Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Amazing Places

Those who know me, know that I do re-reads like some folks do re-runs on television. It is my belief that reading a book once is no reason not to read it again. Some novels by favorite authors have been read six, seven, or more times. While I thinned my library harshly upon retirement, one book I kept because I knew it would be read again was John Eldredge's Walking With God.
Very simply it is a book about prayer. The underlying theme of the whole book is: "An intimate, conversational walk with God is available." When the book is taken seriously, it shatters the shell of contentment we often construct around our prayer life. According to Eldredge, an intimate prayer life requires work done on our knees, time measured not in moments but in big chunks, and the willingness to replace routine patterns of prayer with risk and experimentation. He taps that desire in us to want more in our prayer life and then challenges us to go after it.
But, perhaps, one of the most prayer changing things he teaches is the art of asking. No one taught us in seminary to ask God what to pray about in a pastoral prayer, or how to pray for someone who comes with a need which seems so obvious. Like many others I have learned the art of depending on my own insights and impressions instead of stopping and asking, "God, how do you want me to pray here?" But, I am also beginning to learn that asking can take us to amazing places in our praying.

Monday, February 7, 2011

At the Bottom

Today I led worship and preached ten miles up the road at the Rocky Ford UMC. As I anticipated this morning I knew I would need my Bible and my Hymnal. Both were still packed in moving boxes. While I have had a Bible available for reading, it is not the one I had been using as a preaching companion for some years now. So, Saturday afternoon I started my search. I went through all the boxes and found neither of the sought after books. I started telling myself they were gone, lost and never to be found. A second search was more thorough and more fruitful. I found both my pulpit Bible and my Hymnal side by side at the bottom of one of the boxes. Being at the bottom meant that they were the first ones packed which spoke a quiet word about their importance to me.
The two books have been worship companions for at least the last seven years. The Hymnal was given to me as a parting gift by the staff at the Perry Church. The Bible was bought as a replacement for one so worn out, it would fall apart if carried into the pulpit. While the Hymnal has pages that have been doused by baptismal water, the Bible bears its markings as well. Most of those marking are notes, underlinings, arrows, and brackets. When my memory fails about the chapter and verse of a certain Word, I often am able to find it by remembering its location on the page and the markings which lift it up.
Over the years of preaching, I have always had a Bible that was used exclusively for preaching. Picking it up reminded me that something important was before me. Picking it up reminded me that the task was to speak in such a way that the written Word became the spoken Word. It was good to put my Bible and my Hymnal to good use this morning. I pray that I was as well.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Quiet Enough to Hear

It was about sunset today when I heard them coming. I peered through the gray sky in the direction of the loud honking noise until I saw them. As I watched, these Canadian Geese came directly toward me in a perfect V-formation over our farm toward our neighbor's pond. They were no more than a hundred feet above me as they came soaring by. For some reason, as they drew overhead they ceased their honking. I looked up, was amazed at how close they were, and thought it better to look down in case something unwanted came dropping from the air. Better to be hit on the top of the head than in a mouth opened in awe and amazement! As I looked down for a moment, I heard something I had never heard. It was perfectly quiet. In that silence I heard the sound of fifty wings moving up and down through the air. It was an indescribable, gentle, soft, rushing sound. It was a moment of sheer wonder!
In our world filled with constant noise, it is not always quiet enough to hear. I had always missed the sound of wings moving through the air because other sounds and noises were too overwhelming. Surely, living in a world that is not quiet enough keeps us from experiencing "the sheer sound of silence" (I Kings 19:12). Such was how the prophet Elijah experienced the holy presence of God.
There are those moments of quietness which slip up on all of us, but most of the time it is necessary to be intentional about creating them, or moving into them as they are shaped for us by God. Allowing the demanding noises to captivate our attention only means missing some of the important stuff God has for us. If we truly want to hear the voice of God and know the wonder of His presence in our lives, it must be quiet enough to hear.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sunday Morning Word

This past Sunday morning included the usual appointment. Susie is our German Shorthair Pointer. Each morning I let her out of the pen, pour a bowl full of dry dog food, and stand around somewhere nearby while she eats. My presence seems to help her stay focused on eating instead of running off after some scent in the air. As I stood there I watched her scrounging around on the ground for a few pieces of food that missed the bowl. I thought, "Dumb dog! You have a bowl full of food and you're eating a few pieces off the ground!"
It was then that the Sunday morning Word came. I heard it somewhere between my head and my heart. It was not spoken loudly, but it was spoken clearly. It came so quickly behind my words that it surprised me. The Word? "You're just like that. You have a bowl full of the abundant life in front of you and you insist on going after lesser things." The suddenness of it spoke volumes of its source. It was one of those moments which seem to knock me back a step or two.
When such Words are spoken in the inner place of our spirit, there is always a moment of decision. Sometimes I want to explain it away by declaring that it somehow originated with me. Sometimes I know from whence it came and want to ignore it. But, the only real choice, the one that calls for confession and obedience, is spoken of with the old adage, "If the shoe fits, wear it."