Conversation: Prayer

 

 

 

Philippians 3:

6Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

 7And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

 

 
 
 

 
 
 
 

Lord, Teach Us to Pray

 
 

The disciples marveled at the Master's night-long absences in prayer. He would return seemingly rested the next dawn and prepared with that relaxed calm for any eventuality. They had only seen scholarly rabbis approach a degree of confidence anywhere close. But they had always couched their pronouncements with the support of precedent. "Rabbi X would say this." "Or Rabbi Y would argue that."

But Jesus would give a description of the Father's outlook on some issue, and then add, "And I say unto you, thus and so..." Surely this boldness had come about after much serious and complicated formulaic prayer, or so they thought.

I remember a book by the evangelist Mel Tari suggesting how very relaxed, honest and intimate Jesus' prayers must have been (The Gentle Breeze of Jesus). Any father loves the time when a child crawls up onto his lap, just to be there, just to express his heart. The Father, by gesture or by simple affectionate word, will impart wisdom and comfort which will have magnified effect in this atmosphere of love.


Jesus' model prayer, called the Lord's Prayer, was more an impression of reverence and humble familial trust than it was a piece to be memorized. It's essentials, the unfolding Kingdom, the keeping care of the Father, the humble submission of the child, the mutual pact of forgiveness, the irrepressible plan for the Father's glory.

Jesus held repetitive, formulaic prayer in low esteem. Rather it should be simple, from the heart, direct in choice of words and filled with intervals of listening, of waiting for the Father's input.

Look at some of the other successful prayers in the Bible. Jehoshaphat preparing for battle, "Lord we don't know what to do; nevertheless our eyes are upon you" (2 Chronicles 20:12). The silent inarticulate prayers of Hannah mourning in the temple over her barrenness (1 Samuel 1: 11-17). The cry for healing of blind Bartimaeus, "Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me" (Mark 10:46-48). The worship of the one repentent thief at Calvary, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom." (Luke 23:42). Simple...all simple and heartfelt. A drawing close with delight to the loving attentiveness of Divinity.

And oh yes, Christians pray. They pray often.
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
The Closet
 
 
 
 
 
Again to be here

When none other might care.

Be the motive of fear

Or of gratitude rare.

I will run to this space

Just to unload my heart;

Yes a quieter place

Set a little apart.

And You come through the gray

In the brilliance of love

And You settle the day

With Your calm from above.

And You hear, I am sure

Every plea, every verse.

A compassion so pure

Will consider my worst,

And will answer again

Lest I misunderstand;

Neither mishap nor men

Will remove from Thy Hand.

Father, this is the spot

Where I grow on my knees;

See what mercy has wrought;

Feel the Spirit’s fresh breeze.

 

 
 
 

 

 

Gutsy Prayer


"Pastor, teach us to pray." The two young couples approached Eugene Peterson in absolute earnest. They felt that their prayers were awkward, insincere, imitative, short and ineffectual.

"Why don't you take a good look at the Psalms. King David was a man who knew how to pray. He covered most of the situations which you will face. Study his approach."

Weeks passed and the Pastor heard no more, but then a somewhat apologetic knock at the door of his study. "It doesn't seem to be helping, sir. The King James language seems so archaic and foreign. We cannot get at the heart of David through it all."

'Well friends, said Peterson, 'that is unfortunate because those prayers were really quite visceral, frank, elemental and unrestrained. If David were ticked off he let God know. If desperate he hollered out for help. If joyful, the very heart-strings sang. Perhaps I might attempt a paraphrase of a couple of them to break the ice for you.'

Thus began the much celebrated paraphrase of the entire Bible which we now recognize as "The Message".

Those young couples discovered a prayer life which was spontaneous, honest, unvarnished and delightfully personal. They were coming closer to God's heart. Hearing from Him. Pleading in ways consistent with His will. Becoming angry where He was angry. Chuckling at the things that humoured Him. Delighting over His victories.

It took for them the vernacular and street-wise which Peterson had incorporated into his texts.

At a time of personal crisis, and not too long ago, I found myself examining Peterson's text and walking dark streets, yelling out at God in very direct terms about the need. He was not offended. He visited me. He settled me. He gave me fresh courage.

The answers came later...
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 

J. H. Jowett on Prayer


(Taken from The Whole Armour of God, 1916)

Lord Tennyson, in what must have been
a wonderful conversation on the subject of
prayer with Mr. Gladstone, and Holman
Hunt, and James Addington Symonds,
said that to him prayer was the opening of
the sluice-gates between his soul and the
waters of eternal life. It is worth while
just to dwell upon Tennyson's figure for
a moment. The figure may have been
taken from a canal. You enter a lock
and you are shut up within its prison.
And then you open the sluice-gates, and
the water pours into your prison and lifts
you up to the higher level, and your boat
emerges again on a loftier plane of your
journey.

