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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Invitation to Brave Space

Image by Adam gong/Unsplash, Public Domain Dedication (CC0).

Invitation to Brave Space

Together we will create brave space.
Because there is no such thing as a “safe space” —
We exist in the real world.
We all carry scars and we have all caused wounds.
In this space
We seek to turn down the volume of the outside world,
We amplify voices that fight to be heard elsewhere,
We call each other to more truth and love.
We have the right to start somewhere and continue to grow.
We have the responsibility to examine what we think we know.
We will not be perfect.
This space will not be perfect.
It will not always be what we wish it to be.
But
It will be our brave space together,
and
We will work on it side by side.

Published September  11, 2020 in “On Being“.


Since I first read this on the “On Being” website, it has been found that Jones plagiarized this from the poem Beth Strano wrote in 2015. Thus “On Being” has taken down the plagiarized rework of Strano (to see Jone’s statement of admission, see Micky ScottBey Jones Facebook page). Admittedly, Jones wrote her edition based on the image of a door of an anarchist group in Phoenix known as “The Sp(a)ce”. Though Jones tried to find the author, it wasn’t until her poem went viral that the original author was found… talk about an invitation to brave space…

Micky ScottBey Jones calls herself the Justice Doula; she is an author, speaker & facilitator and the Director of Healing & Resilience Initiatives with the Southern-based collective Faith Matters Network and an Associate Fellow of Racial Justice with Evangelicals for Social Action. Find her on Twitter at @iammickyjones

The opening line caught my attention for its honesty and its invitation,

“Together we will create brave space. Because there is no such thing as a “safe space” — We exist in the real world.”

I ache to be able to co-create brave spaces in a time of division and separation in my personal space and in the spaces around me.

Though it is the invitation to community, I believe the thread that connects us all to the  desire to connect is the Triune God: Father, Son, and Spirit in expressive and eternal communion from which we gain, grow, and give each other the connection for which we were created.

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At a Child’s Deathbed

A Child’s Deathbed, by: Bartholomeus van der Helst, 1645 (Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands Art Collection).

At a Child’s Deathbed, by Willem Elsschot

Earth wasn’t forced out of its orbit
When your little heart stopped beating
The stars didn’t fade
and the house stayed standing.
But all the wails and silent sobs
even while drinking a comforting coffee
cannot make your voice sound,
or put the light back in your eyes.

Today I will attend the funeral of a son of friends of mine.  He was a man-child, severely disabled and not expected to live much beyond age ten; but remarkably, with the love and care of his parents and so many others in his world, he lived to age 29.

Lyon lived and touched virtually everyone he came in contact with; he was alive with cogency and agency; he was a worshipper and a prayer. He was loved and loving.

In the time between his death a month ago and his funeral today, I caught an episode of a PBS series from Belgium, Professor T, in which the eccentric criminology professor repeats this refrain from a poem written by the late Flemish poet, Willem Elsschot. It seemed timely. He writes it as if to the child himself.

One might read this sad and blunt poem, and accept its reality. Others might howl at their loss as the writer for “Downward Slope“:

 I disagree.

The world tilted wildly and shook. When I looked at the heavens, there were no stars. The house fell down around me.

Nevertheless we are not without hope, though we would fully grieve. We are not without joy in the memory of someone who lived and enlivened our world. We are not without the substance of faith in this curious and all too short life.

Both birth and death does this to us; we are destabilized and grab for something solid. It is a walk of increasing humility with the One who made us for Himself.

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Repair the Inroads

If you don’t want to, you don’t have to excuse the image above – but it is a stark reminder of what we know to be true. You may have known it personally, or have been around people who appear to live in the chaos of fabricated drama, bad news, and negativity. And how does a diet like this get ingested? We will have to admit eventually that we make these dietary decisions; we chose to eat the bad fruit of decay; we let social media scramble our minds and degrade our soul.

Thomas Merton put it another way:

Your life is shaped by the end you live for; 

You are made in the image of what you desire.

It begs us to face the questions:

What is the end you live for?

What is it you desire?

What sources do you go to in order to feed your soul?

Here is a bit of wisdom from the 17th century, well before social media and the frenetic pace of distraction we now endure.  This is from a collection of “spiritual letters” written by Francois Fenelon. See if this doesn’t strike a chord with you now:

You should redeem some time from the world for reading and prayer. Try to rescue half an hour morning and evening. You must learn, too, to make good use of chance moments – when waiting for someone, or when going from place to place… seize every chance moment.

Take half an hour in the morning, and another half-hour in the afternoon, to repair the inroads which the world has made.  And in the course of the day, make use of such thoughts as touch you most, to renew yourself in the presence of God…

Francois Fenelon,  Spiritual Letters, 17th C

Redeem, rescue, repair, and renew are all ways of saying we need to be intentional against the destructive currents of our time. As it is written:

Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

In the mean time, do the work of soul repair, and renew yourself in the presence of God.


Francois Fenelon was born merely one of 15 children in 1651. He survived internal political antagonism of the Catholic Church in France at the time and wrote these spiritual letters with “discreet reserve and extreme hesitation.” His understanding of redemption runs through many of his letters.


For more see “Overfed and Undernourished?

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Does the Sparrow Worship You?

 

Does the sparrow worship you?

When making a nest in some hidden place

When laying a clutch

When anticipating the hatch

When feeding the insatiable

When watching them fledge;

Does the sparrow worship you?

 

Does the nuthatch trill to you?

Does the northern finch chant to you?

Does the chickadee twitter with you in mind?

Does the robin chirp and peep to you?

Does the ruby throated hummingbird hum her hymns to you?

Does the goldfinch plumage glorify you?

Tell me again, does the sparrow worship you?

 

Do they join in all creation to praise you –

Exuberant in their veneration?

Do they adore you with abandon?

Do they cherish you like a child?

Do they thank you profusely?

Do they receive you jubilantly?

 

Tell me again, does the sparrow worship you?

You who made each rachis and barb,

and imagined each feather and plume;

You who made the morning stars sing together,*

and the seas resound, and the fields exalt;**

You in whose presence is unspeakable joy,***

tell me again, is this what You made us for?

* Job 38:7  ** Psalm 96:11, 12  *** Psalm 16:11


Spring erupted as it usually does with life and the return of song birds and blossoms.  Our bird houses were fully occupied while seasonal visitors filled the airwaves with song, and beckoned us to join them in adoration of the One who made us for Himself. I suspect it takes Spring to energize us to keep worshipping throughout each season, though each season has all it needs to nourish our adoration of the One who loves us.

The Psalmist recognizes the congruity of the humble sparrow finding a home in the holy temple of the Lord:

Even the sparrow has found a home,
    and the swallow a nest for herself,
    where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
    Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
    they are ever praising you.

May we be found, like the sparrow, worshipping the Creator God.


For more, see “Sparrow Symbolism & Meaning“.

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