During the federal and state stay-at-home guidelines, Where Grace Abounds (WGA) has continued to meet. It is the lifeblood of our ministry to provide opportunities for people to support one another and to experience interaction with the hearts and minds of WGA staff and leaders during what are very personally painful times for them—times upon which the current stay at home orders only add another layer of stress to the burden. Except for a couple of cancelled staff and board meetings, we have managed to keep up our support group and counselling schedules.
WAIT! WAIT! Don’t report us to the COVID Response Compliance Task Force. (“Is there such a thing in Colorado, I wonder?)
No, we didn’t defy the government guidelines. The WGA staff met by Zoom—virtually together ala video screen—(some will be reminded of the opening to The Brady Bunch) and practiced relating and communicating and pontificating in a virtual setting. Oh, and we planned and prepared and launched the first virtual WGA support groups on Zoom—one for our family and friends group and one for individuals. Some of us have had Zoom discipleship counseling sessions as well. It was a surprisingly easy, and a much-appreciated substitute for our face to face meetings. Did we still miss the “real” eye contact, and the “actual” presence of each other? Of course…., we most certainly prefer to gather in the same place at the same time. But nonetheless, our Zoom meetings have been universally celebrated with gratitude—praising God for the technology to “be together.”
Our most recent Zoom meeting was planned to host the bi-monthly intercessory prayer meeting. What follows is my attempt to give you a taste of a WGA prayer meeting ala Zoom.
The meeting was initiated and facilitated by WGA Executive Director, Roger Jones. Here is a transcript of our meeting adapted as a blog post:
Roger: Welcome, everybody, to WGA’s first Zoom Intercessory Prayer Meeting!
Mary: “Yes, welcome. Before we dive in, I think we should acknowledge our shared grief at missing (WGA staff member) Jill Huston’s prayer day breakfast. The staff already grieved that loss, but only after we brainstormed all sorts of ways that she could deliver it to us before the meeting. We thought it would be great if she would prepare as usual and deliver it to our individual homes—she didn’t see that as doable. Jill had her own ideas, one of which was to send drones out to deliver all the food, . . . That was a funny moment, . . . but we quickly descended into a glum reality—we were going to have to let breakfast together go! We always appreciate Jill’s ministry, but here we are today, temporarily forced to do without the literal fruit of that ministry. Praise God, His grace is sufficient, right? Right?”
Opening devotional by Mary Heathman, Scriptures read by Steve Huston:
Let’s focus on a few principles and scriptures this morning that we grapple with as Christians, especially during this season we are in now. They represent what I believe are God-desired states of mind for us:
In all things we are to worship; and worship involves prayer:
1 Timothy 2:1-4 – I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
First…worship, pray, in ALL things; here we are today to do just that, yearning for the promised “peaceful and quiet lives” and glad to know that our obedience in this principle will please our God, our Savior.
Remember God’s sovereignty and his direction to us:
Romans 13:1 — Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
God is still in charge; He is still sovereign over the government authorities of this day. We can trust Him in this.
There is Peace and Contentment in knowing that God provides:
Deut 29:4-5 — But to this day the Lord has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear. Yet the Lord says, “During the forty years that I led you through the wilderness, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet… . .
Our lack of understanding, doubts and confusion about present circumstances cannot interrupt God’s provision for us.
Inspired by William Cowper (pronounce Cooper):
As I (Mary) was researching how others have led prayer times in this weird season we are in, I came across a couple of quotes from a poem by William Cowper. One was in a prayer guide put out by Longview Fellowship Bible Church in Texas, and another was in a blog by Brenda Cox, called William Cowper: Joy and Depression, Glimmers of Light in the Midst of Darkness.
“Glimmers of Light in the Midst of Darkness” – that’s what I need; that’s what we are all looking for these days, I think.
Somewhere in the deep regions of my mind, I remembered that name, William Cowper. He was a man whose ministry lives on in his poems and hymns written roughly 300 years ago. The opening lines of one of His poems, Light Shining Out of Darkness, is the seminal source of the saying “God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.”
Cowper lived with mental illness, suffering periodic bouts of depression, was even hospitalized for a season, where he was taken care of by his friends. His writings were produced during his search for peace and it is said he found comfort in creating his hymns and poems.
Let’s take a minute to hear Cowper’s faith in the first three stanzas of his poem: Light Shining Out of Darkness: (The Works of William Cowper, edited by T.S. Grimshawe, London: William Tegg, 1849.
God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Let’s take a minute of quiet to reflect on these principles, scriptures and Cowper’s thoughts. Let’s settle down; or as Quakers say, “center down.”
(We took just a minute — Zoom silence seems way longer than together silence!)
For our prayer focus today, let’s look first at what we are grateful for, and then talk with Him about our current context and seek God’s provision for it.
- Praising God for what we know to be true:
- What light do you see shining in your darkness today?
Acknowledge the Reality of COVID 19 – the losses, uncertainty, fears and hopes. Confusion over what our response should be:
- What might you want God to do. . . what are you hoping for?
- Let’s give voice to our desire and hope that God will move. . .
Reflection looking back to the prayers that ensued: Our prayer notes for this meeting end here. What I share in conclusion now is general, respecting confidentiality and recognizing there is no way to replicate the actual forty minutes of prayer. You literally had to have been there!
But I will say that there was no qualifier like “virtual” to describe the power of the praises of our little meeting of Christ followers. We thanked him for the Truth that we can see Him at work every day. Personal reflections were offered in response to the principles shared—God’s sovereignty; His Grace is sufficient; He will make a way—of course that is true, so true! And petitions were made for what was hoped for from God, yearning for His intervention, prayers for our leaders, intercession for those who have already lost jobs. … . We prayed as people who know that we cannot see the way, but our God is the God who makes a way where there is no way, streams in deserts, we asked Him for it, believing He hears and cares about what we care about. (Isaiah 43:19)
We would love to have you join our next prayer meeting; consider yourselves invited.
Mary is one of the founders of Where Grace Abounds and served as Executive Director from its inception on July, 1986 through March 31st, 2007. She speaks and teaches at churches and conferences across the country. She has also served on several boards of non-profit organizations, is a conference speaker on a variety of topics that include: Intimacy with God, Healthy Sexuality, and leadership development. Currently serving in leadership in her denomination, Mary’s favorite ministry roles are discipleship counseling, group facilitation, and leadership development.
Mary often characterizes herself as “a seeker of Truth” and has a long-standing fascination with human behavior and motivation. Her education consists of lay and discipleship counseling, independent study about the integration of psychology and theology, counseling and human sexuality. She also holds a BS in Human Services and an MA in Psychology from Regis University.
Mary attends a Friends (Quaker) Church.
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