Down to the River to Pray

The last few days have been simply overwhelming in my life. The first reason is that there is just a lot to do.  My weekend was jam packed full of good church related things like a Holy Spirit filled training with leaders from my church and a beautiful celebration of marriage and excitement about renovations being made at the church.  But there is also a lot of heaviness of heart that comes from my cousin being sick and searching for answers and my husband’s great-grandmother facing the end of her life and seeing pictures and hearing stories of my last hometown Nashville under water.

I opened up my worship planning book this afternoon trying to figure out what to preach on.  For the past few weeks I have been following our churchwide bible study (although most days, I’m not sure people get the connection between the two) and this week the topic is the Household of God – the creation of God’s people who are sent to be witness to God’s love.  It fits in okay with the whole Mother’s Day thing happening, but for some reason in the midst of all of my exhaustion and anxiety, it feels a little too schmaltzy.

Want further proof of my “unsettledness” – just listen to my dream last night.  I was in an elevator with these two twenty something women who were gossipping and saying horrible stuff about other people and the elevator started to tip and we heard a snap and then went plummeting downwards – the elevator falling faster and faster and faster down the shaft with screams and shouts until I woke up.

So, when I opened up the book of Acts today, I found it kind of funny that Paul was dreaming too. A man stood pleading in his dream – COME HELP US! And in that plea, Paul felt the urgency of God’s calling and immediately the band of evangelists packed up their bags and made a long journey to Phillippi.

And they wandered around in the city for a few days, settling in, seeing what would arise, and finally on the Sabbath they went down to the river… “where we supposed there was a place of prayer.” 

I read that phrase and my heart skipped a beat.  Because there is a lot of praying happening by the river these days.  I don’t know anything about Ancient Roman culture or why they guessed that people would be praying at the river, but I know today that praying happens at the river.  I’m not sure what Paul and Luke and the others thought they might find there – but I know that if I were able to head over to the Cedar River here in Iowa or down to the Cumberland River in Tennessee, or even to the Mississippi River Delta and the coastlines of the Gulf of Mexico there would be a lot of praying going on.

COME HELP US! the vision came in Paul’s dream.  And they got up and left and went down to the river to pray.

We could talk about the church gathered at the river and have the visions from Revelation in our minds… the faithful gathered at the river with their beautiful robes, but instead my mind is going to pictures of the church gathered at the river with sandbags and stories of hope and songs of peace and offerings of money for recovery.  My mind is going to images of churches full of people who have just come from the river and are now stopping for a free meal and rest for their tired arms and legs. My mind is going to images of churches that have traveled hundreds of miles to come to the river and help rebuild. 

And as we head down to the river to pray and help and listen and cry and share… as we are the family of God down by the riverside… maybe others will hear our stories of hope, like Lydia did.  Maybe they will be moved by the good news and they will put down what they are doing and open their hearts to us and join us in this journey. 

Everything is not alright today.  And maybe my dream was just an indication of the helplessness that I feel as things fall apart.  But if we go down to the river to pray with our brothers and our sisters and our mothers and our fathers we might just find the strength we need to keep going and the hope that we need to survive.

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