Concerning Life as It Is Supposed to Be

Category: Prayer Page 3 of 5

Rainbows for Caitlin

I know that some of you were moved to pray for Caitlin and her family by my previous post. Now I would ask you to pray for her family, and if it seems appropriate, to weep for them and for the brokenness of this world and the pain of death. Caitlin passed away this past Sunday. I would encourage you to read her mom’s testimony here. But I know that many of you won’t click through, and so, to make it easy, I will copy and paste it here. And as I type, it is raining.

It is Florida’s dry season

There is a joke about Florida’s seasons. Florida has 2: a wet season and a dry season. The wet season runs from April-October, and the dry season runs from November-March. They are just that. It rains every day during the wet season and not at all during the dry season.

So imagine our surprise when God winked and threw us a couple rainbows and some rain in the last several days.

Sunday morning, as I woke next to Caitlin, on the make-shift bed we had relocated downstairs, I knew the day was going to be different. Although she begged for me to take her to church, I knew we would not get there and that she was failing us.

I will not weigh this post down with details and specifics, because death is not beautiful or glamorous as some have described it. I will tell you the beautiful part of this story however.

We held Caitlin in our arms, while family gathered around, and at 3:24 on Sunday afternoon Caitlin took one last breath and died.

We cried some more, and said goodbye. And then, as if God rolled out the carpet for her to travel to heaven, a rainbow appeared. That means, moments after each of her family members said goodbye it rained (for only a few minutes) AND produced a rainbow….in my heart I want to believe Caitlin took the hand of loved ones, and unafraid, she skipped up that rainbow and right into heaven with only one look back to wave and say, “It’s ok mama! I promise I’m not scared! I can skip again!”

Again, without details of the day, I will fast forward to several hours later. We let go of the shell that had once contained Caitlin’s incredible spirit. We kissed those uncharacteristeric chubby cheeks, and the no-longer crooked and droopy mouth, and we placed her body into the care of the funeral home.

As they drove away I started thru the house and out the back door to retrieve the other children from a friend’s house. As I got half way thru the backyard, the sky opened up, and it rained. I stood in the rain with a friend who was walking with me. Honestly, I think we were both paralyzed with shock. Turning our heads toward the sky in stunned silence, we put up our hands and shrugged our shoulders because words weren’t necessary. As our feet hit the back porch of our other friend’s house just a few yards away, the rain stopped.

We gathered children and sent them running thru the backyard for some dinner. Again as we reached the halfway mark in the joined backyards, it rained. It rained harder and harder until we reached the door of my back porch. It rained for 3 minutes and was done. Another wink? How can it be anything but a wink.

Then, finally, after a day of being surrounded by family and friends, and Jeff and I dealt with the tasks of funeral home and church service arrangements, we arrived home yesterday afternoon. We were greeted with a dozen excited and shouting adults and children. Apparently, while we were out “arranging”, at exactly 3:24, a rainbow, ever so faint and light, appeared in the backyard of our home.

God let Caitlin throw her own rainbow. She loved them so much. She thought they were beautiful. And in the last year, when everyone joined in and made it “hers” to own as a symbol of things so much bigger than she could ever know, she was thrilled.

So I’m going to believe, that God picked her up, and said, “Let’s send a message to mommy, daddy, and everyone left down on Earth crying for you. How could we let them know that you’re ok?” It wouldn’t take Caitlin long to reply, “Mama loves rainbows!” And with that, God held her hand, and together they threw a rainbow; a tiny, fading, almost invisible rainbow.

Rainbows and rain, during the “dry” season…

with love from our broken hearts, d

Cheering for Caitlin

Our church, Covenant Presbyterian Church in Oviedo, Florida, meets in Partin Elementary School. A student there has a sister, five year old Caitlin Downing, suffering from a fatal cancer. We’ve joined the school in ‘cheering for Caitlin’ by praying for her. This morning’s Orlando Sentinel published an article about Caitlin’s condition which gives us a greater understanding of the seriousness of her situation. I invite others to join us in prayer for this little girl.

Can FDA help Caitlin Downing battle brain tumor?

By Marni Jameson, Orlando Sentinel

Medical science moves too slowly for some, in part because the Food and Drug Administration’s job is to carefully, methodically regulate the pace.