Or the figure may have been taken from
a miller's wheel: There are the miller and
his mill. And the wheel is standing idle,
or it is running but sluggishly and wearily
at its work. And then the miller opens
the sluice-gate, and the waiting water
rushes along, and leaps upon the wheel,
and makes it sing in the bounding rapidity
of its motion. Prayer, says Tennyson, is
the opening of the sluice-gates and the
letting into the soul of the waiting life and
power of God. Prayer opens the sluice-
gates, and the water of life floods the slug-
gish affections, and freshens the drowsy
sympathies, and braces and speeds the will
like the glorious rush of the stream upon
the miller's wheel.

That, to me, is the dominant conception
of prayer. Prayer opens the soul to God.
Prayer opens the life to the workings of
infinite grace. And now I see why the
Christian soldier should be so urgently
counselled to pray. Prayer keeps open his
lines of communication. Prayer keeps him
in touch with his base of supplies. With-
out prayer he is isolated by the flanking
movements of the world, the flesh, and the
devil, and he will speedily give out in the
dark and cloudy day. "Men ought always
to pray and not to faint."
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

Love, Lift, Lighten

 


In the average church service today the focus goes something like this:

"Listen. Learn. Lunch". It seems of paramount importance to offer instruction in righteousness, with the congregation remaining largely passive, and with the sense of fellowship enhanced by meals, meals, meals. The whole process takes on the appearance of a good show or lecture. The professionals have the floor.

But Jesus once criticized the misdirection of the religious leaders by reminding them that "It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves." A marginal reference in my Bible suggests that He was reiterating a promise contained in
Isaiah 56:

6Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant;

7Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.


Prayer. 'Well, we have prayer in the service. Usually right after collection. Pastor seems to touch upon all the bases.'

That's not what I mean. There should be some extended periods of corporate prayer wherein parishioners feel a liberty to participate around the room in their expressions of love to Jesus and in petition, burden and praise. This would be fresh; would contribute to a sense of transparency and trust; would be new and original; would teach us about each other; would work toward the realization of family in the faith.

Too often congregations are spoon-fed the Bible which they should be learning on their own. There are numerous translations and study helps in this day and age. Leaders should get more excited about being the facilitators of a praying force.

One suggestion might be to run occasional retreats where a dozen or so would withdraw to a residence or other accommodation for three or four days without interruption. They would learn prayer by DOING IT TOGETHER. They would wait upon the Lord. They would learn trust by baring their souls in sensitive testimony. They would learn Jesus by sharing one of the Gospels right through in workshop. They would learn family in the casual conversations and good humour around the den or meal table. All of this equipping and "opening up" would be taken back to the larger assembly. It would break down the barrier between you and the fellow sitting one pew over who remains a stranger after weeks and weeks. What informal friendships and diverse projects of grace could be forged out of this!

I am reminded of how so many Catholic couples have said that their lives were changed by the Marriage Encounter Weekend. Could the above retreats not meet with similar success? Could they not also become a venue for inter-denominational understanding and partnership in helping the community?

Something has to move us out of the "spectator sport" of going to church. In my respectful submission it is prayer and testimony. It would lead in our services and other Church life to an emphasis on..."Love, Lift, Lighten".

That is Body life for those who are caught up in a covenant of love with Jesus.

Take a look at the following small ebook:

http://issuu.com/deedub51/docs/love__lift__lighten
 
 
 

 
 
 

With Christ Among the Miners

 

 


This delightful book by H. Elvet Lewis speaks of the roots and development of the Welsh Revival (1904). Here is an excerpt:

What new meaning the title “Son of Man” has come to bear- the Man who comes nearest to every man, from childhood to old age. A father had, through drink, fallen into an early and dishonored grave, leaving his widow and children in want of bread. It was one of his children, raggedly clad, that left every heart in one prayer-meeting aching and yet exultant, as in his childish prayer he used phrases that must suffer in translation:-

“Dear Jesus, I thank thee for coming here as a poor rnan, so very poor - perhaps as poor as I arn. Thou couldst have chosen the finest palace in the world to be born in, but Thou wouldst have been too high for me then. But I know how to come to a manger. I wish I had been living when Thou wert here. Everybody will want to cast their crown at Thy feet in heaven, but I should like to have laid my crown at Thy feet when they were stained with the dust of the road, bleeding and wounded.”

