Immanuel or Emmanuel?

Bethlehem Crèche | Photo by Allen Aaron White. Courtesy of Jack and Valerie Murray. © Copyright 2017 Nexus Prayer InternationalIMMANUEL or EMMANUEL? Either way… God with Us!

Second Sunday of Advent | December 10, 2017

As both a continuation of my celebration of Advent1 this year, and in preparation for the final lesson of 2017 that I’ll be sharing with our Nexus Prayer group tomorrow morning at Saint Dunstan’s , I thought I’d share a few random thoughts here in my prayer journal about the reason for the season – the birth of Immanuel. Or is it Emmanuel?

From previous lessons and posts that I’ve shared, we know that embedded deeply within the ancient Hebrew of Psalm 46:10 there are no less than five unique names of God: Elohim, I Am, YHWH (Yahweh), Be, and an allusion to the Holy Trinity that is originally found in Genesis 1:1. But although not literally listed, there is yet another “name” to be found in Psalm 46 – namely (pun intended): Immanuel. Whether you prefer to use “Immanuel” from the ancient Hebrew found in Isaiah 7:14, or the transliterated2 Greek “Emmanuel” found in Matthew 1:21-23, I placed the word “name” above in quotes because technically neither are an actual name of Jesus. They are instead descriptions or titles.

There are many places in both the Old and New Testaments that declare how Jesus is to be referred to or called. The best examples were also provided to us by the prophet Isaiah when he wrote in Isaiah 9:6: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Like the “name” Immanuel, none of those listed by Isaiah are actual, literal names, but rather titles or descriptives of the (coming) Messiah.

Interestingly, “Emmanuel” found in Matthew 1:21-23 appears only once in the entire New Testament, and although Isaiah makes a second mention of “Immanuel” in Isaiah 8:8, that reference is to the Jews of Israel, not the Messiah. So, there is actually only one reference to the coming Messiah in the Old Testament as well – the reference to the birth of Jesus some 735 years before it happened!

And what of the references to “Immanuel” in Psalm 46 that I spoke of? There are no less than three, but you’ll have to read my post on Emmanuel: God with Us from last Christmas to learn even more. But before continuing, why not take a moment and enjoy the following video “Immanuel: El is with Us”³ inspired by a Christmas Eve sermon delivered by Charles Spurgeon4.

 

NOTES & REFERENCES

1 Advent | Wikipedia – the free Encyclopedia

2 Transliterated Greek or Romanized Hebrew | Wikipedia – the free Encyclopedia

3 “Immanuel: El is with Us” Video | Courtesy of Qandnotu2 on YouTube | Published December 23, 2013 | Based on a sermon delivered by Charles Spurgeon on Christmas Eve, 1854.

4 Charles Haddon Spurgeon | Wikipedia – the free Encyclopedia

5 Photo Credit: Bethlehem Crèche | Original photo by Allen Aaron White. With thanks and kind permission of Jack & Valerie Murray for allowing photography of their beautiful Nativity that is hand-carved from olive wood, originated in Bethlehem, and has a place of honor in their home every Christmas season. © Copyright 2017 Nexus Prayer International.

Being Still – Rx for the Body and Soul

Palms Up Praying Hands | Photo by Jeremy Yap in Public Domain via Unsplash | Used and modified with permission by Nexus Prayer International.Being Still – Rx for the Body and Soul

“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Romans 8:26

First, there was Halloween, followed by All Saints Day, All Souls Day, then last Sunday night’s beautiful Requiem Eucharist at Saint Dunstan’s. Then all hell broke loose, and it was all downhill from there.

That’s because for the better part of six days (and counting) I’m weary from wrestling with some mysterious influenza bug of unknown origin that’s gotten the best of me and kept me bed-ridden most of the time. Sick as a dog and really too weak to do much else, you’d think it would be a perfect time to spend more time in nexus prayer. That’s what I thought, too, but that’s not exactly how it has worked out for me. But I digress.

The scripture I cited from Romans at the top of this page has come to mind many times this week as I’ve struggled to maintain my normal, daily nexus prayer regimen. I realized that was easier said than done when, on day one of my solitary confinement, I set my alarm for my usual 4:54 am wake-up call, began my customary 30-minute nexus prayer, and did not realize until some ninety minutes later than I had fallen asleep and never even got past step one!  It’s remarkable how the mind wanders and how, when either deprived of sleep or over-medicated, a simple five-minute nexus prayer can take almost an hour to complete. But despite the challenges, I’ve been able to glean some valuable spiritual insights from my bedroom-turned laboratory and this urban monk-turned guinea pig. In no particular order, then, here are a few lessons for us all, but especially for me:

“Let go, and LET GOD do the heavy lifting.”

 

Lesson 1In times of trouble, distress, and illness follow Martin Luther’s example of turning to the God of Psalm 46 for comfort. As we know today, Luther loved this psalm so much he set it to music as “A Mighty Fortress is our God”.1 He both recited and sang Psalm 46 quite often, especially when he was under heavy persecution. It begins: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1 Are you overwhelmed with your present circumstances, including illness? God is your refuge and strength! Run to Him.