But once in a while, even the FDA makes an exception to its own rules. Sometimes it takes just one little girl.

Caitlin“The FDA is all about science, not emotion,” said Dr. Jeff Downing, a family-practice physician from Oviedo. “I get that. The government doesn’t want wild procedures going on without science behind them. But waiting is tough because we don’t know how quickly this will grow.”

The “this” he refers to is his 5-year-old daughter’s deadlybrain tumor.

Diagnosed in January with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma(DIPG), Caitlin Downing is one of about 200 children in the United States each year who gets this type of cancerous brain tumor. Because these growths wind around the brainstem, they cannot be surgically removed.

They are 100 percent fatal; 98 percent of children die within two years of their diagnosis.

Dr. Mark Souweidane, a pediatric neurosurgeon atMemorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, has devoted much of his 17-year career to finding a cure for DIPG.

On May 1, Caitlin became the first person to take part in a phase one clinical trial for which he had just received FDA approval.

The experimental treatment involved opening the skull to create a window onto the tumor site, then delivering a cone of enhanced radiation directly to the area. This “cone of death” emits radiation laced with small molecules that seek out the tumor tissue, attach to it and kill it.

“We get a high concentration where we want it,” Souweidane said.

Initial results were encouraging. A follow-up MRI of Caitlin’s brain showed that the tumor tissue in the treatment area was dead.

“But the cone of death didn’t get the whole tumor,” said Downing, whose family practice is in Casselberry.

By September, medical scans showed the tumor was growing back.

Because Caitlin did so well with the first round of treatment, her parents wanted the procedure repeated. That, however, would require special FDA approval.

“The physicians we worked with all said, ‘We’ll submit the paperwork, but don’t expect this is something we’ll get,’” said Denise Downing, Caitlin’s mother.

So, they put in their plea to the FDA, knowing that the words “government” and “fast” don’t usually occur together.

Yet in a move that stunned everyone, the FDA responded quickly with a go-ahead, a one-time, “off-study” approval that fell under the murky heading of “compassionate use.”

Those who qualify must submit proof that they have life-threatening conditions, no other treatment options and a good argument that they might benefit, said Stephanie Yao, FDA spokeswoman.

“If the doctors thought it was a good idea, and the parents wanted the treatment, they said we could go ahead,” said Denise Downing. “It was really a David and Goliath moment, and we won. They came through.”

There was just one catch: Caitlin had to get the same dose she received during her first treatment. Since Souweidane treated Caitlin, he has doubled the dose in subsequent study patients, who have tolerated it well, and he plans to quadruple it.

However, as with all phase one trials, the goal of this study is to prove the safety of a new treatment and to figure out dosing. Subsequent trials aim for effectiveness. A double dose of this radiation treatment on a human brain has never been done. Giving Caitlin a larger second dose would be “unconscionable,” said Souweidane.

But Caitlin’s tumor has grown beyond the reach of the approved dose. So after conferring with their cancer experts, the Downings decided to try one more cancer weapon. Chemotherapycan get where the immuno-radiation therapy can’t. The Downings hoped chemo would shrink the tumor and create a smaller target.

Caitlin has gone through two rounds. However, both Souweidane and the Downings believe that shrinking the tumor to the point where the second, FDA-approved surgery would be advisable is unlikely.

“We are so grateful that the FDA came back with an approval,” said Denise Downing. “I just wish her tumor wasn’t so big. We either need a bigger dose or a smaller target.”

Meanwhile, Caitlin’s symptoms are worsening. Her face is puffy on one side, and she’s having more problems walking and seeing, her mom says.

“She knows her body’s not doing what it used to,” said Denise Downing. “She apologizes to me all day long, saying she’s sorry she needs my help, sorry she’s not getting better.”

When Souweidane saw Caitlin and her mom in New York two weeks ago, he saw the same spirit that had won him over from the start. “She was still her spunky self, challenging us in thought-provoking ways,” he said.

In fact, she had a question for him: “Can you get rid of the bump on my brain before I go to heaven?” she asked.

