Monday, February 27, 2012

Today Outside a Planned Parenthood Clinic

This morning I went to the local Planned Parenthood clinic to stand and pray for 30 minutes as part of the local 40 Days for Life campaign.  I went with my wife and one of my sons.  There were a few others there as well.  Here are a few reflections:
1.  The morning was amazingly beautiful--gorgeous blue sky with just a few hints of white, wispy clouds.  The temperature was cool and comfortable.  As I stood there thinking of this the words of Jesus came into focus--"for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good" (Matthew 5.45).  Even in the midst of the evil that we commit our Creator God is kind even to his enemies.  My first thought was about those "inside" the building but I knew from personal experience the evil is in my heart too.  God is kind and compassionate.  If he were not we would all be consumed.  The sun, clouds, and beauty of the moment gave me cause to rejoice in God's kindness and also keep petitioning for those ensnared by the lies of the evil one.
2.  Yesterday was Sunday and I was able to be part of God's people in the gathered service. I led in prayer, preaching and the sacrament of the Lord's Table.  It was good.  Being outside on the street praying brought other thoughts.  It is good to take the faith to the streets.  I can grow comfortable with a certain kind of mental scenery in which the language of the faith becomes associated with certain times and places.  Standing on a street and praying for actual women going into the front door of Planned Parenthood awakes me to the  realities of God's presence here on the sidewalk and enveloping the building I stand before.  My faith is stretched in helpful ways as I actively pray for the interaction of the spiritual (God's presence and activity) to interface and change the very palpable physical in front of me (the existence of this Planned Parenthood, the abortion center workers, and the people walking in the front doors).
3.  40 Days for Life is a distinctively Christian response to the evil of abortion.  It focuses on prayer.  There a few women who stand outside on the edge of the property speaking last words of grace and hope to those women about to enter in the doors.  This morning I saw a young hispanic woman get out of her car near the front door.  One of the women began to beckon to her so she should share with her some information.  I closed my eyes and began to very specifically pray that she would stop and listen--that she would heed the words.  I prayed for just a couple of concentrated minutes in this way.  When I opened my eyes the young woman had crossed the parking lot and was engaged in a conversation with a few ladies from 40 Days for Life.  She spent a good 5-10 minutes talking with them.  I was encouraged to keep praying!  I've stopped trying to "figure out" the mechanisms of prayer.  I know my tendency is to "explain away" answers to prayer or get hung up trying to assess in some sort of quantifiable manner "how much" my prayers contributed.  Here I just thanked God for answered prayer and was encouraged to keep praying for others.  I think that is good enough--at least it was this morning.
4.  At one point I randomly opened my Bible and turned to John 16.1-3.
These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling.  They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God.  These things they will do because they have not known the Father or me.
 Repeatedly throughout this section of John (chapters 14-16) Jesus stops and says "why" he is saying the things he says.  I have usually focused on such passages as John 15.11: "These things I have spoken to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full" or John 16.33: "These things I have spoken to you, so that in me you may have peace."  Joy and peace--Jesus' words are spoken to bring about these good qualities.  As I looked again at John 16.1 I saw something more today.  Jesus is preparing us for opposition.  He tells us about it and speaks specific words about it so that when it comes we will not surprised "as though some strange thing were happening" (1 Peter 4.12).  Jesus gives us these words so we won't stumble.  I realized (again? more?) that this battle for life and against deception will come, at times, with a cost.  We experienced very little opposition today.  My son tells me he was given the one figured salute a few times and a few choice words were thrown his way--but that's about it in terms of "persecution."  Even so, I was glad to have my son there and experience this.  In this small way he too takes his place with those who stand for God's truth in the face of opposition.  I pray that he and I will both continue to stand for Jesus even if the cost to do so becomes more pronounced.
I am hopefully of spending more time in prayer on the street in front of this Planned Parenthood facility.  What God is doing (both in me and in the world) is exciting and I want to see more of his glory manifest in the magnification of the name of his Son, Jesus.  That our God would allow us, invite us to be part of his kingdom and kingdom activity is truly gracious.