is that my way isn’t right and neither is theirs because each person works differently. When it becomes sin is when I start to exclude people because I think the way they live is wrong. Conversations went from speaking truth to speaking “my truth.”

Good thing for us, Paul talks about this in 1st Corinthians, Chapter 9, starting in verse 19, “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but being under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.” And the passage goes on until he concludes with, “I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I might share with them in its blessings.”

What exactly does Paul mean by this? Isn’t he Jewish himself? Yes, Paul is Jewish, but remember that Jesus changed certain things such as the fact that people no longer had to be circumcised to be a Christian. So we infer that Paul is referring to different cultures here and how he submerges himself in each culture so he can effectively minister to them.

Basically, I believe that in order to effectively minister to AC/DC fans, all Christians need to buy every AC/DC album and thoroughly listen to every song until they have the entire AC/DC catalogue memorized. Obviously that’s a joke, but I do think that if we are actually trying to form a legitimate and understanding relationship with an AC/DC die hard fan (still going with that example) then we will be more effective if we try to understand what it is about AC/DC that they love so much. There is no room for us to have judgement on our part because scripture states that God is the only judge. I said it before but I will say it again, I’m speaking to myself here. I might be cynical about judgemental Christians, but I am also in the same boat because I’m judging the judgers. I can no longer pretend that I understand someone when I don’t allow myself to learn about who they are and why they are different from the way that I live. We as a church need to learn to be adaptable and teachable if we want to have an effective ministry.

True (Puppy) Love

By: Kevin Thomas, Lead Pastor

The Pup on the Rug

Against all sense of better judgment, our family recently procured a puppy. “Johnee” seems to have arrived fully equipped with an impressive array of abilities. Consider a few of his substantial talents:

  • Johnee adeptly chews on an ever-expanding range of objects, including grass, dirt, rocks, wood, rugs, furniture and human fingers, toes, ears and noses.
  • Johnee intuitively leaves his personal puddles and poopie plops in a variety of secretive places, strategically positioned where his humans are unsuspectingly likely to step.
  • Johnee expressively whines and barks and whimpers and yips during meals, conversations and the formerly few quiet moments in our home.
  • Johnee nimbly scampers beyond the boundaries of our yard, seeking to enthusiastically befriend any available stranger.

It makes one wonder: Why did God invent puppies? Was it part of his plan to keep us from becoming too attached to orderly and sanitary living conditions in this earthly life?

Or is there some other cosmic consideration behind the creation of Cockapoos?

I believe there is. There’s at least one additional skill Johnee possesses: the ability to excitedly wag his tail, jump into my arms and enthusiastically lick my face each time I approach him. Though the tough guy in me doesn’t want to admit it, there’s really nothing more reassuring than being lavishly adored by a happy little pooch.

We often consider God to be stoic, reserved and often aloof. Yet Scripture offers us a different vision of God’s nature: a God who wildly wags his tail and licks our face each time we approach. As John stated,

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us . . .”
1 John 3:1

Johnee’s affection serves as yet another tangible reminder of God’s dogged determination to love me when I least expect it.

So the next time you’re struggling to feel loved and accepted, try to remember: the God who created puppies is the same God who’s uncontrollably excited about seeing you.

The Pup