Denise Downing says she has no doubt that Souweidane and his team are on the right track. “I believe in everything this man is doing,” she said. “He probably has a cure. I had hoped that our daughter could live long enough to get that cure. But that’s not going to happen.”

Regardless, “Caitlin is a pioneer,” Souweidane said. “She has advanced science in important ways. She has not gone through this for nothing.

That said, he added, “If I could save one child’s life, it would be hers.” or 407-420-5158

Copyright © 2012, Orlando Sentinel

[The Orlando Sentinel keeps articles behind a paywall. I am a subscriber, and so I am making the decision to share this article with my friends who are not.]

The Measure of Our Knowledge of God

We may be able for a time to persuade others that our spiritual life is full of depth and glitter. And though it may be less true than we might like, we may for a time begin to believe it of ourselves. As well, our theological erudition, our political savvy, our well portioned service, all may serve to give an outward impression of true spiritual maturity, which may or may not match the inward reality. We may believe ourselves what we work hard to make others believe.

Therefore, it is always good to take this wise caution to heart:

“We must learn to measure ourselves, not by our knowledge about God, not by our gifts and responsibilities in the church, but by how we pray and what goes on in our hearts. Many of us, I suspect, have no idea how impoverished we are at this level. Let us ask the Lord to show us.”

(J. I. Packer, Knowing God, page 27)

Having Preacher for Lunch

My best sermon illustrations come to me on the Sunday afternoon or Monday morning AFTER I’ve preached the sermon to which they would have been wonderfully attached. Last Monday morning, after preaching on heaven from John 14:1-7, I was reading Tim Keller’s King’s Cross. One of the points in my sermon was that it is not seeing old friends or loved ones which will give heaven its greatest joy, though I cannot deny that hope. That which will give heaven it’s greatest joy is that we will see Jesus.

Keller makes a similar point and draws our attention to Joni Erickson, a quadriplegic. Joni as we would imagine does anticipate the freedom to run and jump which will be for her one of the joys of heaven. What we do NOT think about is that as a quadriplegic one of her desires, denied in this life, is to kneel. She is unable to join others in that posture of submission in worship. And so she says, quoted here by Keller,

Sitting there, I was reminded that in heaven I will be free to jump up, dance, kick, and do aerobics. And….sometime before the guests are called to the banquet table at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, the first thing I plan to do on resurrected legs is to drop on grateful, glorified knees. I will quietly kneel at the feet of Jesus. (page 223)

I would have used that in a heartbeat! But I came upon it too late. So it goes.

On other occasions, I have material that I just cannot fit into a message. John 14:8-14, which I preached on this past Sunday, raises the subject of prayer. Jesus tells his disciples that he will do whatever they ask him to do in his name. Normally, we intellectual Presbyterian types want to make sure we adequately qualify Jesus’ statement here. To others, qualifications be damned, this gives license to name and claim one’s blessing.

My point was that Jesus’ intent is not captured by either camp, but rather by the one who sees God as a heavenly father whom we approach as children. And children never hesitate to ask their father for anything and everything.

The message was an encouragement then to pray, which as well is this book, Prayer by George A. Buttrick. (A book which is the only useable one from my grandfather’s library to have filtered its way down to me. The Reverend Rudolph Leslie Budd was a Methodist Minister who died when I was four, a few years before I determined to become a minister myself.) Buttrick is very quotable. In his introduction, he says this:

“Our world, as I write, is under grievous threats which are symptoms of worse threats. There is the threat of armed aggression. But that itself is a sign of disease—the multitudinous unrest of poverty-stricken masses….

“Even that unrest is symptomatic: the sign of spiritual debility. Our obsessed exploitation of the planet’s resources, our scramble for gain, and latterly our scientific skepticism have left us blind toward God.”

We should find those comments very contemporary. Curiously, they were penned on August 25, 1941, three months before Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.

He goes on to say that we may address certain of these problems, but all such efforts would be in vain without a ‘revival of faith’.

“That revival is the deepest need. It will not come by tongue-lashings from politicians or preachers, nor by organizations, nor by new additions to our embarrassing store of facts. All of these are little pipings in the dark.

“Revival of faith can never come from us. It must come from God, in and through us. It must come by prayer….