Lesson 2Embrace the 5. Having spent more than two years of practicing nexus prayer, I can tell you that the 5-minute prayer interval is the Rodney Dangerfield of prayer. It gets no respect. The biggest mistake beginners to NXP encounter is underestimating the value of simply spending five minutes with God. All too often, newbies to the prayer practice attempt the 20, 30, even 60-minute intervals all too soon, or attempt praying for five minutes, but do so something like twenty times a day. Also, not a good idea. Indeed, since first launching Nexus Prayer in 2015, I have logged more than 3,400 prayer sessions for a total duration of about 547 hours. That’s praying nexus prayer – connecting to God daily – more than 500 hours with most of those sessions coming in 5-minute intervals. And being bed-ridden this past week – the sickest I can recall ever being in my life – I discovered more than ever that the five-minute nexus prayer is my friend.

Lesson 3Be realistic. Do not strive for perfection. God neither demands nor desires perfection from us in our prayer time, just our intention. The mind wanders. Accept this fact. External noises and internal distractions, memories, thoughts, etc.… while we are praying are ever-present. Let them go. We get tired and sometimes fall asleep while praying. It’s okay! It’s not about how many minutes we pray a day, but our simple intention to just “be” and spend any amount of time with God. The closest human bond is probably that of a mother and her child. What mother does not love for her baby to fall asleep in her arms as she lovingly caresses, cradles, and whispers in a still, small voice words of love? Do we think God – our Abba Father – cares for us any less when we drift asleep in those moments we draw near to Him through nexus prayer?

Lesson 4 Praying Psalm 46:10 is full of obstacles – especially when we are sick. As mentioned previously, the mind wanders; our spirit is willing, but our body is weak Matthew 26:41. Our symptoms and nagging pain, even with the common cold or flu, can be a major distraction, how much more serious health issues such as diabetes, cancer, stroke, or heart problems to name just a few. Big or small, God can handle them all.

Lesson 5 – Let God do the heavy lifting. Praying when it is the hardest for us to do so is the most important time for us to pray. Just be still and let God do the heavy lifting. God knows what we need before we can even ask or think. Remember the verse at the beginning of this post? “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Romans 8:26 Sometimes, we are simply unable to pray. No words. No strength. Perfect! Just where God wants us.

Finally, at the time of this writing, several members of our Sunday morning nexus prayer group are either in bed sick, recuperating from surgery, or remain in the hospital. Although they can’t be with us physically, I’ve joined them virtually throughout the week via synchronized prayer2, and I’ve encouraged them to connect with God and me every chance they get. I never tire of hearing or sharing with them the comforting words of Matthew 18:20.

Although my personal physical battles with sickness this week presented significant challenges for me, they are simply mosquito bites compared to those who suffer each and every day from serious and chronic illness. This has both raised my awareness and increased my compassion for those suffering from debilitating physical and mental injuries and disease. How can I – we – best share nexus prayer with them so that they, too, can benefit from hearing God’s still, small voice and experience Christ’s suffering love for them? I don’t know the answer yet, but I’m more compelled than ever to discover how. God will show the Way…through nexus prayer.

NOTES & REFERENCES

1 “A Mighty Fortress is our God.”| Wikipedia – the free Encyclopedia

2 Synchronized Prayer | NexusPrayer.org

3 Photo Credit: Palms Up Praying Hands | Photo by Jeremy Yap in Public Domain via Unsplash | Used and modified with permission by Nexus Prayer International.

Less is More

Photo Credit: NXP Stats | © 2017 Copyright Allen Aaron White | Used with permission by Nexus Prayer International.

Today I read Robert Browning’s Andrea del Sarto1 where, in the dramatic monologue of the eponymous renaissance artist, he has Andrea comment to Lucrezia, “Less is more.” (Yes, that’s where the well-known and often quoted axiom originated.)

I wonder if Browning really had Psalm 46:10 in mind when writing this, but not likely, as for most of his life Robert Browning2 struggled with religion. At age 13, Robert announced he was atheist, although as he got older he considered himself a Theist. But I digress. Yes, I agree, Andrea. Less is more. Especially when it comes to Nexus Prayer.

I’m writing on this theme today because we live in a society where bigger is always considered better, and super-sizing everything is the norm. Subconsciously, I think this creates unrealistic expectations for Nexus Prayer, especially those new to the prayer practice. That’s because I’ve recently noticed a trend with beginners who (falsely) conclude that if five minutes of prayer is good, then ten, fifteen, or even twenty minutes (an hour?) of Nexus Prayer must be better, right? Not so fast. I thought so, too, in the beginning. But I quickly learned that the 5-minute Nexus Prayer was my friend. So, you’ll often here me say, “Embrace the 5!”

Less is more.

 

After you’ve experienced two or three successful Nexus Prayers of five minutes in duration – especially when you realize how good it feels to just be still in sacred silence – it is quite normal to think you’re ready to double up and jump to ten minutes. Maybe you are. But I strongly encourage you to utilize the five-minute interval once a day exclusively for at least the first week. If you do, by week’s end you will have spent 35 minutes just be-ing with God. That’s a big step when you consider most of us don’t spend any time at all being still and knowing God. Of course, you’ll want more (trust me on this), so keep embracing the 5, but instead of once a day, try twice a day – say morning and night. Do that and you just spent over an hour with God in a week! Then, and only then will you be ready for increased units of time.

All of that said, I have something to celebrate this week as I just achieved another personal Nexus Prayer milestone … 500 total hours of duration, more than 3,000 prayer sessions, and over 1,000 days of praying Nexus Prayer since 2015. Translation?  The hours of duration equal the total amount of time I’ve spent being still and knowing God Psalm 46:10 – most achieved in only 5 or 10-minute increments of prayer time. Did you catch that? Most of my 500 hours of prayer were accomplished in 5-minute increments!