Besides this child’s personal sentiment of Jesus, we place this portion of a womans prayer:-

“Dear Saviour, I thank Thee that Thou wert crucified with Thine arms outstretched, to show that there is welcorne for every one to come to Thee. Oh, I thank Thee that the old devil was not allowed to tie Thy hands behind Thy back, or at Thy side, or folded on Thy breast, but outstretched wide, to tell the world world to come to Thy bosom. Until these last days my prayer was very small - for myself for my friends, for Wales; but I have looked between the outstretched arms, and now Lord, save the whole world! Save everybody!”

To me, it was not the charm of quaintness that made these sayings so memorable, but the feeling they produced of being fresh from life. Those who used them seemed to say: “We have seen Jesus!”

So, on the very threshold, we forewarn all that we are in the presence of an unexplained but impressive mystery; nor will the mystery be diminished as we trace some of its manifold manifestations.” We do not know”- said Evan Roberts himself, in one of the earlier meetings of his first journey-“how this revival has originated; we have no idea how many thousands have been praying in private for it; nobody knows how many. Nothing but the Day of Judgment will reveal it. He went on, There is a new life coming into Wales now. Everything will be changed. Why? Because Wales is opening her doors to receive the Holy Ghost. And without forgetting or minimizing the mistakes, the disappointments, the passing extravagances, the new difflculties in part created or increased by the movement, we cannot but still write – “He bath shed forth This.”

Note: Do children and family members pray like this today? Are there too many distracting obligations and toys? Where might they go? Upon what might they meditate to gain such spiritual purchase? Lord bring us again to this desperation!

See the following link:

http://www.welshrevival.com/lang-en/1904evanroberts.htm
 
 
 

 
 
 

Prayer Principles (Not Formulae)

 
 

In an uncommon book on prayer entitled Praying Beyond God's Ability, Dr. Roy Hicks Sr. has made some significant points.

Looking at the model prayer given by Jesus to His disciples he sees that the whole venture toward God is to be enveloped in worship. "Hallowed be Thy Name....For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory..."

Only as we worship and focus on the almightiness of God shall we come into the right atmosphere. The alternative is a focus on "I" and "Me" and a list of pressing personal needs. A small circumference for prayer indeed.

Next "Thy will be done". When we settle in His presence and ascertain His will on a matter we come into real victory ground. Remember how in Psalm 37 David tells us to delight ourselves in the Lord and He will give us the desires of our hearts. Have we seen in this process how our heart has become His heart? Will He not succeed?

"Give us this day our daily bread". Jesus here envisions all sustenance, physical and spiritual. Have we consistently chosen to feed on the good stuff? Scripture? Meditation? Dialogue with brothers and sisters in the faith? And do we do it regularly (daily) without panic for what is in store weeks from now?

"Forgive ...as we forgive those who have trespassed against us." Nothing shuts down the halls of prayer faster than bitterness, self-pity and unforgiveness. Rise above these clouds and develop practices of mercy, equity and charity. And do it where you live. That in most instances is your appointed field of service.

"Deliver us from evil". With this request the sheep knows that the shepherd is on the job. The sheep may go about his day without anxiety, wolf notwithstanding.

"For thine is the Kingom, the Power and the Glory forever..." We are in His Kingdom at this moment with jobs to be done in His strength. Intercession to be raised. Praise and thanksgiving to be offered to bless the Most High. Happy partners in deliverance and comfort. Distributors of the Bread of Life.

"So be it!" (Amen")

Let us remember also that no prayer is to become a mantra, vain repetition. The power is not in formulaic words or stubborn confessions. Rather it is in meek obedience to the principles behind the words, principles which get hold of the very heart of God.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Rock Wall


In retreat
I felt a shadow at my back.
Lesser space
To dodge oppressers in attack.
Weapons drawn
And creeping forward for the kill.
Spirit drained
And having lost all strength of will,
I hit the wall.

But this stone
Had little ridges for ascent.
Nothing left
But to cling tight, so up I went.
Gaining there
A truer view of all my woes.
Smaller now
From perch of peace, seemed all my foes.
This wall was prayer.
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

Jes Talkin



I's here agin
An ah have so few woids
But it's the gittin togetha
Most mattas
Ah believe.
And You has the time
Fatha
Always has the time
Lookin down from
Brilliance an Glory
Settin aside those angels' songs
Jes to consider ma squallin
Or ma pleadin
Ma thankin or my
Plain ole wonda.
Dis ole man
Done had many a hard job
Often cruel or stupid orders
From tha Man.
A spell in the joint
An keen ears an
A much sharpened shiv
Jes ta raise up the odds.
Afta dark.
An a wife and two chillen
Hardly knew me afta
The twelve year stint.
But you knows me
You stick in dere fo me.
And you brought  
Some good folks 
Crosst ma path
Prayin and heppin
An smilin folks.
Ah can almose smell
Yo Spirit on em.
Second chances and singin.
Friendly talkin nights
Clean woik now.
Ah sketches a little as well
Scenes of pain, hope or joy
Two of em sittin
Up now on the library wall
Folks considerin
Provin dis ole man
Sees an thinks
Feels an releases
Fatha you have ma devotion
Such as tis.
An ma good repote.
I love Ya
Gwine stop now ta
Read Psalm one-oh-seven.

