Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Vacation Rhythms

An Inkling
It’s good to be back.  Of course a week ago it was good to be leaving.  And that’s how it’s supposed to be.
Sarah and I greatly enjoyed our week away.  We went to the Outer Banks, and on the way home stopped for a couple of days with one of our daughters, whose husband is deployed with the Navy, and their two  children.
Here’s what we did while apart from ordinary schedules and demands:
  • We got caught up with each other at length – something that happens only in snippets during ordinary weeks.
  • We walked on the beach.
  • We took long bike rides, relishing the flowers in their full spring glory.
  • We read.  I caught up on five months of Christianity Today – what a stellar magazine.
  • We did some on-line tutorials on editing videos.
  • I researched family lines on ancestry.com.  It was fun getting one line back to the 11th century, and mapping where these ancestors lived.
  • We checked out historical sights – like the one pictured here with Sarah.
  • We slept without alarm clocks.
  • We decided each day what to do, since we had no schedules dictating to us.
  • And we played with our grandchildren!

Actually the Lord has provided that we have a day each week marked by that kind of freedom – a sabbath.  But periodically we also need some gathered sabbath days.  Thank you, St. Giles, for the gift of a week apart.
I’m looking forward to seeing you all!


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Blessing to Carry Beyond Easter

An Inkling
Over the years I’ve taken up various disciplines during Lent:  fasting a day a week, or giving up news, or sweets, or caffeine.  The rationale is that when you give up something good in order to focus on something better you make space for God to bless in ways you can’t predict or prompt.
And I could not have predicted or prompted the blessings coming with this year’s discipline.  This year I’m fasting from using every spare moment to read news and editorials on my iPhone, and instead using those moments to pray the Psalms.  I have a Bible on my phone, so it’s just as handy as the latest on the internet.
Here’s what I’ve given up – a habit developed over time and without design.  I enjoy keeping up with the news and stimulating the ol’ gray matter with diverse perspectives.  My phone has provided a means of doing so whenever a spare moment pops up.  And I have.  And it has become a habit.  That’s the habit I’ve given up for Lent.
And here’s the practice I’ve taken up – praying the Psalms in those same spare moments, in a waiting room, on an airplane, or waiting to meet a friend.  I pull out the ol’ phone and commence praying where I left off.  Now in the fifth week of Lent, I’ve prayed through the Psalms once, and am making my way through again.
It has meant that I’m not as well informed moment to moment, but somehow that has not totally wrecked my life!  And it has meant that I am better attuned moment to moment to the One who makes the news that matters most, and whose opinion pieces aren’t just opinion.  That has proven to be a very happy trade.
I’ll have to find some other ways to keep up with the latest, for I think this Lenten plan will last beyond Easter.  I’ve just begun to discover the blessings of praying the prayers that were dear to Jesus in a more constant way.
How about you?  How is God blessing you in ways beyond your own planning and prompting?  And might you find a way to make the Psalms part of your own prayers?


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Blossoms in Barren Places

An Inkling
Saturday I returned home from a two-week trip to England and central Asia.  The sights of new places are always fascinating – buildings and landscapes.  But they can’t compete with the people.  I’m still pondering in particular on some pastors I met. 
In England I met Paul and Brian at a conference on the Holy Spirit.  They labor with faithfulness and joy in a Presbyterian denomination that is a theological and institutional shell of its former self.  The vibrant presence of the Spirit in them is all the more striking because of the spiritually bleak place where they live.
In central Asia I met Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  (I’ll not use their real names on the internet, lest association with me imperil them in their repressive land.)  Their place of service is even more spiritually barren than Paul and Brian’s.  The long shadows of the Soviet era still linger, along with the even longer shadows of a pervasive Islamic national identity.  Yet these men and their churches are filled with a joy and vitality that shout the glories of the Lord.  It was a great privilege just to keep company with them.
I returned to Richmond just as the spring flowers are budding.  One of the reasons I love it here is that Virginia is so verdant.  Blossoming trees and vast flowerbeds surround us, offering an endless feast for the eyes.
Yet there is a special beauty to blossoms in barren places.  Their colors and forms stand out all the more for being in such stark settings.  The pastors I met on this trip stand out in just such a way.  The Lord is never without his witnesses.  And it is beautiful to behold.