“Those who pray are the real light-bearers in any age. Perhaps by these pages some may be added to their bright company.”

(pages 9, 10)

Apparently there were tongue lashing politicians and preachers then, too.

Lost illustrations and edited material are not my greatest regrets. Of far greater concern are the times on a Monday in replaying a sermon in my mind I realize ways in which I might have miscommunicated.

The application of the message Sunday was to pray – to just pray and ask God for stuff. God will change our desires over time, for sure, but we should just be those who love to ask and ask and ask, knowing that even in our asking, in our dependence, he is glorified.

As appropriate as that was, and as much as I needed to hear that, my fear is that people who already feel their inadequacy in prayer would have walked away feeling no comfort or encouragement but only guilt. I fear that I might not have adequately spoken comfort to them. But it is too late now. One can’t go back. (Unless he has a blog…)

Some people joke about having preacher for Sunday lunch. I understand. I have preacher for lunch and supper on Sunday and every meal thereafter well into the following week.

A Praying Life

I have a love-hate relationship with digital ‘books’. But that does not apply when the book is not only superb, but FREE.

A couple years ago, I read A Praying Life by Paul Miller. It was practical, it was challenging, it was encouraging, it was hopeful, and it forced me to face the fact that my lack of prayer was not really a matter of self-discipline, but of self-sufficiency and cynicism.

I have recommended the book before and will continue to do so. But I do so now with greater urgency because, for a time, it is available for Kindle devices for the low, low price of $0.00.

Even though I already own the paper copy, Amazon just made me an offer that I have no desire to refuse.

Prayer, Social Action, and the Daily Paper (the What?)

That many aspects of Richard F. Lovelace’s warm and wise Dynamics of Spiritual Life show the book’s age (it was first published in 1979) is illustrated in his assumption that Christians or anyone still reads newspapers. No doubt, he had never heard of the internet. Dated caveats aside, I wish I had read this book in 1979, so full of sense and Biblical wisdom it is. Representative is this, an encouragement I need to take more seriously:

Most American Christians would probably assume that prayer…has little to do with social action. This is because most of those who are praying are not praying about social issues, and most of those who are active in social issues are not praying very much…. Local congregations pray about their members, programs, budgets and evangelistic outreach. How often do they pray about the social needs of their community or the nation?…The best advice for both ministers and laity is to read the daily paper [!] while thinking biblically in dependence on the Spirit, turning the information gained into prayer. (392-393)

See? Warm, wise, life-changing spiritual common sense.

Prayer for Spiritual Renewal

Gordon Fee concludes his God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul (discussed yesterday) with prayer drawn from three sources: David, Moses, and later Christian hymnody.

Oh God, you are my God,
Earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirst for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.

If your Presence does not go with us,
do not send us up from here.
How will anyone know
that you are pleased with…your people
unless you go with us?
What else will distinguish…your people
from all the other people on the face of the earth?

Holy Spirit, all divine,
Dwell within this heart of mine;
Cast down every idol throne,
Reign supreme, and reign alone.

Let all God’s people say, “Amen.”

[Sources: Fee, page 903; Psalm 63:1; Exodus 33:15, 16; Andrew Reed.]

Nuggets on Renewal

Here are some flavorful nuggets from a recent reading of Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, a book well worth reading.

On the lack of congregational prayer:

“Undoubtedly the small quantity of intelligent intercessory prayer in most twentieth-century congregations is part of the short-circuiting of missionary consciousness among the laity. The establishment of the kingdom of God is an elusive task; we cannot even see what it involves in our vicinity without specific prayer, and we certainly will have little urgency to carry it out unless we are praying.” (page 157)

On the misdirected focus of our prayers:

“In small prayer groups, often the concerns which are shared and prayed about are wholly personal, involved with healing, psychological adjustment and other immediate individual burdens. Larger issues which are closely related to the interests of the kingdom of God are ignored. Groups in which this occurs should make a determined effort to engage in kingdom-oriented prayer.” (pages 158-159)

Arguing against what he sees as the ‘monastic’ tendencies of many churches, the tendency to withdraw from the world and send evangelistic forays into it:

“Ultimately, however, [the church] loses by this approach: it erects too great a cultural gap between the believing community and the surrounding world, and it fails to see that converts are won more by the observable blessedness of a whole way of life than by the arguments of individuals.”