Name-a-Jesus
Ayymann.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

Holy Fear

 

I would hate to disappoint you
And am driven by the thought
That you suffered for my failings
And my pardon bravely bought.
Not a one gets in as closely
To my heart of hearts’ repose
Though my mind can scarcely fathom
That before all time You chose
To adopt me in the Firstborn
And to give me grace to stand
Right before your throne of Glory
Not with shaking voice or hand.
There’s a boldness now in coming
And in kneeling at your feet
And the change is thanks to Calvary
And it makes my joy complete.

Psalm 34
Hebrews 4: 15, 16

 

 

 


 
 
 
 
 
Draw Near
 
 

YouTube Video

 
 
 
 
 

  
 
 
 

Christ in Concrete

 


For years in used book stores I had passed by the novel "Christ in Concrete" by Pietro di Donato, copyright 1939. It was one of two great books on the condition of labour released that year. The other was "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck telling the story of the tenuous existence of migrant farm workers and the bigotry which they encountered in their trek from the central dust bowls to verdant California.

Di Donato's book deals with the condition of bricklayers and high rise steel men in the Lower East Side of New York City at a time just before the Great Depression.

The protagonist is a young teen, Paul, son of Geremio, foreman of a crew of brick and mortar men of Italian origin. These men return day by day to a building site called "Job" with its physically taxing duties, its pressured pace of production, its sub-standard scaffold network and its under-spec materials.

One day, Good Friday in fact, calamity strikes and the scaffold fails and numbers of good men including Geremio are swept to death or disfigurement. The father is impaled on re-bar and covered in debris and liquid mortar (Christ in concrete).The change to Paul's family is catastrophic. A new baby is on the way, mother Annunziata's eighth.

Paul senses that the duty falls upon him to take up his father's tools and lay brick. Initially he undergoes several gruelling days at "Job" trying his hand at mix, row, overlap and corner. For this he is paid next to nothing, but his determination is solid for a real place and wage.

Listen to one exchange:
"Who brings food to your home?" asked Nazone.
"...No one..."
"How could there be anyone, when he is the first-born - and so young?" said Hunt-Hunt.
"That is why I can no longer go to school..." said Paul.
Nazone said to Paul in under-voice:
"Would you wish to become a master builder of walls like the good spirit your father?"
"I...have his trowel with me."
'Bless God", said Nazone to the men, "and why shouldn't the son of a bricklayer learn the art and bring food to his family? Is the school going to satisfy their needs? The Police? The Army? Or Navy? The Church? Or the City Hall stinking with thieves?

And Paul does encounter difficulty in sustenance and recovery. The store owner will extend no more credit. Father John at the church, being called away from his sumptuous dinner to hear the boy's request, reminds him that there are proper channels and time requirements for benevolence. The rudimentary Worker's Board at City Hall hears from Management and Insurers that Geromio's family's case will probably be denied, falling through the cracks.

So young Paul has but one choice, and for this his mother adoringly calls him her "Christ". Other Christs arrive to meet pressing needs... the superstitious and mystical mid-wife Katarina for the new baby, the bachelor Uncle Luigi who struggles with measures to feed the little ones of his sister and to coach his brave nephew at "Job", the nursing staff who minister for months to Luigi after his dismembering workplace accident, the women and families who rally for the wedding of Luigi to the long sought after widow Cola. In summary life is addressed in all its eventualities - marriage, birth, sickness, tragedy, death, injustice, hypocrisy, hunger, lust, relocation, loneliness, family, comradeship, honour, community - and somehow all in Christ.

The environment is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic with repeated chantings of "Jesus, Mary and Joseph". Much superstition is evident, even with trips to a fortune-teller. But there is also a rock-solid confidence in the watchful eye of Jesus and His compassion, keeping care and protection. There is a soothing assurance in Paul that father Geremio and others are in a good place with the Lord.

In the final segment the focus is on mother Annunziata and failing health. It is the beginning of the Great Depression. Jobs are scarce and often black-marketed. A god-father has also died in a work-related accident. Paul is tired and jaded about faith, prospects and justice. For a time he rejects his mother's Catholicism, and the affront takes Annunziata to new depths.