Please know that I’m not boasting or bragging here (God knows I should and need to do better.) I’m only sharing this to demonstrate that we should never underestimate the power of spending “only” five minutes with God. Don’t have time to pray, you say? Amazing what can be done with only 5 minutes a day. Text me and I’ll join you.

Quality, not quantity. Less is more. Embrace the 5!

 NOTES & REFERENCES

1 Andrea del Sarto | Poetry Foundation

2 Robert Browning |  Less is More  |Wikipedia – the free Encyclopedia

3 Photo Credit: NXP Stats | © 2017 Copyright Allen Aaron White | Used with permission by Nexus Prayer International.

4 A prayer timer app such as the one by Meditation Timer Pro can be very helpful for Nexus Prayer.

Synchronized Prayer

Synchronized Swimmers | Public Domain via Jesus de Blas | Used and modified with permisssion | Nexus Prayer International
Synchronized Prayer

No doubt you are familiar with the Olympic sports of synchronized diving, skating, and swimming, the latter previously known as water ballet. But who knew that synchronized swimming has been around as a competitive sporting event since 1891? 1  Now, let me introduce you to something that you may or may not be familiar with – synchronized prayer – specifically, synchronized Nexus Prayer.

Strictly speaking, and by definition, synchronization occurs when two independent agents act in unison, occur at the same time, coincide, or agree in time or concert at the same rate and exactly together. When this principle is applied to prayer, I think it looks something like what Jesus had in mind when he said:

Again, I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:19,20

Now, it’s obvious that Jesus had a literal, physical gathering of individuals in mind when he spoke those words, but there is no reason why today, with all our technological advances, that we Christians cannot gather together virtually as well. Indeed, even though I live in Spring and my personal Nexus Prayer partner lives in the Houston Heights, we “gather” in our separate homes at 5:20 each morning for Nexus Prayer, but to also synchronize our prayer time with The Brothers of the Taizé Community in France. Now, with a local prayer group gathering for Nexus Prayer every Sunday morning at 10:15 am (Room BEC 315) at Saint Dunstan’s Episcopal Church of Houston, I’d like to extend the invitation for others to join us for synchronized prayer during the rest of the week.

The concept is the same as we find in Scripture. David prayed morning, “noon”, and night; the Apostles observed the Jewish custom of praying at the third, sixth and ninth hour and at midnight (Acts 10:3, 9; 16:25; etc.), and for centuries monastic brothers and sisters have united for the Liturgy of the Hours 2 throughout the day.

Synchronized Prayer
Except for the occasional scheduling conflict, special meetings, or select holidays, below are my scheduled daily prayer times seven days a week. I invite you join me for synchronized prayer any or all times as your schedule permits. If you like, text me a few minutes before the posted time so I’ll know you are joining me for a 5 minute Nexus Prayer. Conversely, I also recommend you have a regular time each day that you set aside for Nexus Prayer. Let me know your set times and I’ll join you! Don’t have a scheduled prayer practice yet? No problem. To get started, simply begin with a  5 minute Nexus Prayer sometime in the morning, and another in the evening, eventually adding one in the afternoon – three times a day! Regardless, my recommendation is that everyone find at least one time a day that is ideal for their personal routine and make it a regular, daily event – a divine appointment.

My Daily Scheduled Prayer Times (November 2017)

Morning Prayer
5:00 am
| Morning Prayers | Synchronized prayer with the Brothers of SSJE Monastery 3
5:20 am | Nexus Prayer | Synchronized prayer with Fr. Randall Trego, Saint Dunstan’s Episcopal Church (Houston) and the Brothers of Taizé Community4 in France.
10:15 am | Nexus Prayer | Synchronized prayer with Saint Dunstan’s Nexus Prayer Group (meets at church on Sunday mornings at 10:15 in Room 315 of the Bentley Education Center.)

Midday Prayer
12:00 noon
| Daily synchronized Nexus Prayer at noon (meets for a special Eucharist Service and prayer every Thursday at noon in Saint Dunstan’s Canterbury Chapel.)

Evening Prayer
6:00 pm
| Synchronized Nexus Prayer in conjunction with evening prayer walks for the community
11:00 pm | Evening Prayers with final Nexus Prayer of the day

Seven Days a Week (5 am-11:00 pm)
I strive for one hour of Nexus Prayer daily (God gives us 24 hours each day, the least we can do is give one back don’t you think?) So that means that in addition to my scheduled prayers, I also try to sprinkle in about another half dozen nexus prayers throughout the day as my schedule permits. Why not join me?

And although we gather for prayer in community every Sunday, synchronized prayer allows us to pray in communion with one another virtually, whether you are in Houston, New York, Canberra, or Canterbury. Perfect for when you are unable to make it to church or are on a business trip. Bottom line:  Allen is happy to join you for a 5-minute Nexus Prayer any day of the week, seven days a week, between 5:00 am and 11:00 pm. I’m just a text, email, or phone call away. Let’s pray together!

Other Synchronized Prayer Opportunities
You are welcome to join Allen in synchronized prayer during any of the published times above. But if you like, you can also participate in synchronized prayer with the Brothers of Taizé and the Brothers of SSJE Monastery. Their daily scheduled prayer times as listed on their respective websites are shown below:

Finally, allow yourself a few minutes of extra time to prepare yourself for prayer, especially if you are scheduling your Nexus Prayer for the early, pre-dawn hours. For example, every morning I begin my morning prayers at 5:00 am, so I set my alarm clock for 4:54 to allow myself enough time to get up, wash my face, and prepare to start my prayer precisely at 5:00 am. Likewise, when planning to pray with the Brothers of Taizé at 1:30 pm in Houston (8:30 pm in France), my iPhone timer gives me a 5 minute reminder so I can stop what I am doing at the moment and properly prepare myself for prayer.

