Block Party

I was a little embarrassed to have been caught. At the auto mechanics, in the customer waiting area, inches from the television, staring at CMT.

“You can turn it up if you need to,” said the young mechanic as he walked through.

“Umm… no… that’s okay. I was just trying to see if someone I knew was in the video,” I stammered.

He looked at me with a yeah-right smile, shrugged, and went his way. I decided to look up the video on YouTube when I got home.

Now, Alison Krauss has a beautiful voice, and I love the song she was singing, but, yesterday, at the car shop, I didn’t really care about Alison Krauss. I wanted to see if Ron Block was in the video.

Ok, so I’m a little late to the Block party. Before I went to my first Hutchmoot, I had no clue who Ron Block was. Now that I’ve heard him speak, and sing, and play, well, I would put myself in the fan category. He’s part of Union Station, and a singer-songwriter in his own right. In fact, his CD “Walking Song” was my favorite CD of 2013.

I really wanted to see if he was in this video so I pulled it up on YouTube and watched it, stopping it multiple times, asking Laurel (because she was in the room), “Do you think that’s him?”

I never was quite sure. It’s 20 years later, he’s not wearing a hat, and I have trouble recognizing faces anyway.

My mind is showing its age.

I’ve hit a major roadblock in memorizing, too. For whatever reason, I just don’t seem to be able to cram any more verses in.

So I picked up a little art journal the other day and decided to attempt a new tactic. I started drawing pictures to go with the verses.  Trust me, I am no artist.

But I figured that no one is going to see them.

Except me.

And now you.

Because I’m going to be brave and show you the picture I drew yesterday morning, hours before my is-Ron-Block-in-the-video moment.DSC01239The drawing, I know, is faint. I have no boldness when it comes to sketching.

My writing is messy, so I’ll decipher it. “What distinguished him? Nothing that was visible to the human eye. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. It was all something beyond our grasp, beyond our eyes, beyond our perception. What else am I missing?…”

I look for God all the time. And yet, I know that I miss Him in so many ways.

It hit me that the reason I couldn’t pick Ron Block out of the music video is that I don’t know him well enough.

You see where I’m going with this.

The reason I may miss out on God’s presence in my day-to-day is that I may not know Him well enough.

You’re probably wondering what the song was.  Alison Krauss – “When You Say Nothing At All” – it’s a beautiful song. And the words of the first verse fit right in here:

It’s amazing how you can speak right to my heart
Without saying a word you can light up the dark
Try as I may I could never explain
What I hear when you don’t say a thing

Picture singing that to God.

Lord, let me be more perceptive of all the ways You are present and speaking today.

An Act of Love

My friend suffered an unspeakable loss last week.  Her son shot and killed her husband, his father.

Just writing these words, I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut. My heart aches so terribly for her.

Today friends are going to her home to clean.  The police have completed their investigation. Now there is blood to be scrubbed from the floorboards and bullet holes to be patched in the walls.

I wish I could help.

It is such a helpless feeling, to sit in my kitchen miles away, knowing there is work to be done.

I hate to wash my own floors, but I would wash hers for her, as an act of love.

Sometimes the hardest place to be is watching from afar, powerless to effect any change.  Imagine the Marys watching Jesus being crucified on the cross. How hopeless and helpless they must have felt!

And yet, I am not hopeless.

It is that great Hope that carries me forward.  I know what the Marys did not at that moment; Jesus lives.

Bill Gaither sang, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow..”.

And so can my friend.

She can face today, and tomorrow, and all the tomorrows that come, one after the other.

She has friends who will wash away the blood, and she has Blood washes over her in an Act of Love.

From a distance, I can pray. And pray and pray and pray. Because I am not hopeless or helpless. It is my act of love.

Spider Web, or, Lessons from a Cat

I stood staring at the thin barely-visible filament of a spider’s web.  It stretched 15-20 feet, from the railing of our deck to a high branch on a tree.

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Spider strand — can you see it?

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Spider strand stretching to the tree top

I looked at it for a long time, thinking that there must be a metaphor here somewhere.  Like the “Footprints in the Sand” poem, which illustrates how God’s presence is not always visible in our lives, I thought about that tenuous filament and how it was only visible where the morning dew had settled on it.

It was delicate, yet strong.  It had an almost ethereal beauty.

“Lord,” I asked, “what is the lesson of the spider web?”

Almost on cue, our cat, Trinity, jumped up onto the railing.  She began walking, as only a cat can walk, perfectly balanced on the rail. Suddenly she stopped at swatted at something.

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Trinity — she’s not falling; she’s swatting.

A little further on, she made herself comfortable and looked at me rather smugly.

