Christmas 2020: The True Light Still Shines In the Darkness

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it... The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” -John 1:5; 9-14 (ESV)

While 2020 needs no year in review, it’s no stretch to describe many of its moments as “dark.” So it seems especially exciting to have so many celebrations at this time of year which include elements of light. Whether special use of candles or festive decorations, drive-thru displays or consideration of stars, there’s a cheer and wonder these lights can bring.

With just the two of us, we sometimes skip concerted holiday decorating efforts, but we actually cracked open a box this year to discover a couple forgotten sets of unopened solar lights. Given all the dark spots of 2020, and inspired by others doing the same, we decided to light things up a bit more than usual this season, gradually expanding our display in hopes of bringing a touch of brightness to anyone passing by.

Looking at lights in this year like no other—from our meager presentation to every holiday display, and on up to those in the sky—I’m reminded each one is a representation of something greater and brighter and more true. And as we look for something bright in a world often dark, we need look no further than a much celebrated baby in a manger to begin to see that true light.

This light came into a world of darkness, God Himself made flesh. He illuminated what it means to be fully human, to live as the light of the world. On Earth’s darkest day, that light was momentarily snuffed out, only to reignite in glorious resurrection. This is the light shining in the darkness that the darkness could not overcome. Instead, overcoming the darkness within and around us, this blazing glory makes it possible for us to know God, and to one day see our dark world shine bright again. And this true light is the Lord Jesus Christ.

Earlier this year, I considered that we never know what tomorrow may bring, as 2020 certainly proved. As I quoted then from Ephesians 5, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” This remains my prayer and encouragement for you, regardless what another year brings, to trust Jesus and truly experience His love and light that overcomes the darkness.

Hoping your holidays are merry and bright!

Art: Unsplash.com


"Look Closer This Christmas"

Just sharing this fantastic short video about the unconventional arrival of the long-expected eternal King Jesus. If you'd like to take a closer look at the story of His birth, check out the beginning of the Book of Luke.

Merry Christmas!


A Moment to Pray on MLK

On a rainy Saturday in August, I made my way to the corner of Dr. Martin Luther King Dr. and Kingshighway in St. Louis to join in prayer with others with the same King and dream, both for our city and beyond.

Pray on MLK was coordinated by Civil Righteousness to happen in multiple cities on the same day. August 8 was chosen for having been the first date on which a street was named for the civil rights activist in Chicago back in 1968.

At 6:01 p.m. local time, groups gathered on MLK streets to enter into a time of silent prayer and lament. This start time was chosen as the same moment the shot rang out in Memphis that took Dr. King's life, the very time we heard the bell toll in April 2018.

As we formed this silent wall of prayer in St. Louis, we again used white tape on our mouths with one or two words written to express the prayers of our hearts. On this occasion I was prompted to focus on "LOVE," lamenting the lack of love for neighbor all around us now being expressed daily in ways ranging from harsh words to outright rage to increasing crime. I know we will not see love for neighbor unless our city knows the love of God in Jesus. For this I prayed.

At 7:01 p.m., we gathered for a time of hopeful proclamation and worship. In St. Louis, this time, along with a pre-rally I was unable to attend, took place at Fountain Park, which also houses a statue of MLK. It was an encouraging time seeing the people of God from many churches across our region worship our one true King Jesus together, looking to Him alone for the justice and reconciliation we so desire.

I am increasingly thankful for opportunities to join in peaceful gatherings such as this one. With the recent loss of leaders such as John Lewis and C.T. Vivian, I've heard concerns expressed that the nonviolent ideology around civil rights, to which MLK so strongly held, might also be lost. But in light of events like this, I see the Lord raising up new leaders seeking to right the wrongs of our past and present through prayer and persistence by the power of Jesus, who is the Prince of Peace. Even as we line streets and visibly show the world a different way, we stand with the thought not merely to get the attention of man or their honks of approval, but to bring our frustrations and desires to God Himself. We are encouraged by His Spirit to act in our communities by loving and serving our neighbors in creative ways, often being used in answer to our own prayers to build up the people and places around us.

