Prayer that Transforms Darkness

by Pastor Tim White

Nighttime at a hospital is rough when you are recuperating from a major illness or setback. The hospitals can get busy and you can feel so alone, and your fears can be magnified by every ache, pain or sorrow-filled thought. I guess that is why for three generations my grandfather, dad and I have spent the night at the hospitals with people who are really struggling. And there are some benefits. Almost every time I am a patient in the hospital the staff thinks I work there because they see me so often.  So much so, that at times we have had to be persistent in order to get our bill. 😀

I have heard time and again from young pastors that the days of pastors spending their time caring for people in the hospitals are over. As a matter of fact, many seem to boast that they don't do hospital visits at all. I was musing with one person in health care and they told me "I don't know of any other pastors nowadays that spend the night with dying people at the hospital." I said, "Well, to me it has always been a blessed adventure and I don't know any other way to authentically be a pastor." We even had one large church in our area call and ask us if they could refer all their hospital visits to us. It seems there's a new generation of churches arguing that it is just not worth their time.

All of this was going through my mind as I was recovering from knee replacement surgery, hoping to be better than ever. But I had some rough nights, reaching those low points that bring dark thoughts like: "Why had I spent the last 43 years ministering to people in hospitals when many of them never expressed their appreciation?" But God wouldn't leave me alone to have such a pity party.  He spoke to me in two-way prayer saying, "This ministry has been for ME and I've used you to bring comfort and hope to numerous people through the years.  Remember to thank me always, for this honor!"

There is a prayer that transforms darkness.  And this week I am going to teach on the amazing Biblical idea of the Mount of Transfiguration.  Most of the best commentaries written on this section of the synoptic gospels are by Popes before they even became Popes, so knowing their history is helpful.  This is just a fascinating area of Biblical inquiry - I think we are all going to learn something new that will impact our lives and the lives of those we touch in the community. 

I have been in the darkness watching Wheel of Fortune 😀 and sent out a prayer asking God to transform the darkness.  Please join us this week.  It's been a long winter. We all need a powerful, practical message from the scripture that transforms the darkness for us- please join me and bring a friend.

Diving into Prayer

by Josh Zappone

Here’s the thing, compared to some of you reading this post I am a prayer novice. There are several people at Washington Cathedral who I consider to be prayer warriors and giants, who I have so much to learn from. Though I have been praying for most of my life, I still struggle with it at times, and sometimes feel like I “suck” at prayer.

Rather than saying I “suck” at prayer, it would be more accurate to say I struggle with the discipline of prayer. I’ve never been the most disciplined or organized person, and I have often felt that may be hindering my prayer life. Still, I have this thirst inside me longing to reach those depths of prayer that I read about or see in other people at the church.

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; 
my soul thirsts for you; 
my flesh faints for you, 
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 

Ps 63:1 (ESV)

I am willing to bet that there are many people out there that feel a frustration with their own prayer lives, who desire more intimacy with God, who try this and try that but still struggle.

I have some great news for you. Be discouraged no more. Take it from someone who has experienced this first hand.  Here is the first step to help you break through that prayer wall.

Stop comparing, start praying.

If you feel like your prayers are lacking, if you feel like you are failing to pray the way you should, or if you simply have fallen into a rut where your prayers are rote and not bringing you closer to God- stop comparing! There are so many great teachers on prayer and great practices that we can take up. SO MANY! You could read about prayer for years! 

I think we have the temptation to make a “mountain” out of the spiritual discipline of prayer. We see the greatness and the height of it and it is intimidating. Can I ever attain such a prayer life? It’s like seeing the massive but glorious undertaking of backpacking the Pacific Crest Trail… You could dream about it for years! You could buy the gear and read the blogs and then never set foot upon the trail. All this thinking about prayer can lead to a discouragement where you abandon the depths of prayer that transforms your life.

When it comes to prayer I cannot look first to the many others who have come before me. I am not going to be a Brother Lawrence or an A.W. Tozer. I am going to be Josh. Your prayers do not need to sound like the polished prayers of Paul or Jesus. I am going to look first to Jesus as it says so perfectly in Psalm 63, “earnestly I seek you”. That is the simplicity of prayer. It is Josh and Jesus. 