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Trinity

She had swatted my spider filament away.

I laughed out loud.

“Okay, Lord,” I said. “I think I get it.”

God doesn’t want us to put our faith in the beautiful but tenuous.  It may seem cool or artsy to find Him there, but He’s so much more than a spider strand coated with dew.

God is a rock, a fortress, an ever-present help in time of need.  There’s nothing spider-webby about Him.

I’m thankful today for my cat that God uses to teach me lessons.

A Swim Instructor’s Prayer

O Lord,

You spread out Your hands, as a swimmer spreads his hands in the water, (Isaiah 25:11)

— Yes, You understand swimming, and that delights me.

Let me delight in You as I work with children in the water.

And may You delight in me as I seek to honor You in word, and thought, and deed at swim lessons.

May I see each child with Your eyes, and love them with Your heart —

Even the ones who won’t cooperate,
who splash water in other people’s faces,
who refuse to even attempt the simple things I ask them to do,
who put their heads underwater when I am talking to them so that they can’t hear what I have to say,
who are rude and pouty and unkind —

Because I have been and done all that to You and more.

Help me, Lord, to teach them to spread their hands in the water to swim.

For Your glory.

Amen

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Prayer for Our Country

I couldn’t watch the president’s speech last night or the rebuttal. Politics grieve me more and more. What our country needs isn’t a new spending plan but a new heart. The problems are so deep and tangled that I would be hard pressed to say that anyone is totally right or totally wrong. Everything is looked at from a human standpoint, and we’re not doing so well looking at things that way. Here is the prayer from The Book of Common Prayer entitled “For Our Country”

Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage;
We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves
a people mindful of thy favor
and glad to do thy will.

Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning and pure manners.

Save us from violence, discord, and confusion;
from pride and arrogancy,
and from every evil way.

Defend our liberties,
and fashion into one united people
the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues.

Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust authority of government,
that there may be justice and peace at home,
and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth.

In time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness,
and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail;
all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

A Prayer for a True Spirit

This is from a book I picked up at the used bookstore last week. The book is called Think! Act! Pray! and was published in 1844.

O my God,
fix my heart,
my thoughts,
my hopes,
my desires,
upon heaven and heavenly things;

Teach me how to pray with sincerity,
how to hear with profit,
how to read with advantage,
and benefit by thy Holy word.

Keep alive in me,
O Lord,
a true spirit of devotion,
and preserve me from the great sin
of praying to thee with my lips only,
and not with my heart.

Do thou give me power from this time
to lead a new life,
to have a lively faith in thy mercies,
and to rest in charity with all men.

Deaden, O Lord,
my affections to the things of this present world,
and draw them to my Saviour.

Let me ever be looking
for the second advent of thy Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord,
and when he cometh,
Grant that I may be found watching,
and that I may receive thy eternal reward,
which my Saviour has gained for me:

Grant this, O Lord, for His sake.

Amen.

Prayer for Pastors

Psalm 86, Deuteronomy 9, Hebrews 12

My heart has been heavy for our church and I have been praying for our pastors.

I can’t tell you how thankful I am for having a prayer book!  The words in these prayers guide my own words and prayers as I lift up different things before the Lord.

Here are the words of the prayer for pastors (with some minor adjustments) —

Almighty and everlasting God,
from whom cometh every good and perfect gift; 
Send down upon our pastors
[I mention each by name here],
and the other people who minister in our church
[I mention the other ministry leaders as they come to mind],
and upon the congregation of …
[I insert the name of our church]
committed to their charge,
the healthful Spirit of thy grace;
and, that they may truly please thee,
pour upon them the continual dew of thy blessing. 
Grant this, O Lord,
for the honour of our Advocate and Mediator, Jesus Christ. 
Amen.

Trust in the Lord

Psalms 25 and 27, Deuteronomy 7:6 – 8:20, Hebrews 11:32 – 12:2

Is it a coincidence that the first Psalm I looked up this morning began with these words:

Unto thee, O Lord, I lift up my soul!  O my God, I trust in thee…

I have been struggling for days now with a survey that was given me.  One of the questions was worded as a yes/no/not sure question.  “Our church trusts and respects our pastors and our staff.”

The church’s name is Berean Bible Church.  The Bereans in the Bible “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”  (Acts 17:11)  Does that mean that they didn’t trust Paul?  Does that mean that they didn’t respect Paul?  No, I think it means that they were not afraid to question the things that Paul said, because, ultimately, their faith and trust was not in Paul but in the Lord.

So why ask this question?  It feels as though they want me on-board with something that they want to do;  they want me to trust them.  I respect them, but I give blind trust to no one.  O my God, I trust in thee!