Like more information or interested in joining me for prayer? Contact me.

NOTES & REFERENCES

1 Synchronized Swimming | Wikipedia – the free Encyclopedia

2 Liturgy of the Hours | Wikipedia – the free Encyclopedia

3 Brothers of SSJE Monastery | Episcopalian Brothers of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist

4 The Brothers of Taizé | Brothers of the Taizé Community, Taizé, France

5 Photo Credit: Synchronized Swimmers | Public Domain via Jesus de Blas (Russia) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons | Used and modified with permission by Nexus Prayer International.

Be Still … in the Storm

Hurricane_over_Yemen_NASA_ModifiedNXPPhotograph_PublicDomain_viaUnsplashBE STILL … IN THE STORM

Editor’s Note:
This post was originally written January 27, 2017 – eight months ago. As I write these words, literally at this moment 9:12 p.m. on August 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 hurricane will be making landfall at Corpus Christi & Rockport, TX within the hour.  As I pause for prayer for all those who will be effected by this storm – the Body of Christ – including residents of Houston over the course of the next seven days, I thought it timely to remind all of us who experience storms of all kinds in our lives that Jesus is in the boat with us. – aaw

Update: August 27, 2017 – Now a tropical storm, “Harvey” is currently hovering over Houston where, in its first full day, has dumped as much as 20 inches of rain in some parts of Houston, with 10 to 15 inches more anticipated in the next several days.  A meteorologist at The National Weather Service has declared Houston’s weather as catastrophic, unprecedented, and of epic proportions – the worst flooding in Houston history,  and the worst storm since Hurricane Carla hit Galveston/Houston in 1961. We now return you to your regular programming …. aaw

BE STILL … IN THE STORM

If you’ve ever been through one of the four T’s: tsunami, typhoon, tidal wave, or tornado, then you know the devastating damage these storms can cause to the four P’s: people, pets, plants, and property.

The single best example here on the Gulf Coast of Texas is the infamous Great Galveston Hurricane that hit September 8, 1900, and left up to 12,000 people dead. It remains to the present day the deadliest single day event in US history.1 And although I was only eight years old at the time, I still remember my Momo (grandmother) rushing us to the “safe area” of the laundry room as the Level 5 Hurricane Carla hit Galveston and threatened Houston in 1961, as well as countless other storms throughout the years, including Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that hit the Gulf Coast within weeks of each other in 2005.

“And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” – Mark 4:39

 

The Storm on the Sea of Galilee” by Rembrandt (1633) | Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.Like the disciples in a boat on a stormy lake Mark 4:35-41, we all sail through storms at some point in our lives. And I’m not just talking about the weather.

Whether your heart is literally failing or someone has broken your heart, sooner or later we are all touched by the storms of sickness and shattered dreams. Don’t be afraid!

When your personal bank account is at an all-time low, while your bills are at an all-time high, don’t lose hope! The tropical depression of finance rains on us all, but will eventually leave us a rainbow (even if not with the proverbial pot of gold at the end of it!) when the Son shines through. Matthew 5:45

And when you’ve unexpectedly lost a loved one or even when, as a thief in the night and through no fault of your own, the people in power take away your job, your health insurance, and your retirement benefits – all in one fell swoop – you can still, like Job, trust in God. Job 5:19 He may allow the hurricane force winds of life to bend you, but never to break you.

Truth be known, life is hard and man will fail you. Businesses may fail. Health may fail. Relationships may fail. Marriages may fail. But, Jesus never fails! And like the disciples who were afraid of the crashing waves, the deep waters, and their sinking circumstances, we only have to cry out to God for help and He will rescue us. Jesus is in the boat!

Even in your deepest, darkest, foggiest moments when it seems that all the walls of your world are caving in and falling down upon you, do not be afraid! For despite all your fears and flash floods of emotions, you can take solace in the fact that you are not traveling through the ominous-looking clouds, the veil of tears, a wall of water, or the valley of the shadow of death alone. Psalm 23:1-6 Indeed, although the winds of change may be rocking your boat, know this: Jesus is in the boat with you and He has the power to command all the hurricane force winds and tidal waves of your life to be perfectly still.

Martin Luther experienced more than his fair share of “donner und blitz” in his life, but thanks be to God, he passed through all his storms both safely and soundly. God’s reward to the world for Luther’s faith, hope, vision, and courage? The Reformation.2 Martin Luther’s trials and tribulations may be different from most of ours, but it was his particular and personal storms, inspired by Psalm 46, that led him to compose the classic hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” 3

The eye of Super Typhoon Maysak from the ISS | NASA Photograph in Public Domain via Wikipedia – the free Encyclopedia.Finally, while speaking both metaphorically and meteorologically here, it is worth noting that although the size of the average hurricane can span 100 miles in diameter with winds exceeding 100 miles per hour, the absolute center of the storm, the eye, is almost always relatively clear and calm. How ironic it is that at the core of arguably the strongest force on earth, God gave us the perfect and scientifically proven example from nature of how he invites us to remain calm in the midst of the storms in our life.  Obviously, God understood this fact clearly when he commanded all to “Be still, and know that I am God” in Psalm 46:10.