I hope you'll join us in prayer for God's power to reach into our cities through His Church as we ask our one, true King to bring His change to a hurting world.

 Logos used by permission via prayonmlk.org.


A Prayer Walk in Ferguson

A different landscape since Saturday
As protests since the death of George Floyd continue, now in even more countries across the globe, a special prayer walk took place in Ferguson, MO on Thursday, June 4. This event was organized by the North County Pastors' Group, a collective of churches which originated following the death of Mike Brown.

These churches, my own included, have hosted an annual event called Unity Sunday for the past 4 years, from which I have personally benefited whether as attendee or participant. These events have allowed opportunity for predominantly black and predominantly white churches to gather together for fellowship, prayer and worship, and have included pulpit swaps between the pastors. As we've grown to know one another, this prayer walk was a significant next step in joining together, this time outside church walls and into the community.

The evening began and concluded in the parking lot of First Baptist Church of Ferguson, where we prepped and prayed before heading down the street to the Ferguson Police Station, now largely boarded up due to rioting which occurred after my time there on Saturday. The goal was not only to pray for the community, but to listen to those in the community and pray with them as appropriate. There was opportunity to do so with several individuals, including a police officer, a protestor and at least one of the artists now working on positive messages in front of the station.

Additional prayer suggestions included prayers of repentance, for justice and righteousness to prevail, for understanding and bearing one another's burdens, for healing and meaningful systematic change, for discernment and for blessing.

Gathering at First Baptist

Artists now being allowed to work out front

One group prays with an artist

Praying with an officer

Opportunities for listening and dialogue

One story of a protestor particularly caught my ear. He explained that earlier in the week, peaceful protestors were chanting, "I can't breathe," echoing the words of George Floyd as a policeman held a knee to his neck. A Christian group outnumbered the protest group that night and, whether intentionally or not, proceeded to drown out the their voices. Not surprisingly, this was seen as purely frustrating and disrespectful, tainting any message the Christian group may have attempted to share as well.

While I was not there to witness the event or know the intentions of either group in this case, it was clear that this man felt ignored and unheard by "religious people," giving me pause to consider the delicate but significant balancing act of our communication. While there are appropriate times to stand against, we must also be sure to use discernment in our delivery and approach if we truly wish to reach people for Christ. As stated in my previous post, we must listen in order to truly hear and learn in order to truly love. Our message, the message of Jesus Himself, will never be heard if we even inadvertently ignore, dismiss, overpower or speak past all other views and voices. Even—and perhaps especially—if we disagree, we must remember the power and importance of acknowledging and respecting others created in the image of God if we too hope to be heard. Quick to hear. Slow to speech or anger.

This makes me even more thankful for God-given opportunities even in and around this event for respectful dialogue with individuals of various ethnicities and ages as we all continue to process with and learn from one another.

Work in progress—in more ways than one

Groups in prayer for the community and our nation

I am also excited at the answer to prayer of lately seeing some prayer events covered by local media, this evening included, allowing the voice of the church to be more broadly heard. (See the full story page here.)

I am so grateful a last minute meeting cancellation freed me up to attend this significant evening. I have historically found my way to similar events in response to racial concerns on my own, so it was deeply encouraging to this time pray alongside a number of individuals from my own church as well. Various limitations and commitments had also prevented me attending other prayer events this week, including a rally near the Gateway Arch on this same afternoon—a landmark where I've desired to see group prayer happen. Though I was unable to join both events, I praise the Lord this actually did happen, and that we are seeing multiple prayer events continue and grow during this time.

Church, continue to watch for and share prayer events from groups like Civil Righteousness, NOCO Pastors, 10 Days of Prayer - St. Louis or in your own local area. Let's continue to be that light in the darkness, powerfully and respectfully bringing the Lord's presence into our communities.


Prayerful Protest for Floyd in Ferguson

On Saturday, I was once again able to join with Civil Righteousness as Christians gathered in Ferguson, this time in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and all that is currently transpiring. This was the first of a 21-day call to prayer and action referred to as the Isaiah 58 Fast, running from May 30 to June 19.