On the intersection of change and solidity in the church:

“The church ought to be like a mobile sculpture in which fixed forms of truth and fellowship are constantly shifting their relationship to harmonize with the decor of the social and cultural environment. Enculturation freezes the form of the mobile until it becomes a static monument, a reminder of the past which appears to have no relevance for the present.” (pages 197-198)

Jehovah-shalom – “The LORD is peace.”

I am slowly catching up on posting Jon Boardman’s pastoral prayers from the worship services of Covenant Presbyterian Church. Here is his prayer from Sunday, September 5, 2010.
Pastoral Prayer
Covenant Presbyterian Church, Oviedo, Florida

Jon Boardman

Jehovah-shalom – “The LORD is peace.”

In the Old Testament, men of God would build an altar to the LORD, whenever God did a mighty act on their behalf, and would name it after the characteristic that the LORD had revealed to them at that moment.

For instance, Abraham built an altar after the Isaac incident and called it “the LORD is my provider”; Moses named his altar after the armies defeated their enemies and called it “the LORD is my banner”; and in Judges, Gideon also built an altar and named it “The LORD is Peace.”

Gideon built this altar after an angel had appeared to him and told him to fight the Midianites, and then Gideon realized he had been talking face to face with God. The idea of facing God, let alone his enemies, was a terrifying prospect for Gideon. However, God said to him: “Peace to you, do not fear; you shall not die” (6:22-24).

In response to God’s presence, Gideon built his altar and worshipped the LORD.

When we feel discouraged and overwhelmed by the enormity of life’s trials and its battles and when the darkness just seems too overwhelming, the LORD assures us of His presence and His peace. We must go to Him, in worship, and find our solace in our Savior.

Join me as we pray to the God of peace.


You are peace.

In You we find wholeness, completeness, and soundness of life.

Forgive us when we try to base our peace on circumstances, relationships, or material possessions.

Peace can only be found in a right relationship with You. And we acknowledge what Jesus has done in procuring our peace.

Because of Jesus, we have peace with You. We thank You for the assurance of our salvation and for not having to fear anything from You.

Grant Your people peace this morning – peace from internal strife and external strife.

We pray for those whose lives are restless due to internal strife.

Whether the struggle is with depression, temptations, anxieties, life decisions, or bitterness, we ask that You would grant them the power of Christ to overcome such struggles.

We also pray for those facing external strife. Whether the strife is due to difficult neighbors, marital conflicts, gossiping peers, overbearing bosses, unresolved conflicts, or other such relational problems, we ask that You would bring Your reconciliatory power upon each of these relationships.

We pray also for our church and for her peace and purity. You have raised up elders with the task of maintaining the peace. Grant them Your wisdom and courage to fulfill their calling.

We pray for stability and peace as we move from this facility to the next. May we find encouragement and confidence in our worship of You regardless of the meeting place.

We also pray for peace in our community, across our country, and throughout the world. There are political, economic, social, and racial divisions that threaten the peace and unity of the people of God. But You, O God, have united us under the banner of Christ and the gospel of peace.

Help us to live in unity as Your church in the world and to be peace makers as we take the good news to the far corners of the earth.

We pray for the children affected by the wars and divisions of this world.

Just as Jesus prayed that in this world we would have tribulation, but we can take courage because he has overcome the world, we pray that our children would find courage in Christ.

And Lord, we ask that You help us to make the most of the opportunities to reach our young people for Christ.

We pray for our missionaries and evangelists this morning. We ask that You grant them health, prosperity, well-being, security, and rest.

Protect them from the powers of darkness; be their shield and their rock.

We especially pray for Carole as she travels in Africa and mentors women and equips others with the gospel of peace.

We also pray for David Clow during his travels. Grant him safety and give him wisdom to make difficult decisions concerning his mother.

We now turn our thoughts on those who suffer in the body and seek relief from their pain.

For Don, Mary Ann’s brother-in-law, we ask for Your healing touch from the lesions in his brain. In these uncertain times for him and his wife, we ask that they would embrace You, the LORD of peace. May they find comfort in our Savior.