Just as the eye of a hurricane is the coolest, calmest, and most collected part of the storm,our “safe room” is to be found at the center of God’s will and presence. And for any of us fearful of our life boat capsizing as it takes on water navigating the tropical storms of life, I know of no place that offers greater comfort or safety than when we enter our prayer closet Matthew 6:6 and find the quietude of God through Nexus Prayer waiting for us there.

“Be still, and know that I am God.”
– Psalm 46:10

 

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.” – Psalm 46:1-3

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. – Psalm 46:10

Ready to begin? Nexus Prayer can be done in as little as 5 minutes a day and The Steps are easy to learn. Questions? Feel free to contact me anytime!

NOTES & REFERENCES

1 The Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900 | Wikipedia – the free Encyclopedia

2 The Protestant Reformation | Wikipedia – the free Encyclopedia

3 “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” by Martin Luther | The Hymn Society – Hymnary.org

4 The Eye of a Cyclone | Wikipedia – the free Encyclopedia

5 Photo Credit: Hurricane over Yemen | NASA Photograph in Public Domain via Unsplash | Used and modified with permission by Nexus Prayer International.

6 Photo Credit:“The Storm on the Sea of Galilee” by Rembrandt (1633) | Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

7 Photo Credit: The eye of Super Typhoon Maysak from the ISS | NASA Photograph in Public Domain via Wikipedia – the free Encyclopedia.

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Solar Powered Prayer

 Photo Credit: 2017 Solar Eclipse | Public domain photo by Photo by laura skinner on Unsplash | Used and modified with permission by Nexus Prayer International.SOLAR POWERED PRAYER

If Nexus Prayer is a part of your daily personal routine (and I hope that it is), then today, August 21, 2017, is a day when you definitely don’t want to skip your prayer practice. That’s because today is the first time in 99 years that a total solar eclipse will sweep the whole width of the United States. This celestial nexus, when the moon’s shadow falls on the Earth as it passes between us and the sun, has been dubbed The Great American Solar Eclipse1 and begins this morning (as I type this) precisely at 9:05 a.m. PDT near Lincoln City, Oregon and ends later this afternoon near Charleston, South Carolina at 2:48 p.m. EDT. (If you live in the greater Houston area, the celestial light show begins at 11:46 a.m. CST.)

In ancient Roman culture, Sunday was the day of the Sun god. In paganism, the sun was a source of life, giving warmth and illumination to mankind. And On 7 March 321, Constantine I, Rome’s first Christian Emperor, decreed that Sunday would be observed as the Roman day of rest not only for Christians, but everyone living within the boundaries of the Holy Roman Empire.2 Of course, Christians today recognize Sunday as Sonday – the Lord’s Day – when we gather to worship not the sun, but the Son. John 20:1-2, Acts 20:7, Revelation 1:10, Mark 16:2 Nevertheless, “Sun worshipers” still exist today as evidenced by all those sun bathers who hit the beaches between Memorial Day and Labor Day, but no more so than today when it is estimated that more than 300 million people in the United States will look heavenward for a chance to see the sun eclipsed for about 2 minutes and 40 seconds.

Man Gaze | Public domain photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash | Used and modified with permission by Nexus Prayer International.Like almost everyone else on the planet today, I’m fascinated with this celestial phenomenon and will be outside with the hope of witnessing our day turn to night then back to day again before watching much of the news coverage of the event, especially NASA’s Live Webcast.

But rather than just gazing upward for a few minutes at a 10,000 ° fahrenheit ball of fire,  it will not surprise any of you to learn that during the actual eclipse occurring here today in Houston, my upward gaze and primary focus will be on the Son, not the Sun, as I include a five minute Nexus Prayer in my viewing plans. After all, the sun may be 93 million miles from Earth, but we’re no more than a blink of an eye – a nanosecond – away from God through Nexus Prayer. And although we will have to wait another seven years before we can experience a similar solar event, we have the amazing ability to look upward every single day, connect with the Creator of the universe (including the sun), and through Nexus Prayer simply be still and know that He is God. Psalm 46:10

So, as the moon moves between the earth and the sun today, I pray that you will not let anything come between you and the Son today. Did you miss today’s solar eclipse? No worries. God has scheduled another for you to observe on April 8, 2024, when America’s next total eclipse will travel a diagonal path from Texas to Maine.

Meanwhile, you can connect to the Son – Creator of the sun Genesis 1:1-5 – anytime of the day or night. Nexus Prayer can be done in as little as five minutes a day and The Steps are easy to learn. Questions? Feel free to contact me anytime!

NOTES & CREDITS

1 The Great American Solar Eclipse | Wikipedia – the free Encyclopedia

2 Sunday | Wikipedia – the free Encyclopedia

3 Graphic Credit: Eclipse Across America  | Public domain NASA Graphic used with permission via NASA.gov

4 Photo Credit: Man Gaze | Public domain photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash | Used and modified with permission by Nexus Prayer International.

5 Photo Credit: 2017 Solar Eclipse | Public domain photo by Photo by laura skinner on Unsplash| Used and modified with permission by Nexus Prayer International.

Milestones of Prayer

Photo Credit: Track & Field | Public Domain Photo by Stephen Di Donato on Unsplashed | Used and modified with permission by Nexus Prayer International.Milestones of Prayer

Next week marks two new milestones for Nexus Prayer. First, it marks two years since I first began my intensive research and study of Psalm 46, and secondly, it marks Nexus Prayer’s 1st birthday celebration! As you’ll discover below, “milestone” takes on special meaning for me as I share my thoughts and news today about a few of the next steps in the works for Nexus Prayer.