We came out to form The Wall, lining up on the opposite side of S. Florissant from the Ferguson fire and police stations to be a presence and to silently pray. Participants stood with white tape covering their mouths, a single word written on that tape to publicly express the cries of our hearts in prayer.

On this day, my word—my prayer—was "HOPE."

While I struggle to find one all-encompassing word for the pain so many of us feel and our many needs, as I prayed even for what that word should be, I felt how desperately hope is needed. To have this eruption not only in cities across the U.S. but even now in London, and right in the middle of the multi-faceted tensions of a pandemic, I feel it even more. And, far more significantly, I know that hope will only be found as people come to know Jesus Christ Himself, the only one who can truly heal our world as it ever louder groans.

After gathering up some photos, I settled into the line—and finally wept. I have found over the years that I must do something with these emotions, and have learned, sadly far too many times since 2014, that this must include prayer and lament with God's people. The moment I saw the announcement of this event the night before, I knew I was supposed to be there taking all this to the Lord.

As I stood on that street I've traveled many times since my childhood, hearing the honks and hollers of approval from people of all backgrounds for a protest—ANY protest at this point—I felt the full-on exhaustion from this repetition of history that continues to cost us all so much. In my mind rang sentiments from black friends and community members, ranging from, "I'm depressed," or, "I had to shut down this time," to all-out rage of various stripes.

Lord Jesus, come quickly. Oh God, bring us Your hope.

Church, we cannot be surprised where we are, and we cannot continue as we have and expect change. I echo the call of organizer Jonathan Tremaine Thomas for the body of Christ to be out demonstrating who God is. We need to be a true presence in our communities, bringing the light of Christ to drive out the darkness. Jesus came to Earth, God present among us. He left us His Spirit, the presence of God in us. Now we can bring His very presence into our communities as we unite and pray and serve.

Whatever emotions you may be processing, I encourage you to channel them through the truths of the Gospel and in light of the sacrificial Savior who loved us enough to die for us. By His blood we are one in Christ, and we can and must love each other and our neighbors. Seek opportunities for prayer and service, whether in St. Louis or in your own community. Share news of events like this, which are far less likely to receive media coverage. And, as always, listen in order to truly hear and learn in order to truly love. Actual dialogue plays a crucial part in loving like Jesus, and bringing His hope to a hopeless world.

Tape and markers...

...Weapons of war

Post gathering and time of Communion

You can view video of the entire event here:

Watch for more events and prayer gatherings to come on the Civil Righteousness website or follow their social media channels.


The Dichotomy of True Comfort

"Comfort and Ease." This was the topic of discussion during this month's Theology at the Bottleworks (currently meeting via Zoom). We'd actually planned for this conversation before the pandemic shutdown hit here, and it seemed a perfect time to pick it back up now during what is, for many people in many ways, a particularly uncomfortable time.

Early on, our moderator gave us a couple of definitions which seemed somewhat contradictory. One was "a state of ease and freedom from pain or constraint," while the other was "a strengthening aid."

In processing differences in types of temporal comforts (material, consumable, relational, etc.), versus what I now find truly comforting in my own life, I notice what feels like a marked contradiction as well.

Ultimately the single most comforting place for me to be is in the presence of the Lord—talking to Him, listening to Him, realizing His love and care. Yet strangely, and as I frequently hear from others, I don't always find myself pursuing Him as strongly as one would expect if this is where such true comfort is found.

The question then is why not? I've heard all kinds of reasons, often involving time constraints (which are recently not such a problem for many of us). But for myself, I've come to realize one reason is this: As I go to Jesus, I really have to deal with things I might not want to—things I may even be actively trying to ignore. I have to work through deep issues and concerns, whether in the world or in myself. This, of course, can be incredibly UNcomfortable. But as He guides me through and begins to course-correct my understanding, I can also see that He is always with me, a "refuge and strength" and "very present help in trouble." (Psalm 46) And as I sink into that reality and begin to trust Him, I find incredible comfort—and most definitely a "strengthening aid."