I would challenge you to think of prayer as a vast ocean and not a mountain. There are great depths to prayer and a vastness that allows you to simply seek Jesus without hesitation. It will be a lifetime of exploring and going deeper

My encouragement to you this week is to pray. Let nothing hold you back. Jesus is waiting for us to abide with him- to find ourselves in him. Let your journey of prayer take the path it will take, maintain that thirst you have for God, and humbly stop comparing your prayers to others. Give yourself freedom to pursue God and understand that you are diving into an ocean of unknowable depth and richness and you are not alone. 

Prayers That Refresh Best

By Pastor Tim White

The movie "The 15:17 to Paris" is the real-life drama of three Americans and one French citizen who saved over 500 people from a terrorist armed with an AK47 and a handgun.  Clint Eastwood directs it and it seems to come from a Christian perspective. It's the story of three young men who had been life-long friends and how two of them, who were serving in the military, had been preparing all their lives for such a moment as this.  In fact, at one point in their childhood these boys kept getting in trouble so were thought to be troubled kids. However, their single mom's answer back to the school principle was that "their God was bigger than any problem."  And he was, because those troubled boys all grew up to be outstanding young men.  As you may know from the News story -- They disarmed the terrorist and put him in a sleeper hold.  And then applied first aid to save another man's life who had been shot.  At one point the three young men tell the wounded passenger that he could die, and they asked him if he wanted them to pray for him.  It almost comical but the man and his wife say - "No Thanks".  When Jackie and I watched this on our Valentines date the whole theater laughed in response to that line.  

Sometimes we know we are in need but the last thing we want is someone's mistaken view of prayer.  This man was more afraid of an unknown prayer than the tragedy he was going through.  And I think the audience laughed because we could all relate to that in some small way.  As followers of Jesus we would, of course, say please pray for me.  But there is still that misguided prayer that we all are concerned about.  The prayer that stresses us out.

This week I will be returning to the pulpit after my knee surgery and I would appreciate your prayers for my continued healing. I am going to be sharing from the words of Jesus on prayer and meditation.  I call it the Prayers that Refresh Best.   There is a difference between stressing yourself out by praying all your fears instead of being in authentic conversation with a personal God in which you receive strength, thanksgiving, joy, and encouragement. God hears your prayers and has something to say to your inner soul in order to refresh you.  Please join me this weekend.

Your friend for the rest of my life,

Pastor Tim White


by Pastor Becca McCary

Prayer fascinates me. It's so simple that anyone can do it. All prayer consists of, at its essence, is to be in the presence of God. Even babies in the womb can sense God's presence and dance with joy, in a prayerful state. Prayer is so ubiquitous even atheists often find themselves praying when they are truly in need. Prayers like The Lord's Prayer that Jesus taught his disciples are memorized and recited by countless individuals. 

Any yet, prayer can be remarkably toilsome, elusive, and intricate at other times. It's in these moments when prayer is the most fugacious and difficult to achieve that I'm reminded that prayer is much more of a dynamic relationship than a static pious act. 

This week I get to preach on the Lord's Prayer and this prayer in particular I find it difficult to pray with a sincere heart unless I'm really investing in my relationship with Jesus. It's a good barometer for me in my faith. When I pray "our father", do I feel a sincere connection with God as the one who cares for me and provides for me? When I pray "Your will be done" I have to ask myself if I've actually been letting God lead my life lately or have I been too busy? 

To pray the Lord's Prayer with a sincere heart takes a lifestyle of turning to Jesus. I found this anonymous quote that really spoke to that sort of attentive heart... "Practice the pause. When in doubt, pause. When angry, pause. When tired, pause. When stressed, pause. And when you pause, pray." The humble act of pausing throughout my day, to turn my heart to Jesus, brings so much more depth to my prayer life. Prayer becomes so much more engaging and powerful when I think of it less of a routine and remember that I'm checking in with a real person who is King of my life.

