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Alcatraz and Sidewalk Chalk

The other day my son Keating came home from school and asked,

“Dad, who is your favorite prisoner held at Alcatraz?”

You know…I don’t know.  I have not once in my life given any meaningful thought about the prisoners once held there, let alone which one is my favorite.  I know vaguely that a few escaped and may have drowned…maybe…or may have lived the rest of their lives in secrecy and hiding…but I couldn’t tell you their names.

I knew that likely some infamous people in history ended up serving time there…but who they are, and who my favorite is out of all of them?  Zero idea.

So I said,

“I’m not sure buddy, I don’t really know much about them.”

To which he responded with, a list of several of the notorious criminals that called The Rock home.  Al Capone, John and Clarence Anglin, Frank Morris, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, and the infamous “Bird Man of Alcatraz”.

He really wanted to watch a documentary, but not finding what he was looking for, we then proceeded to watch the 1979 movie about the infamous escape starring Clint Eastwood called, Escape from Alcatraz.  Keating gave me all the details about things that weren’t accurate about the prison or the escape in the movie compared to real life.  At some point, Foster joined in and also knew a ton about this place and also contributed his own set of facts and trivia.

I went to Alcatraz as a kid, I got the t-shirt, did the tour, but I did not know any of that stuff…or I didn’t remember it.  It was not on my mind nor could I recall most of the things they knew, because simply, I never knew it in the first place.

We just wrapped up a 4 week journey on prayer.  Yesterday we looked at what it means to be with God, to sit quietly in the presence of God and see what God has for you.

We talked about how Jesus goes out early in the morning, in a desolate place to spend time in prayer.  In those quiet times, Jesus prays.  It seems as though Jesus does this SO THAT he has what he needs to go and preach, teach, heal, perform miracles, and on and on.

Prayer in the quiet, in the darkness and stillness of the morning seems to be vital to our communion with God because it was vital to Jesus.

Many of us prayed when we were kids, we may have learned about it in Sunday School, or VBS, or church camp or youth groups.  We may have practiced it some off and on throughout our lives when tragedy struck or we were late for a flight…but many of us, if we are honest, don’t really know much about prayer.  We don’t remember, we can’t recall, and somethings we’ve never known in the first place.

Maybe if you worshiped with us the past few weeks or you’ve been learning about prayer, you’ve felt similarly to me talking with my kids about Alcatraz.  It feels foreign and unknown.  It seems like an interesting thing to know about…but why or what difference does it make?  And maybe you just haven’t given it much thought.

Where Alcatraz may be a prison, prayer is where people are set free.

Where Alcatraz may be known as The Rock, it is not the solid rock on which we stand.

And the way to experience and be with God, is to simply spend time with God…crazy, I know.

One of the best ways to do this is to simply just carve out time, preferably first thing in the morning, and sit before God.  Take some deep breaths, pray for the Spirit to meet you there, ask to experience the love of God the father, and to follow in the ways of Jesus.  Then sit.  Wait.  In silence.  Any time your mind starts to drift or think about other tasks and responsibilities, just turn back to Jesus.  As I mentioned on Sunday, Thomas Keating, writes about how, if your mind gets distracted a thousand times in ten minutes of prayer, that’s a thousand chances to come back to God.

It is never too late to start to pray and turn our heart and our mind back to Jesus.

If you heard my sermon, I mentioned that we now have a mobile pickleball court setup in our cul-de-sac.  It is a simple setup, but we had to draw the court using chalk.  The first day, it took us a long time to measure everything out.  To drag the sidewalk chalk against the rough black asphalt, but once it was finished and drawn, it was worth it…

Until that night, when it rained.

We woke up the next day and realized the chalk lines were gone.

The rain water washed away our work…

Until we got up close.

There were little bits of chalk in the crevices.  The rain hadn’t entirely destroyed our work…just made it a bit more difficult to see.

Sometimes it feels a bit like that when seeing or communicating with God.

In the garden, Adam and Eve walked with God.  They knew and experienced God.

The disciples walked with Jesus.  They knew and experienced Jesus.

Following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven, the followers of Jesus walked with the Spirit.  They knew and experienced the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.

It seems like the storms that have happened since then have ruined all of that.

For us, it would be easy to think that all that hard work was gone, that rain and water washed everything away…but when we pray, we can see the remnants from the past, we can identify the markings.  When we pray we are tapping into both what has gone before us and experiencing what God has for us.

I shared on Sunday a quote from Brother Lawerence, a dishwasher in the 1600’s in a monastery who had plenty of time to reflect, pray, sit in silence and think about what it means to turn to the presence of God in prayer and conversation,

“There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God. Those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it”

Through the life of Jesus, he demonstrated a life of dedication and obedience to meet with God in prayer, to pull away, to lift up joys, concerns, hopes, and dreams.  Then to wait upon the promptings of God and yield to His will.  We are invited to continue to practice this prayer of just sitting with God, resting in his presence, and seeing what he has for us.

Prayer should not be relegated to a quick pass through before food gets cold, or what children do on holidays in front of families and friends.  Prayer is simply a conversation with God and must be tried, it must be experienced, it must be remembered…or it will be pushed to the sidelines and so will the relational depth with our creator.

Let us continue the journey of prayer.  It will never be mastered.  It will never be solved.  It will never be completed.  It is a journey we begin now and continue in eternity.

We have concluded our journey on prayer on Sunday mornings, but the resources will live on the website.  If you haven’t checked them out yet, please do.  Lots of great stuff there.

Some teachings, podcast conversations, prayer guides and more.

This Thursday is the National Day of Prayer.  We will be opening The Chapel for prayer from 7am-1pm with guided prayer times at 7 and noon.  Come by if you can.  We will continue to offer prayer at The Chapel throughout May, but we will be changing to Tuesdays.  It is a very simple and quiet time of prompts for prayer and no one is required to say anything out loud.  Our dear friends at 30A Prays is helping lead and guide our times of prayer.  Come and go as you can or need to.

We look forward to seeing you this Sunday for worship.  We will share in communion this Sunday.  9am.  With coffee and pastries between services.  Come by and share in remembering the Lords Supper, meet some people between services, and stick around to join us for 10am worship.

Let us know if you need anything.  See you soon.