During the conversation, it was intriguing how quickly several people indicated that, while comfort in itself may not be inherently wrong, merely pursuing a life of comfort was not seen as a positive. It was also a common concern that perhaps a growing interest in a return to personal comforts was taking priority for some during this time. After all, I noted, "freedom from constraint" is currently a rather hot cultural topic, perhaps especially in the States. It seems we often have, in part, a discomfort rooted in sheer inconvenience. But I question how this affects our love for our neighbor. Are we invested in our personal comfort—perhaps more colloquially our "rights"—over and above the comfort and care of all others?

Looking at Philippians 2:1-8, it's clear God calls us to a different way of thought and action than simply our own self comfort.

"So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind."

Reading on, these words particularly stand out to me:

"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."

And how are we to do this? By having the sacrificial mind of our Lord:

"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."

Jesus gave up every possible comfort, leaving His Father's side, coming to live with and serve broken people, even going to a torturous death before His return to life, all to give us the ultimate comfort of knowing God. We can have "freedom from constraint" in going to Him now, and we look forward to complete "freedom from pain" in a renewed world. This truth is our "strengthening aid," one meant not only to give comfort to us, but also giving us the ability to comfort others, even sacrificially as Jesus did.

Jesus shows us that our greatest comfort came through His ultimate "inconvenience," and His willingness to give up His own comfort is the foundational reason we can trust Him. In Christ, we find these seeming contradictions are actually complementary. And nothing could be more comforting.


"Christ Meets Us in the Book "

On an Easter Sunday just a few years back, Pastor Sergei Marchenko preached a sermon titled "Sunday Afternoon." He wanted to consider the effects of Jesus' resurrection, and how Christ meets us "on the road, in the book and at the table."

It was the middle section that really caught my ear, and elicited a rightful applause. It's a joy for me to show people the many and varied ways we can see Christ in all of Scripture. I've shared several different versions of "Jesus is the True and Better." I also frequently recommend three books: "The Jesus Storybook Bible" for kids and up, "The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus" for pre-teens and up and "The True Story of the Whole World" for those at higher reading levels. Each book can help supplement the understanding that the whole Bible really is the story of Jesus.

Similar to but a bit longer than "Jesus is the True and Better," Pastor Sergei compiled a phenomenal overview of Christ throughout Scripture shared below with permission. You can also listen to the entire sermon here.

I truly love that none of the resources shared here are anywhere near comprehensive, and that every similar exposure and consideration deepens my love for my Lord and His Book.

Christ Meets Us in the Book

“And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

Jesus takes them through the Bible to show them why they should not have been surprised that he died and rose again. The Bible is about Jesus. It is his book and he meets us there.

In Genesis he is the creator and the offspring promised to bruise the serpent’s head.

In Exodus he is the lamb whose blood on the doorframe caused the Lord to pass over the house and spare the firstborn of God’s people.

In Leviticus he is the holy high priest and the perfect sacrifice.

In Numbers he is the bronze serpent lifted high so that even a glance at him has the power to neutralize the venom in our veins.

In Deuteronomy he the great prophet who speaks on God’s authority. In Joshua he is the commander of the Lord’s army standing with his drawn sword in his hand.

In Judges he is the deliverer who saves his people out of the hand of those who plunder them.

In Ruth he the kinsman - redeemer.

In 1&2 Samuel, 1&2 Kings, 1&2 Chronicles he is the Prophet, Priest, and King.

In Ezra & Nehemiah he is the one who brings his people home, the restorer and rebuilder of the city of God.

In Esther he is the Invisible protector and preserver of his people.

In Job he is the mediator, the arbiter between God and man who can lay his hand on them both. He is of whom Job said: I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth.

Psalms are the songs of Jesus, songs about Jesus, and songs sung to Jesus.

In Proverbs & Ecclesiastes he is the wisdom of God.

In the Song of Solomon he is the bridegroom in love with his bride.