Still, I believe Jesus put it best when he spoke in Matthew 6 saying:

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. "This, then, is how you should pray:

"'Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread. 
And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

What Is It About A Name?

By Pastor Linda Skinner

Our lives changed enormously when we added a little 7 week old 4 lb Cairn Terrier puppy to our family last November.  We had no idea what challenges, joys and lessons God had in store for us with the addition of this little bundle of fur, energy and needle-sharp teeth.  As we prepared to go pick up our puppy, one of the big decisions is what do we name him.  When he was born the breeder put a cobalt blue Velcro collar on him, so the only designation he had was “cobalt blue” and we decided that sounded like a name from some Science Fiction movie.

Since he is a breed that originally comes from Scotland, we wanted a name appropriate for his heritage.  We had a list of names and decided that when we met him and saw his personality, we would know for sure.  Years ago, we had a cat named John Barclay and he was a combination of love and a bit of the devil.  So, we were leaning toward Barclay.  Cairn terriers are known for having a loyal, but extremely energetic kind of temperament.  Very loving and yet all terrier (some say like a “terrierest”).

When I walked up to the kitchen pen at the breeder’s house, there was six of the cutest little balls of fur clamoring for my attention. Over the top of them climbed a little guy with a “cobalt blue” color.  His eyes were fixed on mine and it was like he was saying – “forget all of those others, you have eyes for me only.” At that point we knew right away, that was Barclay and he looked like a little Bear cub so his middle name became “Bear”. “Barclay Bear” has lived up to his name.  He can the sweetest little guy you have every met and he can be the most challenging pup ever.

Within two weeks we knew we needed training help.  Our vet helped us by providing a list of recommended trainers.  We learned quickly that the first thing that was essential was for Barclay to learn his name – for his safety and for our piece of mind. So, our first task was to train him in name recognition. We were also told that we should never use his name to correct him, his name should only be used to praise and show love.  Correction words are “don’t, no and ah!ah!”  His name should be something that he feels good about all the time.

Isn’t it interesting how similar our human response is to our name.  We love to hear our name and we love it even more if it is used in a positive way.  If it is used too often in a scolding or negative way, we start to ignore and even dislike our name being used. I think God was teaching me a lesson in preparation for this weekend.

This weekend, while Pastor Tim is recuperating from his knee surgery, he assigned me the next sermon in our Soar, Run, Walk series as we explore Jesus teachings on prayer.  John 14:13-14 Jesus tells his followers, “You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.  Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!”

 What is it about Jesus name?  His father, God the creator, assigned him that name.  His name has been used to “bless” and to “curse”.  His name brings great joy to some people and great anger to others.  I hope you can join me this weekend to explore with me what it is about the name of Jesus that makes it so special. 

Look forward to seeing you.  Blessings on your day,

Pastor Linda Skinner

PS  I promise we’ll be finished in plenty of time to catch all the Super Bowl festivities and commercials.

When Trust and Fear Co-Exist

By Pastor Becca McCary

Love me for it, hate me for it, or don’t give a care about it, if you know me well, you know I struggle with anxiety. Though I’ve always struggled with it to some degree, it’s gripped me in a new way in the last couple of years. A big part of this was becoming a mom and feeling the weight of love I have for my kids. If anything serious were ever to happen to them, my heart would really struggle with that. Another big part of my anxiety is simply growing up as I come to terms with my own limits and lack of ability to control certain outcomes in life. Despite my sincere love for Jesus, too often I struggle to trust him at the core of my being.

That’s what catches me off guard about the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. I can’t seem to wrap my head around Mary and Martha’s response to their brother’s death. This great tragedy befalls them, and they are so honest with their grief. They even blame Jesus to his face... “Lord, if you would have been there, our brother wouldn’t have died!” Just breaths after uttering her words of honest grief and blame, Martha precociously expresses her unwavering trust in Jesus. 

How?!! How can they love so deeply? How can their hearts be so broken? And still, how do they bring their suffering right to Jesus’ face and choose to trust him? Was it all the time they had spent sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to his teachings? Was it all the meals they had eaten with him in their home? Was it all the miracles they had witnessed?  