Every scripture I read this morning was pointing toward a trust in God and a waiting on God.

Psalm 25: 5, 21

5Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long.

21May integrity and uprightness preserve me,
for I wait for you.

Psalm 27: 8, 14

8You have said, “Seek my face.”My heart says to you,
“Your face, LORD, do I seek.”

14 Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD!

Deuteronomy 8 is Moses reminding the people of all that God brought them through, because once they go into this prosperous land, it would be easy to forget the One who brought them there. (Deut. 8:11-14, 17)

11“Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God…

17Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’

My fear is that as the church trusts in a consultant and studies and known fund-raising tactics, we are putting our faith in those rather than God.  I think it was George Mueller who let his requests only be known unto God.  He never made pleas for financial support and he never went into debt.  God honored his ministry because he honored God.

And then, I’m still reading through Hebrews (for the second time), I settled on Hebrews 12:2 —

2looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

My eyes are on Jesus, and there I want them to stay.

Don’t show me studies of church growth.  Don’t show me statistics about how money is effectively raised.  Show me Jesus.

Do I respect and trust the pastors and staff of our church?  I respect them as fellow Christians.  I trust Jesus.

Prayer for the Church

Psalms 29 and 99, Isaiah 63-64, Hebrews 7:1-14

Today is Trinity Sunday.  The Psalms focused on the holiness of the Lord —

Psalm 99:3  They shall give thanks unto thy Name, which is great and wonderful and holy.

But this prayer, which I stumbled upon, although I really believe it was Divine Providence that opened the book to this page, is what I’ll think about and come back to —

A Prayer for the Church

O Gracious Father, we humbly beseech thee for thy holy Church;
that thou wouldst be pleased to filled it with all truth, in all peace.
Where it is corrupt, purify it;
Where it is in error, direct it;
Where in any thing it is amiss, reform it.
Where it is right, establish it;
Where it is in want, provide for it;
Where it is divided, reunite it;
For the sake of him who died and rose again,
and ever liveth to make intercession for us,
Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord.
Amen

Unity in the Church

Psalm 132, Isaiah 62, Hebrews 5:11 – 6:20

Still thinking on Isaiah 62.  I need to do more study on it.  Moving ahead in Hebrews but the going is slow.

I read and re-read Hebrews 5:14 with the bold words jumping at me —

But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Hebrews 6 (end of verse 4 through beginning of verse 6) goes on to talk about believers —

…who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6and then have fallen away…

Is this the good from evil we must distinguish?  Are these ones who have fallen away the ones who haven’t learned to distinguish good from evil?

I found myself asking these questions in light of a website I had visited yesterday that was highly critical of some prominent evangelicals.

I don’t think it was by accident that I added another prayer to my quiet time this morning.  Yesterday, I happened to notice a prayer in the prayer book I use called, “A Prayer for all Conditions of Men.”  Yesterday, I had decided to add that prayer to my time this morning.  God, in His infinite wisdom, knew these words would hold meaning today —

Here is the prayer in its entirety, with words in bold that spoke to me —

O God, the Creator and Preserver of all mankind, we humbly beseech thee for all sorts and conditions of men;  that thou wouldest be pleased to make thy ways known unto them, thy saving health unto all nations.  More especially we pray for thy holy Church universal; that it may be so guided and governed by thy good Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life.  Finally, we commend to thy fatherly goodness, all those who are any ways afflicted, or distressed, in mind, body, or estate; that it may please thee to comfort and relieve them, according to their several necessities; giving them patience under their sufferings, and a happy issue out of all their afflictions.  And this we beg for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.

I have been struck, as I walk the streets of our little town, how all along one street, at one point there were five churches within about 3 or 4 blocks.  Satan’s greatest blow has been to splinter those who call themselves Christians.

Months ago I changed the Nicene Creed (shocking, I know) that I say because the words in it — “I believe one Catholic and Apostolic Church” didn’t mean anything to me.  So I decided to say what I do believe about the church — “I believe the Church is the body of Christ, who shows herself to the world by her unity and her love for one another both within and without her walls.”

This website I had visited, the one that kept replaying in my mind through the evening and into my quiet time with God this morning, under the guise of reproving and rebuking, is destructive and mean-spirited.  It attacks fellow believers — not reproving or rebuking in a loving way — it attacks fellow Christians, and I fear we lose the bigger battles as we fight against each other.

So Lord, today I do pray, with all my heart, “that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace and in righteousness of life.”  I pray that we would not be sucked into fighting amongst ourselves, but would show Your love to the world.  You make a difference in my life.  Let the world see that difference in me and in the Church.