But in the scene at her death-bed, there is a glimmer of hope:

"Mama," he whispered, "forgive the hurt I have done thee...forgive mama dearest..."
The delicate devotional flame of her being drank fondly from his face, and sang forth quiet tears of love.
She lifted her stiffening fingers to his shoulder and smiled.
Lightly-lightly she caressed his face.
"...son...everything in my world is for thee. For thee I desire the fullest gifts of Heaven- To thee must the good Dio bestow the world-and lasting health. He must bless thee with the flower of womankind and many-many children as yourself...and joy and peace without measure-for to me-thou art most precious..."

I recommend a reading of this short novel. In many instances its rendering is abrupt, impressionist, almost poetic.
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 He's My Son with Mark Schultz
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
Say One For Me
 
 
 
 
 
 
So many Saturdays the scene at the grocery store was the same. The part-timer was back in the dairy corner, on his knees and stacking the bags of milk or cartons of eggs. He had enjoyed occasional conversations with the customers, particularly the elderly. They wanted so much to engage in a society which was becoming more and more "hands off".
 
Frequently while he was down there he would hear the remark, "While you're at it, say one for me". There would be something awkward or perhaps condescending in the tone. Or maybe just the application of gentle humour, when in fact the prayer needs were there.
 
Without hesitation or embarrassment, the big fellow, still stooping, would respond, "Always happy to pray. Is there something specific?" No response. Perhaps some awkwardness from the other. Mentioning prayer and its power and relevance in a public place and amidst the general shuffle. Humanity all around. Some sad, happy, rushed, worried, pre-occupied, tight for cash, in pain. Who knows what else?
 
The Apostle said that we are to be "instant in prayer, in season, out of season". End of sermon.
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 Prayer of Faith
 
 
 
 
 

The Prayer of Faith sticks to the word of promise when no progress in that direction can be discerned with the senses. It is a hope against hope in the fashion of old Abraham’s bold stance that he was going to become the Father of Nations at an extremely old age; and his wife Sarah the mother, although barren throughout the marriage. (Romans 4)

The underlying immutable facts are that God has promised; He is Father; He is love; He is omnipotent; He knows everything about the situation; He is entirely honest.

As the unfolding of the promise takes its time, the expectant child is steeled with courage, self-denial, honest inquiry into God’s nature and scripture hunger. He watches carefully his confession, giving no license to despair or panic. He listens carefully to the urgings of his spirit. Is there a continuation of peace?

Consider this illustration. A young boy misses his Father who has gone away on a business trip to New York City. New York…the home of the Yankees! Certain aspects of the trip are indefinite, so it is possible that Dad will return on any one of the days of a long weekend Saturday through Monday. He promises a delightful gift from the city of baseball and a day off meant entirely for his Son. That young boy is out on the boulevard every one of those days. Looking down the street. Neck craning. Expectation and loving trust personified. He knows about faith.

The answer upon its arrival always seems much sweeter.

 


 

 

 
In the Spirit
 
 
 
 
 
 
It hasn’t come
And I’ve been praying.
Yes you know I poured
My heart out, night and day
And the sweating
And the crying
Were distraction;
As if I had no clue
Just how to pray.
And I thought
This must be time
For spirit’s groanings
Could I just abase myself
And let it go?
Yes the scripture said
If I knew not
The real solution
I might pray in tongues
The mind of God to show.
And no sooner
Had I yielded
To the urging
As some words emerged
From quite beyond my ken
That I sensed
A power larger
Than my problem
And a discourse
High above the forms of men.
Now the answer didn’t
Come just for the asking
But a peace
Beyond all hoping
Surely did.
You were there
Aware and full of consolation
And your child
Beneath your caring hand
You hid.
 
 
 
(painting by Ron DiCianni)
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 

Compassionate Prayer

 


A few summers ago I was approached by two men at my workplace who were confronted with weighty issues needing prayer. The one a diagnosis of cancer. The other a wife trying for the third time to bring a baby to full term. They wanted another to know the facts, to be in their corner, to offer up prayer.

I learned later that they each had church communities busy in prayer, although of very different traditions. In a couple of months both men brought praise reports back to me. I shared in their joy, giving credit to Jesus.

Later at an assignment out in our steel yard, I was alone with time for private thoughts. I thanked the Lord for undertaking for my friends. In my spirit I heard the words, "It was significant that you prayed, and prayed with compassion."

"Yes Lord, it was heartfelt. But I knew those fellows. I had a vested interest. It seemed easy to get my shoulders under it."

"Oh, if you would only pray more. What you might one day learn about how Heaven was moved. Lives changed forever. Even thanks being offered by total strangers."

"But Lord if the power is in compassion, how can I muster that for the stranger? It just doesn't seem to come. In corporate prayer at a church gathering some need of a stranger is voiced by another, and I just sit there like a log of indifference."