Grief and anxiety are often tied together. There is fear of change, fear of the unknown, and overwhelming emotions. The story of Lazarus captures all of these emotions so well. There is weeping, and yelling, shock, and a whole myriad of other emotions taking place among dear friends and family. Most of us can relate to these intense emotions at some time in their lives.

What encourages me most in this passage is not the piety of Mary and Martha, though it is beautiful and admirable. What encourages me most in this passage is seeing Jesus’ reaction to Lazarus’ death.

Reading through John 11:1-45, Jesus is so Divine, knowing exactly what the future will hold for Lazarus’ healing. He is so confident of the future good that he almost seems cold. But when he goes to be with the grieving family, he is filled with immense emotion over Lazarus’ death, weeping, and even shouting. He is so human.   

Too often I’m afraid to be as human as Jesus. Any negative emotion I feel... sadness, fear, anger, regret, I try to numb it, and stuff it down by staying busy and productive. But in the process of suppressing negative emotion, I inadvertently suppress the good emotions too, like joy and trust. I can be a coward towards my own feelings at times. But Jesus is so courageously human, allowing himself to feel the full weight of grief. Reading this story, it’s like Jesus is giving me permission to be human too, to feel whatever it is I’m afraid to fully express.

And simultaneously Jesus reminds us that he has good plans for us that stretch beyond the grief. Jesus is in control, so we don’t have to be. We can let go. We can feel. We can trust. Because, as we see in the story of Lazarus, Jesus is the resurrection and the life. He works miracles greater than we can ever see or imagine. Death still happens. Bad things still happen. But even through all the pain and emotion that we experience in our humanity, God is in control, pouring out so many blessings in our lives, including the gift of eternal life. For me, on my most anxious days, that is a great comfort. I hope it’s a comfort for you too. 

As you listen to this song below, please take a moment to allow yourself to be as human as Jesus, feeling whatever it is you feel. And at the same time, invite your heart to trust a bit deeper, our Good God, who is the resurrection and the life.

“Be Still My Soul” by Kari Jobe

Daily Intentional Encounters

By Rhonda Jones

My head has been spinning with lots of fresh ideas since this new year has begun. What will 2018 unfold for me?   The main thought that keeps returning to my mind is the need to be present and intentional in all my relationships.

Last week my husband and I went out to dinner and the first thing we did when we sat down to the table was bring out our cell phones as we waited for our food.  Was there anything wrong with this picture?  I looked around the restaurant and saw that everybody else was doing the same thing (justification, right)?

And then I began taking a deeper look at myself.  God revealed to me that when the waitress came to the table, rarely did I look her directly in the eye and engage in personal conversation.   It was as if I saw a moving picture of myself going through the day, touching the lives of people around me but not really “engaging” with them.   What a sad motion picture my life had become!  I had to repent and ask God to help me wake up to the moments in my life that He intends for me.

A day later, I was walking through Bell-Square and just as I approached the opening to Macy’s Department Store, a tiny girl toddled out with such great enthusiasm of being able to walk (you could see the pride all over her face) that I just had to laugh and say, “Well, look at you, Princess…you go, girl!”  Her mama was right behind her, encouraging her to step out and explore the world around her.  Right then I knew I had just experienced a godly encounter and thanked Jesus for that little moment of joy He brought to my heart.

I believe that every moment we live is a moment God has planned for us (See Jeremiah 29:11-13), whether we travel a smooth path with rich blessings or a deep valley of sadness, sorrow or pain.  And I also believe that He brings people into our lives for an intentional purpose, whether they encourage us, or we in turn do the same for them.  But that won’t happen unless we become vulnerable enough to allow God to show us how to see the people around us with His eyes, from His godly perspective. 

I Samuel 16:7b says: “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”  

 So, here is my daily prayer for 2018: “Lord, help me live my life today from Your perspective, serving those I encounter with a humble heart filled with love.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

(Rhonda Jones is the Music Director at Washington Cathedral.  She’s been involved with the music ministry for almost 23 years, was a single mom for 15 years and met her husband Ted at this church.  Her testimony is one of God’s faithfulness through times of abandonment and loneliness, healing and restoration.  She always welcomes anyone willing to praise God with their voice into the Cathedral Choir).