In Isaiah he is the suffering servant who was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities; upon whom was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with whose wounds we are healed.

In Jeremiah he is the righteous branch.

In Lamentations he weeps over the devastated city.

In Ezekiel he is the son of man.

In Daniel he is the fourth person in the furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

In Hosea he is the faithful husband forgiving his adulterous wife.

In Joel he is the Sender of the Spirit. In Amos he is the restorer of the fortunes of Israel.

In Obadiah he is the just judge over his people’s enemies.

In Jonah he is the one who pities the great city.

In Micah he is the ancient ruler to be born in Bethlehem.

In Nahum he is the avenger of his people.

In Habakkuk he is the answer to the prophet’s questions.

In Zephaniah he is the LORD God in the midst of his people, a mighty one who will save, who rejoices over them with gladness, quiets them by his love, and exults over them with loud singing.

In Haggai he is the shaker of heaven and earth, the shaker of nations, who will fill his temple with glory.

In Zechariah he is the pierced Messiah.

In Malachi he is the sun of righteousness with healing in its wings.

And the disciples on the road to Emmaus only had the Old Testament. We have the whole Bible.

In the Gospels his life, death and resurrection are recorded.

In Acts his life, death, and resurrection are preached.

In the Epistles his life, death, and resurrection are explained and applied.

In Revelation his return is anticipated.

Jesus is the true hero of all Bible stories.

Every blessing in the Bible is ultimately given to us in Christ. Every curse is the Bible is ultimately borne by Christ for the sake of his people.

Every genealogy culminates in Christ. Every teaching has Jesus as its chief subject. Every poem whispers his name.

Every promise is "yes" and "amen" in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, King of kings and Lord of lords. Amen and amen.


Easter Sunday Worship 2020

Well, socially distanced though we be at the moment, we had the remarkable honor of helping to lead worship for an online service with Chatham Bible Church this Easter morning. The sermon is titled “Whispers from an Empty Tomb” from John 20:1-18. 
If you couldn't join us on this morning, we certainly invite you to do so now or anytime. Christ is Risen, indeed!


Awake, O Sleeper! // Easter 2020

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. -James 4:13–17

“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. -Ephesians 5:14–17

On the evening of February 24, which now feels practically like a year ago, my husband and I simply stayed home. Unremarkable? Perhaps. But we really should have been at a local community center taking full advantage of a month-long membership nearing expiration.

That night we learned of a shooting at the center. An employee who’d helped us adjust our membership was dead. A day later, I shared some thoughts online, which included this statement: “The every day truth is we literally do not know what the next moment will bring.”

Just a few weeks later and the unthinkable began to affect us all—this global pandemic and simultaneous economic crisis that even we sci-fi fans didn’t ultimately believe could actually happen. Yet here we are, watching over a million worldwide become ill and thousands die, perhaps even people we know and love, as we “stay at home” and try to protect ourselves and others. And I realize again that stark reality: We do not know what tomorrow will bring. But despite this truth, we’re often so busy sleeping our way through life that we neglect to take seriously the most important things.

Thankfully, our Creator does take our lives, and our eternities, very seriously. Violence, disease and death entered our world because we neglected to listen even to God. For that, He could have rightfully returned the favor and simply neglected us. Instead, He is not only aware of the fears and pains we try to ignore, He came and experienced them Himself.

As we face a pandemic that both figuratively and sometimes literally takes our breath away, I’m reminded of Jesus’ struggle to breathe on the cross. A victim of this kind of crucifixion was hung in such a way that they were forced to push up by the feet in order to exact a full breath. With His feet nailed in place, this already impaired action was beyond excruciating.

I also imagine the moment Jesus returned to life. What was it like to take that first full, deep breath? No struggle or pain. He came out of the tomb completely restored and alive.

Those two little snapshots offer just a tiny picture of how seriously God takes our situation. The first is a picture of God suffering for us, taking the punishment and death we deserve on Himself. The second shows the defeat of death and a resurrection we also can have in renewed bodies and, ultimately, a world restored without death, debilitation or disease. This is just part of what the Lord offers to anyone who believes in Him.