For Joey, we ask that you might heal her from her back injury.

For Henry, we ask for his healing from his broken leg.

For Jim, we ask for respite from his pain and healing from his cancer.

For Lisa, we too ask for your mercy and for mending touch.

For Joseph, we ask for continued strength and healing.

And for so many of our loved ones battling ailments of the body, we ask for your mercy.

Grant all these loved ones Your peace and assurance.

And we pray in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.



As we continue to post the Sunday morning pastoral prayers from Covenant Presbyterian Church, here is the prayer from this past Sunday.
Pastoral Prayer
Covenant Presbyterian Church, Oviedo, Florida

Jon Boardman

Jehovah-mekoddishkem – “The LORD who makes you holy”

In the latter section of Exodus, Moses described the practical operations and implementations of God’s covenant, which began on Mt. Sinai and continued into the wilderness.

As the people of God moved on from Mt. Sinai, the place where God had revealed Himself and His commandments, they were headed for the unknown land of promise. They must have wondered: would God be with them on the journey?

God assured them that He would! He was the One who made provisions for his presence during their travels via the tabernacle and the priesthood.

Another such provision was the Sabbath, a day of rest, which was an important distinguishing feature between God’s people and the other nations. In Exodus 31:13, the LORD said to Moses, “You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for generations to come, so you may know that I am [Jehovah-mekoddishkem] the LORD, who makes you holy.”

We observe the Sabbath because God has set apart this day as holy, just as He has set us apart as holy. He is sanctifying us; he is making us holy. Why? So that He would be present with us along the journey to the Promised Land.

Let us go to Him with gratitude in prayer.


we are deeply moved that You should make provision for us through Your Son, Jesus Christ, so that we might dwell with You and be in Your presence.

We are humbled by the fact that You saved us by Your mighty hand, You redeemed us from sin, and You set us apart as Your people.

We belong to You. We are Your prized possession. We take comfort in these truths, we take comfort in Your presence, and we take comfort in the provisions You give us in life’s journey.

We are especially grateful for the rest You give us along the way.

Each week we come together to worship You and build up each other.

Each week You give us the means of grace to live each day for You.

We thank You, LORD, for our church, our pastor, our elders, our deacons, our staff, our worship team, our youth and children’s ministry volunteers, Women in the Church, and the body of Christ.

We ask that all the people in Your church would be strengthened by You and would find rest in You.

Just as You taught Moses and the Israelites, we ask that You teach us how to worship You and walk with our holy God.

Help us to see that we cannot make ourselves holy; we can only trust in You to do so.

Grow in us a desire to please You and to trust You in all areas of this journey.

We pray also for the move and the transition teams. Grant us all the necessary means to make this move smoothly and without problems.

LORD, You who make us holy, have carried Your people “on eagle’s wings” and sustained them through the desert experiences of life.

We pray for those in our midst who are walking through the desert at this time and are in need of Your rest.

We pray for those who need rest from their pain.

For those loved ones who battle cancer, disease, illnesses, and weakness of the body, like Jim, Lisa, Joseph and others, we ask for Your healing touch and rest from the pain.

For Henry, Kedric’s brother, we pray for quick healing of his broken leg.

We pray for those who need rest from their fears and anxieties.

For Your people who have broken hearts and shattered lives, we ask that You would give them a sense of Your sanctifying work and Your putting them together into Your image – mend and restore them.

And for those who are in need of work and financial relief, we ask for Your mercy and provisions in having their needs met.

Give them and all of us Your daily bread.

Finally, we lift up Your people who are serving You all around the globe.

You are building up Your kingdom and You have called us to be a part of it.

Thank You for that honor and thank You for our missionaries and our evangelists.

We ask that You give them the rest and sanctification they need to serve You well.

We lift up our sister Carol as she ministers through EPI in Kenya and Uganda. Keep her safe and healthy in her travels and embolden her to serve Your people.

Lord, we acknowledge that You are making us holy and You are calling us to Yourself.

We need not strive; we need only to be still and to trust in You.

And it is in the name of Jesus, Our Holy Lord, the God of our Sabbath, and Sanctifier of our Souls that we pray.



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