Running the Race
When I was a student at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland, Jim Ryan1 was my hero. That’s because at that time Ryan was best known as the first high school track athlete to break four minutes in the mile, and because as a member of Blair’s track and cross-country team, I, too, was a miler. But that’s where the comparison ends. The only thing Ryan and I had in common was a passion for running the mile, measured at the time as four laps around a track of 440 yards. And although I did hold the record for the fastest mile ever run at my high school (4:27), and showed enough potential at the time to be invited to attend and run for Brown University, I was no world-class athlete. Interestingly, in both I Corinthians 9:24 and II Timothy 4:7, the Apostle Paul compares the Christian life to running a race. Looking back, God’s plan for my life was quite different from the Olympic day dreams of my own, as God took away my running shoes and put me on a new course and different kind of track at Tennessee Temple to study bible and theology. Today, my competitive running has long since been replaced with long-distance prayer walking, but I’m stilling running a race nonetheless – a race for God, a race for prayer, and a race against time.

Since beginning my study of Psalm 46:10 back in 2015, and stepping out on this journey with God called Nexus Prayer a year later, I’ve travelled – spiritually speaking – many a mile. Along the way make that The Way, I’ve met some fascinating people, made some new friends, found a new church home, and gained some profound insights not only about God and prayer, but history, the Scriptures, human nature, people, and especially myself. What a fascinating journey! Today, and especially as Nexus Prayer anniversaries next week, I feel God calling me to delve even deeper into Psalm 46 and to take a longer view for Nexus Prayer. But, what does that mean precisely? Several things…

PRAY MORE | 440 = 4:40
My sustained daily study and prayer practice of Nexus Prayer have been ongoing for two years now. I’ve been averaging an hour a day for Nexus Prayer (not counting other types of prayer) beginning at 5:15 each morning with my local prayer partner in synchronized prayer (same time, different locations.) But I desire even more, so I’m moving my personal prayer time for Nexus Prayer to commence every morning at 4:40am. (Fitting for an ex-quarter-miler and runner, don’t you think?) Additionally, what began as occasional prayer walks last Fall for both my neighborhood and local community, are now a routine part of my nightly prayer regimen. (It’s all your fault, Randy Sprinkle!2)

PRAY WITH OTHERS
I’m both excited and humbled to announce that approval has just been granted to begin regular weekly classes and prayer groups for Nexus Prayer starting next month at Saint Dunstan’s Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas. (Thank you, Fr. Rob and Fr. Randall!) This is not only a very special opportunity, but a sacred responsibility and specific answer to prayer. And as you see me mention often here, this is no normal coincidence, but a God-incident that a “permanent home” for Nexus Prayer coincides with its first anniversary! Preparation is currently being made and details regarding meeting rooms and times will be announced here on this site soon.
 

PRAYER PRESENTATIONS
My Fall calendar is starting to fill up with weekly opportunities to share Nexus Prayer with various local groups and organizations. Seeds that have been planted for the last two years are now budding seedlings. Please pray that these young, tender plants will continue to grow into healthy and strong trees in God’s kingdom as new opportunities for Nexus Prayer rise up locally.

 Photo Credit: Runner | Public Domain Photo by Dev Dodia on Unsplash | Used and modified with permission by Nexus Prayer International.What started as a crawl, then baby steps, then a walk, jog, and one mile run for me turns out to be a marathon of prayer. A two-year marathon where I just crossed the finish line, right? Not hardly. Despite all I’ve experienced, learned, and accomplished these past two years, what I realize today is that my marathon journey with Nexus Prayer has not been a journey at all, but a pilgrimage. A pilgrimage that had a beginning, but has no end. What I’ve learned is that no matter how hard I try or how deep I delve into Psalm 46, the truths to be gleaned from God’s word and the lessons to be learned simply cannot be exhausted. So, ever the student and never the teacher, I’m more excited than ever to be on what John Bunyan would refer to as my pilgrim’s progress3, and to discover all that God has planned for me along the way.

Ready to join me in the race? Nexus Prayer can be done in as little as five minutes a day and The Steps are easy to learn. Questions? Feel free to contact me anytime!

 

NOTES & REFERENCES

1 Jim Ryan | Wikipedia– the free Encyclopedia

2 Randy Sprinkle | Follow Me: Lessons for Becoming a Prayerwalker. New Hope Publishers, 2001.

3 John Bunyan |The Pilgrim’s Progress | Wikipedia – the free Encyclopedia

4 Photo Credit: Track & Field | Public Domain Photo by Stephen Di Donato on Unsplash | Used and modified with permission by Nexus Prayer International.

5 Photo Credit: Runner | Public Domain Photo by Dev Dodia on Unsplash | Used and modified with permission by Nexus Prayer International.

Sacred Spaces: Canterbury Chapel

Canterbury Chapel | Saint Dunstan's Episcopal Church | Copyright 2017 © Nexus Prayer International

Canterbury Chapel | Saint Dunstan’s Episcopal Church, Houston

SACRED SPACES SERIES
Canterbury Chapel | Saint Dunstan’s Episcopal Church
14301 Stuebner Airline • Houston, Texas 77069 • (281) 440-1600 • SaintDunstans.org

Given the opportunity to pray in the 800 year old Trinity Chapel of England’s Canterbury Cathedral, you would no doubt take me up on the offer. (You can actually do that you know?) But if you live in the Greater Houston area, you need only trek to the Canterbury Chapel located within Saint Dunstan’s Episcopal Church. Offering a communion service every Thursday at noon and a Eucharistic service known as “Simple Meal” held most Sunday evenings at 5:00 p.m., this lovely little chapel is located near 1960 on Stuebner Airline Road in northwest Houston.