Prayers that Change the World

Prayer is an underutilized path to strength and a healthy life.  It doesn’t take long on this adventure of following Christ before you make life-long friends.  Friends who will pour out their hearts to you and who are there for you as you share each other’s burdens.  Where are you going to find those kinds of friends?   All you need to do is join a small group, or what we call, Tiny Little Church (TLC) groups.  Because, when you march on the battlefield for the ideals of heaven, you will soon make friends with people who would give their lives for you. 

With those friends, soon the conversation will come up about prayer.  It is like two tennis players giving one another tips.  Or two golf players who are sharing their journey in the great game of golf.  (My marriage advice, however, is don’t coach your spouse in golf. -- But that is off the subject.)  Prayer is the topic that good Christian friends always keep coming back to when it comes to following Christ. Discussions like, “What has God been teaching you about prayer?”  “What exciting things are you seeing in your prayer life?”  Or maybe even, “How has prayer been a struggle for you lately?”  

The other day I was spending some time with a good friend and he handed me the book “The Battle Plan for Prayer” by Stephen & Alex Kendrick.  He was having everyone at his company (where he is a Chief Financial Officer) read the book together.  There is a lot of good information out there on the topic of prayer. In this book, the author compares prayer to WWI.  In that war millions of people lost their lives in that bogged-down, bloody, trench warfare.  It was a hopeless situation until the British developed the tank.  That was the beginning of the end of stalemate warfare that came from digging trenches.  The author uses the analogy that prayer breaks through the stalemate for the believer by giving them the protection of a tank.  

We are studying together SOAR, RUN, WALK and the prayers of Jesus.  This weekend I will be speaking on the metaphor Jesus uses of the widow and the wicked judge. In this passage, Jesus is teaching us a startling truth about prayer.  It appears to be a seemingly stark contradiction of what we would intuitively believe the Bible teaches about prayer and what we know about God.  But many times, the greatest truths are hidden in the most baffling contradictions. Luke 18:1-8 is kind of like the old song: “My boyfriend’s back and you’re gonna be in trouble,” or the little kid who says to the bully, “My big brother is going to be here in just a minute.”  I think when you discover the meaning of this important teaching of Jesus you are going to find new wings and deeper roots in your prayer life.  You find yourself becoming one of those who pray prayers that change the world. Please join us for inspirational worship this weekend.

Your friend for the rest of my life,

Pastor Tim White

Soar, Run, Walk

A Brand-New Year -- 2018.  For some of us it almost seems like science fiction.  (And I love science fiction.)  I am more excited to live this year than any other year of my life.  I don’t think it is an accident that God has given us the gift of life.  Discovering his purposes for this year is an all-time adventure.  We have never had a more fruitful Christmas worship than this year.  In terms of reaching out to new prospects and seeing people make fresh commitments to Christ, it was beyond anything we expected.  After 33 years of leading Christmas services at Washington Cathedral, never have so many people left saying “this was the best yet!”  Thank you to all who did so much for our church family allowing so many to enjoy this great blessing!

Now on to a new year.  We on the Pastoral Staff felt led to begin an exciting new series of messages in weekend worship. The title was inspired by the favorite book of Jesus Christ; a book he quoted more than any other book…the Book of Isaiah.  The title:

(A new adventure with the prayers of Jesus)

And, yes, that is the order of the words used in Isaiah 40. I think those words teach us something about prayer itself.  I am going to be challenging you to a new level of prayer through one practical New Years’ Resolution – “Will you dare to try and take a prayer-walk once a day until Easter?”  You can take it at the mall, or at the dog park, or with your best friend, or with a new friend. Just make sure to take the walk with Jesus by soaking up the surroundings in prayerful meditation and by having an open-hearted conversation.  Every day from now through Easter.