So I ask sincerely: Do you believe?

You may live to 100 or die unexpectedly tomorrow, but every one of us has an expiration date. That next breath is not guaranteed. Our lives truly are “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” So I urge you to fully believe in who Jesus Christ is, what He’s done and what that means for you. The whole Bible is His story. Take a look at those pages. Ask Him to show Himself to you.
If you need a Bible or have questions, never hesitate to ask.

Whatever you do, don’t sleep through this moment. This is that wake up call to be raised from death, just as Jesus was on that first Easter morning, and to make the best use of the very limited time God has given you here. For the Christian, this means us too.

I’m thankful the Lord has spared me so far through all these recent events so I could share this with you. I pray He’ll awaken you to respond to Him.

Stay safe. Be well. God bless you.



Here's a quick story about how Jesus changed my life, and I pray He's changing yours as well. You can find more details on the My Story, His Doing page.

You're also invited to join Chatham Bible Church online this Easter Sunday and in the weeks ahead if you're not already connected with a church, and come by for a visit when this all blows over. Of course, our sermons are always available online if you ever want to have a listen. I hear that guy is pretty good.

Happy Easter!


Praying for the Lou on 3.14

March 14, or 3.14, is known by many as Pi Day. In St. Louis, it's also affectionately referred to as #314Day, naturally because of our 314 area code.

But in 2020, conveniently on a Saturday, this date also got a brand new official designation as "Pray for the Lou" day, a God-given vision to simultaneously fill the streets of St. Louis in every one of its 79 neighborhoods with Christians united in prayer for our city. It was incredible to watch the Lord work to make this happen over the past few months, and to be a small part of the fantastic fulfillment of this amazing event, despite some seriously mounting odds.

It seems incredible now that this event took place not quite 2 weeks ago, and just as COVID-19 was knocking on STL's door. Given all that's transpired since (which also lent to a greater delay in posting than I'd hoped), it feels far longer. But the pandemic became yet one more reason to pray for this place we love.

Our own church experience had some unique qualities worth sharing. Chatham Bible Church, now located in the St. Louis suburb of Hazelwood, Missouri, has its roots in the city of Wellston, right on the City/County divide. So we chose early on to pick an area right alongside Wellston and pray there.

We were graciously hosted by the New City Fellowship West End Restore St. Louis offices, just south of Hamilton Heights, the neighborhood we designated to pray in and for. After a time of group prayer at New City, and guided by executive director Andrew Stern, we took the bus north to prayer walk in some specific spots.

New City Fellowship Offices in the West End neighborhood
Scripture and prayer before the walk
Our first stop was the former Hempstead School. Now a burnt out shell of a once beautiful building, the campus sits littered and desolate as the structure slowly falls apart, a stark reminder here of what once was and what now is. Andrew requested we break up in groups and circle the school three times to pray. Some of those prayers focused on education and educators, on children in the neighborhood, on area tutoring programs, on safety for these kids, on restoration that only Jesus can bring.

The littered alleyway at the back of the building

Knowledge is Power

Our next stop was at a community garden directly across the street from the home of a just turned 90-year-old woman who is a great witness in her ministry to her neighborhood. We prayed for a neighborhood resident, then circled the block in groups to pray for this woman's ministry, for the community gardens that can be places of gathering and hope, for jobs and wealth to return to a place that clearly once had more robust industry, for leaders and authorities to work together to help the neighborhood, for churches and ministries to be able to serve this area well, and for much more the Lord might do here. We then ended our time here in song back at that community garden.

At the community garden

Praying for a neighbor

As it happens, Hamilton Heights is one of three city areas designated for the new St. Louis Cure Violence program, which is scheduled to start soon if everything can stay on track. It's also no accident that Cure Violence treats violence like a disease—an epidemic—going into neighborhoods with the idea of cutting it off at the source often using individuals with gang-related backgrounds to actively interrupt conflicts before they start or escalate. It seemed a given to pray with this parallel in mind in Hamilton Heights, as we ask the Lord to stop both the far too familiar threat of local violence and the unsettling new threat of a global disease.