Canterbury Chapel | Saint Dunstan's Episcopal Church | Copyright 2017 © Nexus Prayer International

Jesus Window | Canterbury Chapel

Although the Canterbury Chapel is not generally open to the public during weekdays, I have found that if you arrive a little early or stay a little late you can “steal” time for private prayer both before and after all services. Of special note is that during all regularly scheduled Sunday A.M. worship services of the church, the chapel is staffed by individuals during and after communion that are especially trained to offer prayers for intercession, healing, and thanksgiving.

Dedicated in 1995, and able to accommodate about 25 persons, this intimate chapel is appointed with inspirational furnishings, religious art, icons, prayer candles, and even its own columbarium! Behind the altar are two gorgeous stain glass windows – one depicting Christ and the other Saint Dunstan (c 909-988; Archbishop of Canterbury.)

Canterbury Chapel | Saint Dunstan's Episcopal Church | Copyright 2017 © Nexus Prayer International

Canterbury Chapel, Saint Dunstan’s Episcopal Church, Houston

 

I may indeed one day be fortunate enough to pray in one of the many chapels located within the sacred walls of Canterbury Cathedral. But until then, I am perfectly content attending the inspired weekly services and praying Nexus Prayer every chance I get in the lovely Canterbury Chapel located in Houston’s own backyard.

Why not join me? Nexus Prayer can be done in as little as five minutes a day and The Steps are easy to learn. Questions? Feel free to contact me anytime.

Sacred Spaces: Chapels

First, a personal note …

For some time now, I’ve been wanting to share my thoughts about praying in sacred spaces, also known as hierotopies.¹ And since I recently commissioned a drawing of one of my all-time favorite places to pray, Phillips Chapel, this seems as good a time as any to at least introduce the subject. So, beginning with “Chapels”, today I’m launching the sacred spaces page of this website. Hopefully, sooner than later this section will be full of local, state, national, and even international places of prayer for you to consider visiting…and praying. Meanwhile, I invite you to learn more about sacred spaces through the excellent interview with author, art critic, and philanthropist Roberta Green Ahmanson, “What is Sacred Space”. ²  – aaw

Phillips Chapel illustration commissioned for Nexus Prayer International | Copyright © 2017 Rev. Allen Aaron White | Nexus Prayer International SACRED SPACES: CHAPELS

There is no wrong time, wrong reason, or wrong place to pray. Indeed, we are encouraged by the Apostle Paul to pray without ceasing for everything, everyone, and everywhere I Thessalonians 5:17, I Timothy 2:1-8. In a very real way then, any place, every place, can be considered a sacred space since anywhere God is present (which is everywhere) is holy ground.

I strive for this noble ideal – praying without ceasing – daily through my morning, noon, and evening prayers; throughout the day as I run my errands around town and go about the work of my prayer ministry and business at hand; my evening prayer walks for our neighborhood and local community; at weekly church services; and, of course, my daily Nexus Prayer. So, when it comes to heeding Paul’s admonition to pray everywhere, I do a pretty good job with portable praying. However, although praying on-the-go is a good thing, if you are like me, sometimes you just need to “get away from it all,” to be still and alone with God. For example, even though Jesus was “always about his Father’s business” Luke 2:49 He frequently removed himself from the people, problems, and public places of his daily life and ministry to pray in a secluded place Mark 1:35. Is there a lesson from Jesus’ example for us today? I think so.

With all the above in mind, I could wax poetic here about all the wonderful places to pray – both indoors and out. But for me, if praying at church or within a cathedral is good, then spending time communing with God in the sacred space of a chapel is great and one of my favorite places to pray. And when I’m able to pray alone in one of these sanctuaries of solitude, then that’s just a bonus gift from God.

By Will Eisner (pencils) and Lou Fine (inks), uploaded by Roygbiv666 (Public Domain Super Heroes) [Public domain, GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Flame

CAPE? CHAPLAIN? CHAPEL!

Now, when I say “chapel”, probably the last thing that comes to your mind is a cape like the ones worn by superheroes or religious such as the one worn by Saint Martin of Tours,³ but that is precisely where the word chapel, along with chaplain, from the Latin originates. Instead, the chapel that most likely comes first to your mind is the one made famous by Michelangelo’s “Last Judgement” painted on its ceiling or by the white smoke that comes out of its chimney every time a new pope is chosen. I speak, of course, of the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

The kind of chapels I’m talking about though, and am most fond of, may not be as famous, but are no less beautiful. At least in my mind. Not counting the fifty or so wedding chapels found in Las Vegas, chapels designed for worship and prayer may be found in almost every major city or small town in America. Usually tucked away in places most of us would never think of looking, these sacred spaces are typically small, intimate places that are often, but not always filled with beautiful religious art designed to draw us closer to God. I’ve prayed in many chapels over the years; here is one of my favorites – the humble beginning of the sacred spaces page on this site dedicated to the local, state, national, and international sacred spaces for all of us to discover…and pray.