We will be studying many aspects of prayer:  The prayer metaphor of Jesus with the widow and the wicked judge. The baptism prayer of Jesus. The Lord’s Prayer. The Resurrection prayer for Lazarus. Jesus’ teaching on how not to pray.  Why we pray in Jesus’ name and what he says we should ask for. Why Jesus teaches us meditation and thanksgiving in our prayer. Why does Jesus say, “his house shall be a house of prayer?” The mystical prayer at the Mount of Transfiguration. The high priestly prayer of Jesus. Jesus' prayers from the cross. Jesus’ Easter prayer with St. Thomas.  And the great blessing prayer before his ascension.  

We have assembled a great team of preachers from across the state, within the staff and within the church.  You will witness an Ordination of new pastors out to change the world. You will discover what children can teach us about prayer.  I promise you we will all grow in our prayer lives.  So, expect great blessings, solid encouragement, visionary inspiration and just the best sermon series in the history of our church. 

Your friend for the rest of my life,

Pastor Tim White

The Icky, Bad, and Fantastic

by Pastor Linda Skinner

I don’t know about you, but 2017 was an up and down year at the Skinner household.  Last New Year’s Rich and I were down with the terrible flu bug that was going around our area.  On January 2, I sat at Urgent Care with about 150 other people waiting for hours to get in to see a doctor to be told my bug had turned into Bronchitis.  Rich fared a little better than I did so he waited in the downstairs lobby so as not to get a worse bug than he already had.  Not a fun way to begin 2017.

By February we were both feeling much better and then our Vinnie Dog got very sick and by March we had to let him go.  That was one of the hardest times in our life.  He had been with us for 15 ½ years.  For weeks, we cried every time we went for a walk and Vinnie wasn’t with us.  Even Panther cat mourned the loss of the little guy (and they were not the best of friends).  You have to be an animal lover to understand the deep connection a family gets to their pets.  

Easter was fantastic.  The services at Washington Cathedral were so uplifting.  How can you not be excited to celebrate the gift of eternal life and to see Jesus coming out of the tomb, always sends chills down my spine?  Then following Easter was our Festival of Miracles Auction, and we had one of our best ever results – raising money for children in Kenya, Africa and La Paz, Honduras.

Early July, Pastors Tim and Jackie headed up a medical mission’s team to Kenya.  They did amazing things for the kids in that terrible slum of Nairobi.  All of us back here, prayed and followed all of their activities with posts on Facebook, excited for the work that they were doing.  

Then in late July I had the opportunity to join the Youth team on their Mission’s Trip to La Paz, Honduras.  It was hotter than “blue blazes”, but it was so worth it to work with the children in the San Jose Orphanage and the NICO tutoring center.  Our hearts were filled with love for those kids and the wonderful workers and volunteers who serve them every day.   Our whole team gained so much more than we gave.

When I returned from that trip, I received a call that sometime in November there would be a puppy ready for us to adopt.  On November 10th, we drove to Port Angeles to pick up our 7 week old Cairn Terrier that we named Barclay Bear.  What joy and challenge that little guy has brought into our lives.  But God could not have given us a more perfect little dog.  This little guy loves people like you would not believe.  He was even part of the greeting team at our Christmas Services.  Not many puppies at 12 weeks old can handle all of that commotion.  He only escaped once from his kennel during the service on Friday night.  But thanks to Jana Goad we got him back quickly and without too much difficulty.

And speaking of Christmas Eve!  What an amazing weekend that was.  Right to the final service at 11:00 pm on a snowy Christmas Eve, we had one of the greatest celebrations I can remember.  The music was fantastic, the kids were the cutest ever, the set and lighting was special.  On Christmas Eve in the falling snow, the manger took on a magical appearance.  It looked like something from a Disney production.

What have I learned from 2017?  I’ve learned that life has it “icky, bad and fantastic” moments, but in the end when you walk with Jesus, there will always be joy and peace.  I think it was what the Apostle Paul was telling us in Philippians:

“Always be full of joy in the Lord.  I say it again – rejoice.  Let everyone see that you are considerate in all that you do.  Remember, the Lord is coming soon.  Don’t worry about anything:  instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and that him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

I’m making this my verse for 2018.  How about joining me?