"Doug, I am asking you to agree with me in prayer in such situations. I have the vested interest, the compassion, the power to comfort and to heal. Just pray. As you come to know me more, I will release more of myself."

Matthew 14:

14And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.


Churches, where are the patient seasons of compassionate prayer, the Jesus focused study, the Jesus focused giving of thanks, the Jesus focused singing, the Jesus focused message of hope to strangers? Victory comes in no other way.
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 

God Comes to My Job

 

 


I was having one of "those days". Activity had really picked up at the factory and the traffic in steel for highway structures was moving at a peak-season pace. I felt pulled from all sides. Material handling. Inventory control. Shipments packed. Transport arranged. Trucks loaded and off-loaded. Visiting customers accommodated. Plant safety issues. Steel yard management.

The day was overcast with long, low dark clouds for a mid-morning. I was seated in a forklift, having just off-loaded a flat-bed full of structural beams. Irritation and self-pity had set in. Taking a breather for a few moments, I reflected on my status and the chain of events which had brought me here...business failure, joblessness, sudden re-location, building construction, furniture delivery, truck driving, cabinet-making, shipping-receiving and now highway steel and structures. "Was this the plan, Lord?" Hilary and I had left Chatham with half-cooked ideas of ministry in our heads. That was soon set aside for the pressing needs of a young family. Occasionally in the work-places, people would cross my path ready to receive "a word in season". Hilary was home-schooling our two children. The years had passed.

Our stock-yard was on a slight elevation, looking south toward an industrial zone of diverse small-scale fabricators and warehouses. I had a wide-open view of a large stretch of darkened sky. Strangely I felt a gentle pressure at the back of my head to bow it forward, and I yielded to the urging, looking down to my work boots. Briefly I remained in that posture, suspecting somehow that God was in the moment.

When I looked back up again, some of the clouds had parted and a distinctive shaft of sunlight wandered over the scene before me, touching the ground, moving from left to right as the wind pushed along the cloud-bank. Was He telling me that He saw, He knew and that He was in control, closer to my case than I had ever imagined?

Then it was over, and I was aware of the roaring sound of another transport truck entering the yard with a partial load of eight-inch pipe...
 
Note: How wonderful are the moments of waiting on God! Just "shaddup" and listen for His whisperings, bringing comfort, guidance, the remembrance of a needed bit of scripture, or simply "starch" for the demands of the day. He is most definitely there and available. He is Father. He waits for contact. See the poem The Road Home at the following link:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
Into the Cedars
 
 

 

 

 

I enter the cedar stand

With muffled footfall.

The Bay wind

Traveling at my side

Did not make it into the canopy.

Decomposition of years beneath.

Carpeted mosaic,

Dead-fall, granite, root-fingers, lichens.

Gnarled, ruddy sentries

In light-green camouflage,

Note my arrival.

Guarding the Past.

Guarding the Present.

Guarding the Peace.

Guarding the Plan.

A barking raven-my herald.

Doubtless, chipmunks and

White-tail freeze in their fashion,

Wondering if I mean harm.

Temperature drops a few degrees.

Shades are drawn.

Hospitable host, though shy.

Quietly checking out my manners.

I sense I must stand still,

Waiting.

Honouring timeless laws

Of territory.

As if to be waved in.

Frozen moment.

(Excepting only the

Carpenter ant dragging

Moth five-times-his-size

Along a fallen trunk.)

Some Conductor flips his baton.

Green-noise musical score resumes.

I am in.

Perhaps given the tour.

Nuthatch sidles around a trunk

To give me a peek.

Above, though hidden,

That clarion white-throated

Summer sound:

“Chee-chee-chee-Canada-

Canada-Canada.”

All around me traces,

Evidences

Of the continuing symphony.

Rabbit pellets.

Fox-fur snagged on a branch.

Tree-trunk porcupine lacerations.

Persistent flies

Around remnants of a red squirrel

Mishap.

Somewhere out there

The bright relentless sun,

Open Bay, lapping.

Sparkles in the marsh grass

At the sandy shore.

My Evinrude.

In here, community, concord, calm.

Occasionally, a burst of brilliance

Overhead.

As if Sun-God

Attempts invasion through the roof.

But the assault diffuses

Through lacy green

And settles disarmed,

Muted member of the carpet-floor.

How much more, noble red-man

Would have studied,

Sensed, smelled, heard:

He, in suit of two-year doeskin.

He, in feather, clam-shell breastplate.

He, the sum of many travels.

He, apprised of cedar-house rules.

He, the watcher of its ways.

This is his, and theirs.

I love it.

And seek adoption.

If only for the weekend.

 

 

(Note: In the forest I have gotten very small. Good prayer ground.)