Phillips Chapel illustration commissioned for Nexus Prayer International | Copyright © 2017 Rev. Allen Aaron White | Nexus Prayer International PHILLIPS CHAPEL
1906 Bailey Avenue • Chattanooga, TN 37404

Of all the buildings on the campus of Tennessee Temple University, Phillips Chapel³ is the one I most fondly recall as a sacred space and feel the strongest connection to. Built in 1922, Phillips Chapel was the first permanent church building of Highland Park Baptist Church when Dr. J. B. Phillips was its pastor. By the time I arrived as a student in the ‘70s, not only was it being used for lectures, fine art performances, chapel services, and special meetings, but also for prayer.

But the chapel, as lovely as it was with its stained glass windows, bell tower, and arched Gothic architecture, the part of the building that was the most precious to me was the prayer room. It was certainly not the décor of this simple, unadorned, all-too-common room, but the spiritual activity of the room that made it sacred to me. Every day and night countless students like myself would enter the room, kneel at the prayer bench, read all the prayer requests recorded in a notebook, then close our eyes and open our hearts to God in prayer. Available around the clock seven days a week, I spent many an hour on my knees in that “upper room “ (that’s it in the first window next to the arbor on the building attached to the west side of the chapel.)

Unfortunately, Phillips Chapel is no longer open to the public, but I include it here out of respect for the literally thousands of pray-ers like myself and prayers logged in that special and sacred space over the decades. The chapel may now be closed, but in my mind the space remains holy ground to this very day because prayer – the prayers made to God centuries ago, yesterday, today, and tomorrow – have no expiration date. God will answer each and every one in His time. Ecclesiastes 3:1-11. And thankfully, all over the world today there are chapels continuing the legacy of Phillips Chapel with their doors open wide waiting for pilgrims just like you and me to enter the sacred space of God’s presence through our prayers.

So, choose a chapel or other sacred space you’d like to visit and, while there, why not explore Nexus Prayer? Ready to begin? Nexus Prayer can be done in as little as five minutes a day and The Steps are easy to learn. Questions? Feel free to contact me anytime!

Note: Although a work in progress, I encourage you to visit the sacred spaces page on this website regularly to discover chapels in your local area or anywhere around the world where you may visit…and pray. – aaw

NOTES & CREDITS

1 Hierotopy | Studies in the Making of Sacred Spaces | Alexi Lidov

2 What is Sacred Space? | Roberta Green Ahmanson for Biola Magazine (2011.)

3 Saint Martin of Tours | Wikipedia – the free Encyclopedia

4 Phillips Chapel | Brief history, with photographic views of both the outside and inside of the Chapel compiled by LoopNet on February 26, 2013 from property record data and historical listings.

5 Photo Credit: Phillips Chapel illustration commissioned for Nexus Prayer International from artist, Mary R. Delamy. Copyright © 2017 Rev. Allen Aaron White | Nexus Prayer International | Many thanks to Piedmont International University for their kind permission to use their line drawing of Tennessee Temple University’s Phillips Chapel as a reference source that, along with actual photographs of Phillips Chapel, were used to create our illustration.

6 Photo Credit: “Flame” Super Hero | Public domain image used with permission via Wikimedia Commons. Illustration by Will Eisner (pencils) and Lou Fine (inks), uploaded by Roygbiv666 (Public Domain Super Heroes) [Public domain, GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sacred Spaces: Villa de Matel Chapel

Villa Chapel | Villa de Matel Houston | Used with permission of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word | Nexus Prayer International

Villa de Matel Chapel, Houston

This journal entry continues my introduction to chapels and sacred spaces. The sacred spaces page may be found under the “Resources” menu at the top of this page.

VILLA CHAPEL | VILLA DE MATEL – HOUSTON
Ruah Sprirituality Center | 6510 Lawndale St. • Houston, TX 77023 | Phone: (713) 928-6053

Located near the heart of downtown Houston, the circa 1920s Villa de Matel Chapel (Villa Chapel) is closer to a Gothic cathedral than a small church building designed for prayer. Yet, despite the breadth of its size and the depth of its beauty, I’ve been blessed to spend many an hour there in both community and solitary contemplative prayer, as well as attend many church services, Taizé prayer services, and weekend centering prayer retreats at the Ruah Spirituality Center.  This is indeed a very special, sacred space to me (that’s the Villa Chapel in the background of my bio photo.)

Ruah’s mission as described on their official website says it best: “Ruah’s spaces are set apart for silence. Silence is presented as nonnegotiable: it is offered as a gift and guarded as a treasure for those who seek. Here people are led to rest in God’s presence; then the same Breath of God (Ruah) who drew them here sends them out to confidently echo the good news of God’s love on the streets of their lives.”

I encourage you to visit the Villa Chapel (reservations required) and, while there, enjoy the healing, spiritual environment of their nature walks, labyrinth, silent prayer retreats, and their contemplative prayer of choice, centering prayer. But while there, I also invite you to give Nexus Prayer a try. Nexus Prayer can be done in as little as five minutes a day and The Steps are easy to learn. Questions? Feel free to contact me anytime!

Note: Although a work in progress, I encourage you to visit the sacred spaces page on this website regularly to discover chapels and other sacred spaces in your local area (or anywhere around the world) where you may visit…and pray. – aaw

NOTES & CREDITS

1 Photo Credit: Villa Chapel photograph Copyright © 2017 Villa de Matel. Used with express written permission. | Many thanks to the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word and The Ruah Spirituality Center for the gift of their ministry to the Greater Houston area, as well as their kind permission to link to their website and use their photo of of the beautiful Villa Chapel on this website.