The One Thing You’d take in a Fire

The Bible that  has washed over, under, in and through me for over 45 years. I rebound it some 20 years ago.

Quite a few years ago I was interviewed as a Fire Officer by a journalist who was wanting to do a feature on what would be the one object a person would take with them if their home was on fire (assuming everyone else was safely out, and that they’d get out safely too). I was only one of about ten people she interviewed – but the only one representing the Fire Department. Staying on point, I insisted that no-one should waste time trying to find anything – no object was worth the danger of delay from a burning building! Back and forth we went until I relented and said “if I was to grab one thing – it would be my (old) Bible – the one I’ve had since University and read to this day.”

Not very practical, I know. I could easily get another Bible if it came down to that. But in that moment’s notice, my mind raced through the irreplaceable, or what I’d miss the most.  So I thought after having already spent years reading, marking, making notes, and correlations in my Bible; after years of crying joyfully and repentedly; after years of talking with God about His thoughts in scripture – this was the one thing I’d take.

The One Thing You would take:

It is a question we must ask when we know there are moments left till impending disaster. It is a question that reveals what we value. Peter Scazzero tells the story of Etty Hillesum, a Dutch Jew, and what she took with her when she knew she was about to be sent to a concentration camp:

She knew she could only take with her one small backpack, perhaps about one cubic foot of possessions to sustain her as she entered hell. In her mind, she pondered and planned, mentally packed and unpacked that small bag, before finally deciding on a Bible, a volume of favorite poems by Rilke, a bottle of aspirin, an extra sweater, and a chocolate bar. Etty struggled to define what was valuable to her, and what would sustain her on her arduous journey. A stripping-down, a letting-go was inevitable as even small freedoms were limited and transport to the death camp came closer.

What is it that you value?

What would you strip down; what would you let go?  What would be on your pared-down list of things you think you’d need to sustain your emotional and spiritual health in the face of disaster?

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Speak Now

Listen, listen
While the storm in your heart is raging
Listen, listen, listen
Listen, listen
To the echoes of martyrs praying
Listen, listen, listen

Listen
Brothers and sisters
Listen, listen, listen
I swear we’ll never find a way to where we’re going, all alone
Don’t take your eyes off the road

Can you hear the bells ring out?
Speak now
Speak now
Can you hear the angels singing loud?
Speak now
Speak now

Listen, listen
To the message of hope in the whispers of ghosts
Listen, listen
Listen
For the children will grow on the seeds that we sow
They listen, listen, listen
Oh, listen
Brothers and sisters
Listen, listen
I swear we’ll never find away to where we’re going, all alone (On our own)
Don’t take your eyes off the road

Can you hear the bells ring out?
Speak now
Speak now
Can’t you hear the angels cry out?
Speak now
Speak now

Don’t you hold your tongue
Speak now
Speak now
Speak now
Can’t you hear the angels?
Speak now
Speak now


Rolling Stone reported:

Leslie Odom Jr. has released new single “Speak Now.” The actor-singer’s song appears in the title credits of Regina King’s One Night in Miami, which he also stars in, and on its official soundtrack. Odom portrays Sam Cooke in the film about a historic gathering between Cooke, Cassius Clay (soon to take the name Muhammad Ali), Malcolm X, and Jim Brown.

Cowritten by Odom and Sam Ashworth, the affecting “Speak Now” addresses civil rights. His voice and lyrics serve as a salve as well as a call to action during contentious times. “I swear we’ll never find our way to where we’re going, all alone (on our own),” he sings over a reflective acoustic guitar melody. ”Don’t take your eyes off the road/Can you hear the bells ring out?/Speak now, speak now/Can you hear the angels singin’ loud?/Speak now, speak now.”

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When Someone is Broken

In a men’s group I facilitated, one of the guidelines we told ourselves was to remember that “unsolicited advice is an emotional violation.”  It was our way of reminding ourselves to “please, just listen.”

As I like to remind myself of “the power of listening“,

“Being heard
is so close to being loved
that for the average person,
they are almost indistinguishable.”

David Augsburger, from “Caring Enough to Hear and be Heard.