 
 
 
 

 
 
 

In My Father's Lap

 



You have come to me with questions,
And I’m glad that you have come,
And I will provide the answers in a while.
And I’m pleased with you for waiting,
And I’m pleased with you for trusting;
And I know that you are growing through this trial.

You have come to me in peril,
And I’m glad that you have come,
And I will dispatch the angels to your aid.
And the Enemy will flee now,
And the skeptics all will see now,
And your victory of faith will be displayed.

You have come to me for cleansing,
And I’m glad that you have come,
And I know that your repentance is sincere.
Find relief in your confessing,
While the tears bring special blessing;
I forgive you; once again the slate is clear.

You have come to me for guidance,
And I’m glad that you have come,
And I will disclose the way that you should go.
For you know that I am Wisdom,
And my perfect law is freedom,
And in walking in obedience, you will know.

You have come to me requesting,
And I’m glad that you have come,
And I fully see the needs that you now face.
All the olive, grain and wine,
All the silver, gold are mine;
And the gifts will come, according to my grace.

You have come to me for loving,
And I’m glad that you have come,
As I gently draw you to this Father’s breast.
And I cover you with peace now,
And I give you love’s release now,
And you know that in our loving there is rest.

You have come to me for others,
And I’m glad that you have come,
For the Spirit laid this burden on your heart.
And you’re groaning for each neighbour,
Pleading for them my sweet favour,
You are learning now the intercessor’s art.

You have come to me with praises,
And I’m glad that you have come,
And it blesses me to hear you lift my Name.
As you focus on my story,
You will touch my grace and glory,
You will know now and forever I’m the same.

You have come to me in spirit,
And I’m glad that you have come,
And I know you utter things too deep to tell.
As you speak in other tongues, child,
Let the Spirit use your lungs, child,
By the Spirit’s interceding, all is well.

You have come to me in silence,
And I’m glad that you have come,
And I smile as you are kneeling at my feet.
Are you seeking out my will?
Are you stablished, strong and still?
Oh, this prayer time with you, child, has been so sweet!
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 

Master of the Ivories

 


Sandy had just enough time to make it to Marjorie Slade's apartment before choir practice. It was his bi-weekly visit with odd treats from "the outside world" for his old friend. Long time mezzo-soprano in the St. Matthews choir. Until the arthritis had made it pretty well impossible to continue.

Oh, she could make it around the apartment all right. The wheel chair usually just sat in the corner. But in getting outside, the challenges were just too hard. Parking lots, curb sides, stairways, the bustle of the people, the chill and damp of November. Marjorie was seventy-seven. Her Herb had had his stroke eight years ago. Paralyzing left arm. Slackening left cheek. Slurring speech to a humiliating degree. He had lasted only another three years.

That last Christmas Herb had insisted on attending midnight service to hear Marjorie give her heavenly rendering of "O Holy Night". Sandy's daughter Kate and her husband had helped him throughout, and he couldn't thank them enough. In the after-service buffet in the parlour he had slipped Sandy a note as the latter offered Christmas carols on the baby grand. It read:

"Thank you Sandy for insisting that Marj keep up the music. It is truly an offering on her part. I love to hear her. She is my constant joy. She needs the break from fussing over me. Much love at this rich season to a dear friend in Christ. Herb"

..."Well here you are, and with just enough time for some tea and cake. Sandy, did you bring the material?"

Marjorie was sewing some festive aprons for the women's guild and this year's Christmas gathering. She had decided that a dozen would be adequate; each to have a seasonal image in her remarkable embroidered stitch.

"Not to worry, my dear, there's ample in the bag. I also brought you a copy of the soprano part in the cantata we're practicing. You're usually so quiet up here these days. Why not knock back a couple of sherries and let the old tubes rip with the sounds of the season?"

Marj rocked forward and back hugging herself and issuing that half-silent moist-eyed laugh which Sandy had come to love. She thrust him the cake plate and motioned to the tea service on the walnut table.

How she enjoyed these times. Full of smiles, the occasional joke, perhaps an insight from scripture to be shared from the week's considerations. A tid-bit of news from the local paper. For her Sandy represented Christ in shoe leather. Ruddy. Middling height, but solid throughout. Inordinately large hands. (Great for those memorable piano chordings.) Strong constitution from thirty-four years, largely out of doors, supervising commercial building construction. Retirement started only two years ago. But Sandy had found much to keep himself busy.

"Marj, I have to leave soon, but could we take a moment to pray for young Ron Stinson?" The associate pastor Wil Stinson's son suffered from cystic fibrosis. Only eleven, thin and pale, but with a penchant for assembling plastic model cars, which Sandy gladly supported.

"Has it been bad Sandy? With the change of season? That young family has certainly had some struggles."

