Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Looking back for a moment at the end of the year is something most all of us do. Being no exception, I found myself thinking about those moments, those events which God used to touch my heart and take me to a new place in my journey with Him. In retrospect I suppose this blog would be one of those things. Blogging has been for me a new way to share my experience of God. Some of those experiences have been foundational in that they came long ago; yet, still have great impact on how I live in faith today. Others have been more contemporary causing me to see that God is still being patient, pushing and dragging me to some place He wants me to be.
Two events stand out in this year's trip. For the past several years I have been privileged to offer sessions on preaching and worship at our Conference's School for those needing certification as local pastors. Having 9 hours to talk about two of my passions and having an audience that seems like a sponge has been a great blessing. As I left these men and women who are at the entry point of ministry this past February, I knew that God had renewed this old preacher once again. Already I am looking forward to my 2009 trip to Epworth for this great time.
The second thing remembered is the way the fall season became a time for me of being encouraged and renewed in my prayer life. The Terry Teykl Prayer Conference certainly had an impact on my personal life, bringing renewal in prayer and worship. And it was also during this time that I found myself devouring what John Eldredge had written about prayer being a moment for dialogue. Both of these spiritual leaders have caused me to want to pray more which has at least kept me pointed in the direction my heart truly wants to go.
And, finally, I am thankful for you, for those who have shared this year's journey with me. Some have been kind enough to give affirmation to my desire to be useful to God and some have shared faith, blessing me beyond measure.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Long ago I gave up the resolutions of the New Year. I never seemed to do very well with them. Maybe it has to do with motive. Maybe it is too much about what I am able to do. The resolutions of year's past speak volumes about my inability to make significant change in my life when I have the wrong motive, or when I depend upon the wrong source for the strength to change. Doing something because it is January 1 is not much motivation and sometimes I prove to be my own worst enemy when it comes to making significant personal change.
To reflect upon the significant changes in my lif it to realize that they are more likely to happen when God is the Grand Director. When we ask, "Lord, what do you want me to do?" and then actually listen, we are more likely to see some different things happening in our lives. So, I have been consciously trying to put myself more in a listening mode in these recent days. It is has been a different kind of prayer experience for me as I have a history of talking too much and not listening enough in my prayer relationship. I have not had the success I had hoped in the beginning, but I do have a sense that it is movement in the right direction.
And the truth is that hearing does not always translate into significant change or movement forward in a different way. Sometimes what I hear or sense in my spirit is not what I want to know, so I do like Gideon, I ask in a different way. Sometimes, too, I hear so clearly that there is no need to ask again. All that remains is to act on what I know. Somehow I think here instead of New Year's Resolutions is the beginning point of real significant personal change in my life--maybe yours as well.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Today marks the 53rd anniversary of my Father's death. The evening of that day remains crystal clear. Even now I can remember being upstairs looking out the window seeing the uniformed men getting out of a car coming to our front door. Something inside of me caused me to know it was not good news being brought into my life. For me there is a barely remembered life before that day. Since then, every day of my life has been impacted and shaped by what happened that December afternoon.
One thing for which I have always been grateful is the knowledge that my Father came to a place of accepting Jesus before he died. I can never remember him as a church going person, but I do remember him going some before that December day. I was told it was his intention to be baptized there in the base chapel in January and years later, going through some old stuff, I found a chaplain's notes in a memorial book speaking of my Father's faith and his intention to be baptized. For those who say such does not matter, I would beg to differ. It has mattered immensely to me. Whether we will actually be able to recognize our loved ones in heaven is really something hoped for, but mostly a mystery. Knowing that he is there and a part of that great cloud of witnesses in the heavenly place is enough.
Over the years of ministry, I have learned that there is one thing the grieving really want to know. They want to be assured that the one who has died was a person of faith and is with the Lord. I am no different than are they. The one important thing we can give to those who are important to us is a life that would never give them any reason to doubt that our faith in Jesus Christ is the most important thing to us. It is never something which they should wonder about when we are gone. By God's mercy, we have the time to make sure they know.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
It is a known fact that I am not so gifted when it comes to music. The youth around here were amazed the other day when a guitar was needed and I could loan them one from my closet! I am not sure what was more amazing--that I had one which means I must be able to play, or that a guitar could be over 40 years old and still sound good! The bottom line is that I know I am no musician, but it does not keep me from appreciating and enjoying it. Perhaps, it started as a boy when I got introduced to some long playing records which had the music of folks like Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven. It was somewhat mesmerizing for me even as a child.
Over the years I have come to appreciate the place good music has in worship and in my spiritual journey. I have been blessed with some great Ministers of Music over several appointments. They enabled me to see that there was more out there in church music than what I knew from The Cokesbury Hymnal. When I was in my early 30's at Talbotton, I even tried my hand at conducting the choir. I knew music would make a difference in worship and I let my desperation take me somewhere I would now never go!
All this came to me again with such clarity the other night during the Service of Lessons and Carols. Choirs of all ages, handbells groups, a brass ensemble, and a chime group offering ministry and music made me once again so very thankful for the way that music has been used by God to touch my soul time and time again. How impoverished the journey would have been without music to sing along the way!
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I just finished reading a biography about George Muller (should be 2 little dots over the "u" but making it happen is beyond me). Muller was born in Prussia in 1805 and died in Bristol, England in 1895. Between those years he lived out an amazing legacy of faith. He is best known for his orphanage work in Bristol and his praying. Muller did not believe in asking any other person for financial help. He believed only in praying and asking God. His journal is a record of how he prayed and how God responded. All six of the orphanage houses built were built on prayer. The 2,500 children they housed were sustained by prayer. Whenever anyone writes a serious book about the great men of prayer, George Muller is going to be high on the list.
To say the least, the book was inspiring and encouraging. However, it also made me wonder about something. Muller lived in another century and here we are still reading what he wrote and marvelling at his ministry. We do the same with folks like John Wesley, Dwight L. Moody, E. Stanley Jones, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. All of these men are spiritual giants of other eras whose work for God somehow transcended the time in which they lived. I find myself wondering. Who are the spiritual giants of our day who will be read and read about a hundred or two hundred years from now? Are there any out there? Surely, there are. Who in 19th century Bristol, England would have thought that Muller's life would still be impacting the world in the 21st century?
I wonder who those folks are today. Some are no doubt serving God in what might be obscure places. Perhaps, some are current well-read writers of our day. I think that surely Henri Nouwen will be remembered and read, but then who is to say. I wonder, too, what you would say.