And more than mere listening (though there is no need to modify the sentence by saying “mere” – since listening is so powerful by itself ), there is the dynamic of what encouragement means in our lives, especially in the lives of those who feel broken and hurt.

The direction to “walk beside them in their hurt” is so Biblical, since the koine Greek word used for encouragement in the New Testament is parakaleo – literally meaning – “to call to one’s side.”

I suspect we will be able to put this into practice this very week.

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More Beautiful for Being Broken – Mending Trauma

A few years ago I saw a bowl repaired with veins of gold in the Kintsukuroi art form of Kintsugi. It prompted me to post, “More Beautiful for Being Broken: Kintsukuroi“.

Recently I came upon the Japanese artist Makoto Fujimura explaining the art of Kintsugi in “Mending Trauma, Theology of Making.”

Peter Scazzero writes:

The Japanese art of kintsugi calls for seeing beauty in the flawed, the damaged, the imperfect. The broken fault lines are lined with costly gold, making it stronger and more valuable. God does this with us. We each have cracked, shattered places, yet he carefully puts us back together in ways more spectacular and beautiful than before.

Our weaknesses & vulnerabilities are our great gift to the world.

Why not let this soft, short description continue the mending of our soul? Let God show us how our weaknesses and vulnerabilities are our great gift to the world.

Why not reflect on the ways the Creative One mends us in such a way as to touch the tender broken pieces and make them more honoured than when they were before.

This is our moment to talk with God about how He weaves, mends, or otherwise works all things for good according to His good and redemptive pleasure.

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Be Faithful in Little: Worship

Faithful in Little: Shepherd Songs

Retired Pastor Lee Eclov has written another missive on being “faithful in little things” – and again I include his entire devotion here as an encouragement to enter into worship when you visit people in care:

My Dear Shepherds,

The first time I sang on a pastoral call was in a bustling respiratory care unit. We had no privacy. Nurses, technicians, and doctors were moving all around us. Ginny, a saint from our church, was lying there unresponsive. I didn’t know what to do. Usually, I’d read Scripture, but I was pretty sure it wouldn’t register with her. The Lord whispered to me, “Sing for her.” Here? With all these people around? “Yes,” he insisted. “Sing.” So I took a deep breath, took hold of Ginny’s hand, and started singing, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” Then other songs. I forgot the words once and started too high another time, but I sang. Not because I’m a great singer but because it seemed like the pastoral thing to do.

The ministry of singing seems to have become the sole province of worship leaders and the people with mics. But singing can be good pastoral care, especially in a hospital room, a nursing home, a time of weeping or parting, or even in a counseling session. Maybe you’re thinking, “I can’t sing.” Could be true. But most of us can carry a tune. Not well enough for public consumption, perhaps, but well enough to minister to or fellowship with a brother or sister.

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. (Col. 3:16)

Worship isn’t the only reason we sing. Christians sing in order to pray, to edify, to fellowship. The Psalms were sung and think of all the spiritual territory they cover. God sings over us with joy. We mistakenly think that music only ministers if it is done well. But our ordinary, average singing can be medicine and even a hint of heaven.

If the whole idea is too much for you, bring someone with you. If nothing else, play some songs on your phone and sing along. You’re not singing solos here. You’re pastoring. Singing with a fellow believer is a way of synching up our hearts. Once I sang with a Christian brother afflicted with Alzheimer’s yet he sang every verse of an old hymn with me, strong and true.

A woman who lived far away called to ask if I’d visit her dying father and present the gospel to him one more time. He’d owned a bar and, so far as she knew, he had never darkened a church door. I stood nervously at his hospital bed and tried to talk about Jesus but I saw no reaction whatever. So I started to sing the old Sunday School song, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” To my astonishment, his lips began to move with the words. When we finished, I spoke the gospel to him and when I asked if he wanted to trust Christ, he squeezed my hand twice as I’d asked him to do. Make of that what you will.

I visited a dear saint who had Huntington’s Disease and was completely unresponsive. Again, I felt so helpless, so wordless, so I just sang for a while. As I was leaving the nurse said, “You know, when you sang, her blood pressure went down.”