The next five minutes brought Heaven closer. Fuelled by the compassion of Christ, these two old saints went to the Father's throne room. Pleaded for mercy and relief for the boy. Persevering faith, energy and wisdom for his parents. Skill for the doctors. Inspiration and outreach for the congregation in the coming festive season.

Then time to leave. Marjorie reached for her purse. Her friend shook his head as if to say 'the material cost so little; your sewing means a great deal more.'

"No, good man. this will be thirty dollars for Ron. My Herb used to go on about his favourite old '54 Ford Fairlane. Do you think that you could find a model of it for the boy?"

 
 


 
 
 
 

Simeon's Day

 


Oh the promise had been given
And it fueled so many years,
As the old man graced the Temple
With his praises and his tears.

With his searchings of the scripture
And his seasons rich in prayer.
Though observers often wondered
‘Would this get him anywhere?’

But he sensed deep in his spirit
That the time somehow was right
For the entrance of Messiah
For the shining of God’s light.

For the Hope of all the ages
And the answer to his sin.
As the day had barely started
And a baby was brought in.

This, a son with eager parents
And a modest gift of doves
Meant to purchase now the boy’s rite
(As in Jewry it behooves.)

And the old one heard the Spirit
Saying, ”Now it has been done.
Here, your life’s long expectation.
Here to bless you, God’s own Son.”

It was strange to watch old Simeon
With his look of boyish glee,
With his face illumed from Heaven,
As he hugged his prophecy.

Baby yes, but Son of David,
God among us, Joy’s release.
Having served well, faithful Simeon,
Take the next step-die in peace.

Luke 2:
26And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
27And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,
28Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,
29Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
30For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
31Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
32A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
33And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.


(Picture by Ron DiCianni)
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 

Down Goes the Gauntlet

 


Old George wiped away the tears. It was Tuesday and he had just had a visit from the young pastor. Keith had told him of the surprising challenge which he had been burdened to issue. He was smiling in giving the news and animated. But the old church elder of former days, suffering almost total blindness and general atrophy of the limbs could not take it all in. Keith had left a CD copy of the message, knowing in his heart that George would rejoice at the development. And that he would pray.

George remembered eight years ago that whole process of selecting a new pastor. He had been drawn to Keith from the start in a field of six possibles. Other men stood taller; had a more compelling timbre in their voice; had papers from more prestigious Bible colleges. George had felt like the old prophet Samuel, passing by more imposing candidates for the runt of the litter, David. But David had had the key to God's heart. So did Keith.

During these last two years George had not been able to leave the Rest Home to attend, but he had gotten reports from various sources and he had taken on the burden in heavy prayer for Keith's constancy. George was aware of some of the more imposing personalities and their regrettable sense of territory in church program. He had feared that Keith was buckling. That a low common denominator was taking over.

In his forty-five years at the fellowship George could remember a wide variety of characters in the pulpit. Some with a sincere malleable shepherd's heart. Some commandants. Some ear ticklers. Some career boys. But then there was Keith.

He could still remember Keith's candidacy sermon taken from that haunting prayer at the end of the prophecy of Habakkuk. He had entitled it "Yes, this is true religion." The one where the prophet had said 'although the trees and crops fail and the livestock go missing, yet I will rejoice in the Lord.' This was a matter of loving God for God's sake, and not for His trinkets. George had loved the young preacher for the purity of his spirit and the loyalty of his message. The selection vote had been close, but it is possible that George's input had won the day.

The two had enjoyed a special bond over the years. Each on an occasion had had to correct the other on an issue of serious importance to the church. But brotherhood and mutual respect had never wavered.

And now this young man was telling the assembly to 'move on, grow up, wean themselves, take risks for the thrill of new revelation and new opportunity, open up one to the other, and then come together in agreement to take blessing and truth outside the church walls'. George was hugging himself in the wheelchair at the prospect of all of this. His prayers were being answered. For the moment there was nothing as adequate in the way of praise and thanksgiving as "the tongues":

"Parabba do manni forrah sic bianti pas kemmi soodah." And then laughter. Rich, full and in the tone of a much younger man (1 Peter 1:8).

The one nurse at the station down the hall turned to her colleague and remarked, "Oh there goes old George again in that odd language of his. Wonder what it could all mean? Too bad when they get like this."

Note: The story is told of Father Nash who would travel to each crusade town and travail for days for the anointing and fruitfulness of Charles Finney's preaching. The astounding results are history.
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 

PRAYER FROM THE HEART

 

Father, we thank you that for reasons known only to you we are chosen to repentance, to insight of the Highest, to whisperings of your comfort and presence, to assurances of your keeping care, to flashes of guidance and courage in time of need, to your family in the Beloved, our forerunner Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

 


 

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