After our time in Hamilton Heights, we made a special stop back in Wellston—right on Chatham Avenue and at the very building our church formerly occupied.

The building our church once occupied. I'd only seen it in photos before.
There is no pride in admitting that we are aware that the church body ultimately decided to move out of this area in the 60s due in part to racist motivation, which is clearly documented in old church records. And while none of us was around for those events, we took this opportunity to repent here, to ask forgiveness for the sin of abandonment some of us have felt strongly over the years as this reality came to our attention. We were reminded of our forgiveness in Christ by our gracious guide who joined us for this side excursion. We prayed that the Lord would make Himself known in this place by the church body that now occupies that building and through other believers here. We asked His guidance to know if we should serve in or around this area in the future, not as some attempt to make up for the past, which we certainly cannot do, but to bring glory to God and share His gospel. And we prayed for the Lord's blessing in and hope for this place.

A significant moment for our church
Several of us then headed to Cardinal Ritter College Prep's football field for a prayer rally with anyone who had prayer walked in any of the 79 neighborhoods. Again by no accident, and after months of the organizers trying to work out where this rally would be held, we ended up directly on the infamous Delmar Divide, well known for its overt split of wealth to the south and poverty to the north. The Lord put us in exactly the right position to pray for unity in our city. "What is divided will be united" was one distinct rallying cry.

Delmar runs right up to this field as seen in the background
As the temperature dropped, we had the opportunity to pray in this place together, to worship our Lord united in song and praise, to hear from pastors representing many different City and County churches, and to hear from the leadership of this event, including Kurt Wilson, to whom this vision was initially given, and Jonathan Tremaine Thomas, who also led the summer Fragrance Ferguson prayer event I previously covered.

Pastors gather before the rally
Kurt and J.T. lead in prayer

An enthusiastic crowd in the cold
Each pastor prayed over STL,
as seen led by Pastor Sergei Marchenko in the clip below.
The echoing cry, "For St. Louis' sake we will not keep silent."

Again, it was amazing to be a part of all this, and emotional to see it ultimately come together, especially given our connection to and involvement with those planning. From some small, early prayer gatherings to the closing "against-the-odds" worship rally, the Lord was clearly working.
  • This was a tremendous undertaking in itself, and it was incredible to watch the movement swell. Post last year's 10 Days of Prayer in STL we continue to see churches come together in our region. We saw many new area churches jumping on board, unexpected promotion, and hundreds of Christians who truly cared not only to share about this with others, but to come out on a dreary day when any of us might have otherwise stayed home, and for good reason...
  • The forecast called for a 100% chance of rain, and it was cold and pouring when we left our homes that morning. But we noted on the church bus that by the time we got out to prayer walk, we were experiencing mist at best. During the rally, the Lord kept the rain away until the very end.
  • It's now clear that just a few days later this entire event would have been both prohibited and dangerous. At this stage, all St. Patrick's Day weekend events had cancelled as increased cautions were just beginning. On March 16 gatherings were limited to 50 or fewer. By March 20 meeting sizes were limited to 10 or fewer, and the stay at home order came just 9 days after 3.14. God's perfect timing.
A sincere thanks to Kurt Wilson for being obedient to the Lord in this calling and for pursuing a vision which I know was often surprising even to him all along the way. This was a great blessing to this city and a significant bond to believers and churches at this remarkably crucial time—just before we would be effectively separated. Of course the Lord knew, and He will never cease to amaze us as we trust Him.

Now we wait again to see how our God responds to our cries as we enter a whole new and unexpected crisis through which He is already at work.

And once again I remind you to keep on praying, St. Louis. Keep up with Pray for the Lou and other ongoing area moves of prayer, many of which are now continuing online. Christian, keep praying wherever you are. In an unprecedented time, pray now like never before. Even socially distanced, we remain united in Christ. As He reminds us all of our ultimate need for Him, let's continue to ask and see what our Lord will do.

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." -Philippians 4:4-7