Bob was in the ICU for a long time. Each time I visited him we’d talk and I’d sing. One time I said, “I’m sorry Bob, but I have to leave now.” “That’s ok,” he said, “When you’re not here, I hear you singing.”

Be ye glad!

Lee Eclov

Retired Pastor, PT Contributor, leeeclov.com

A few weeks ago I posted “At a Child’s Deathbed” in memory of Lyon, a son of friends of ours. Shortly before he died my wife and I were able to visit; at that time Lyon was already having difficulty swallowing anything including water. Since Lyon loved to worship, we asked to sing with/for him – and with some encouragement from his mother, Lyon was asked to sip some water after each verse we sang. So that afternoon, we sang and he sipped, until he finished drinking what he could.

It is one of those holy memories of our last time with him alive, and it fills me with wonder at the thought of worship then, and the celebration of worship he enjoys now!

 

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The Indigenous Lord’s Prayer

In commemoration of Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

To learn more about First Nations translation of Scripture, go to Indigenous Bible Version.

Oh great Father…. release us from the things we have done wrong in the same way we release others for the things done wrong to us…

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Be Faithful in Little: Prayer

Amaury Gutierrea @amaury_guti

The following reflection is from Lee Eclov, 40 year retired pastor who contributes to the weekly e-newsletter Preaching Today.  Rather than quotes bits and pieces, I am including his post in its entirety for your contemplation on prayer, and perhaps you might be interested in subscribing to this free newsletter:

Faithful in Little: Impromptu Prayers

My Dear Shepherds,

Pastors offer a lot of short prayers. We pray short prayers beside hospital beds and in church hallways, to begin and conclude meetings and dinners, before sermons and to wrap up counseling sessions. Often our words tumble out half-formed. We pray for the same things so often that we can’t help but fall back on clichés. Spur-of-the-moment prayers are part of our calling. The danger is that in becoming so repetitious they become lifeless. It’s an occupational hazard.

We’re often expected to pray without advance notice. Not expecting to pray and being unprepared to pray are two different things. When I was a very young pastor, I remember a morning when I consciously resisted the Spirit’s prompting to spend time alone in private devotions. Late that afternoon, I got word that the father of a young woman in the Bible study I was about to lead had collapsed and died. It fell to me to tell her. I knew that my failure to pray that morning left me weak and wordless in that crisis. Jesus, of course, was merciful to me and her but it was a lesson I’ve never forgotten.

Impromptu prayers draw their life from our quiet times of deeper prayer. The Scripture we read gives us handholds in that spur-of-the-moment situation. We easily re-enter the quiet place where we’d been with the Lord. Our faith is still garden fresh. We’re not so much praying new prayers as we are adding another paragraph to our ongoing conversation with God.

Unexpected prayers are diluted by a verbal running start, sort of preliminary yammering. Now I try to be quiet long enough to find the Holy Spirit in my mind’s crowd. I try to think what is most needful for the soul I’m with. After all, short prayers don’t need to be rushed.

Someone told me about a pastor they admired who ended virtually every conversation, no matter how ordinary, with a brief prayer for that person. You know my reaction when I heard that? “Really?! Why didn’t I do that more often?” I have prayed spontaneously for people often enough to know that it is one of those little ministries of good shepherding.

I love how short prayers can be grace-filled surprises. Like the guy I heard about who prayed with a weary waitress, or the pastor who prayed for a parishioner’s roommate in the hospital, or a friend who would stand on the steps of the courthouse offering to pray for people facing a stressful hearing. We’re so used to people praying for us that we forget that we encounter people every day who have never had anyone pray for them personally.

Our short prayers bring the presence of Jesus near. Sometimes we pray because they can’t. We ask of Jesus what they don’t know to ask. We approach God’s throne boldly when they don’t know how to face him at all. We do priestly work, even in a few moments, and they feel heard and loved by the Lord.

What matters most about our short prayers is that we actually pray and not just say a prayer; that we genuinely intercede. Then our prayers, even poorly put, are reworded or un-worded by the Holy Spirit, lifted up, and met at heaven’s altar by our High Priest. We speak our small prayer and there, set afire, they become the incense of heaven.

Be ye glad!

Lee Eclov

Retired Pastor, PT Contributor, leeeclov.com

 

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