Monday, July 20, 2015

Jesus in the Lobby

Toward the end of a recent month long stay in a Houston, Texas hotel, I decided on a foot journey across the two story high walk-way to the Houston Methodist Hospital.  What I really had in mind was checking out the cafeteria.  All the places which had been providing our culinary fare had gone from good to average to "can't eat there one more time."  When such a state of mind is reached, even a hospital cafeteria holds out hope.  On my hunt for something to feed my stomach, I unexpectedly found something which fed my soul. 

What I saw in the lobby of the Houston Methodist Hospital was a larger-than-life statue of Jesus standing before a woman who was kneeling at His feet.  The sight stopped me in my tracks.  It took my breath away.  It caused a tightening in my throat and brought tears to my eyes.  While all the world hurried on by doing its business, I stood there transfixed and suddenly full of a spirit of adoration and worship.  I later learned both the name of the artist and the name of the piece of art, but in that moment of epiphany like worship, I knew the statue was about Jesus reaching out to heal a woman.  But, it was more than just religious art.  There in the busy hospital lobby, it became a spiritual visualization of the prayer that was consuming my heart. 

What some might proclaim as coincidence and what others might say was a "projection of my own needs on an inanimate object" was actually one of those moments in the long history of God when He makes Himself known in a totally unexpected and surprising way.  How that image of Jesus and the woman got there in that hospital lobby was interesting to learn, but the way it was used by God to turn my despair into hope in a faith restoring kind of way was both powerful and unforgettable.  As I reflect on that single moment, I cannot help but wonder if that Chinese sculptor ever thinks about the number of folks like me who have seen his visual creation of Jesus and been stopped in their tracks and held in God's care.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Righteous Man

Seeing a particularly difficult stretch ahead, I found myself asking some folks to pray.   I did not just throw out a blanket request, but instead started thinking about people I knew who took praying seriously.  A truism I have embraced over the years guided me:  "If you want someone to teach you how to hunt rabbits, find someone with fur in their teeth."   So, I asked the people I knew who had callouses on their knees, who knew prayer to be more than ritual, who believed in its power, and who not only talked about it, but gave strong witness to practicing it. 
One of the persons I asked was a church member of my first appointment and who has stuck with me as a friend for over forty years.  His witness and his praying has strengthened me in an immeasurable way over the years of our journey together.  Years ago this early riser told me of his morning conversations with God while he walked around his place before going to work.  Even before I knew it, he was calling my name and my wife's name in his early morning meetings with God.  Recently, he told me again,  "Every morning I pray for you."  In a conversation shared not too many days ago, he spoke of that James passage about the power of the prayers of a righteous man and then added, "...however, I am not so sure I am a righteous man."  I told my friend not to worry.  When the Bible uses the term righteous, it is not in reference to some super spiritual giant, but one who lives in a right relationship with God and those around him. 
As I told him my understanding of Biblical righteousness, I assured him he had always been pointed in that direction.  When he responded by saying, "Jesus did say the most important thing was loving God and loving your neighbor," I sensed that the assurance I sought to offer him had found a receptive place in his heart.  I have always believed that James had it right when he wrote, "The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective." (James 5:16)  I will always be thankful for this life long friend and the other righteous people who prayed simply because I asked.