Let Us Pray
There is no telling how many conversations I have a day. I briefly considered trying to track them and keep count just for a week but gave up at lunch time the first day.
There is the telephone call to go over a meeting agenda; the exchange of pleasantries that occurs dozens of times in a day; the meeting that drones on well past its expiration point; the drop in visit, as well as the pre-arranged counseling session; the workroom chit chat with staff; the “walk and talk” between two places in the building in which a decision gets made and a direction set; and so on. And those are the actual conversations. That doesn’t include the “conversations” that take place on social media, by e-mail, and by text.
At the end of the day, I can’t remember them all. The ones I remember are the ones of substance and the ones in which I listen more than I speak. I recall the person who dropped by to see if I “had a minute” and then proceeded to share a deep and personal pain. I recall the conversation with one of my daughters about something crucial in her life. I am focused on the conversation with Mary-Ellen when we turn phones off and give each other our undivided attention. I remember the “walk and talk” where a member of the staff shares excitement over a new, or renewed, possibility for us as a church. The memorable conversations, the “real” conversations, are the ones that occur when I slow down long enough to listen – and to be listened to because I am speaking from a centered place.
This leads me to wonder about my prayer life. Am I merely exchanging pleasantries with God? Or entering into a meeting with God that drones on pointlessly? Or, am I settling into an unhurried conversation that involves as much listening as speaking? Is my time in prayer memorable or forgettable? Am I invested in as a relationship or do I simply greet a passing acquaintance?
This Sunday, as we conclude our “Choose One” sermon series, we will encourage one another to choose one prayer – one prayer that we can fully enter into in the year ahead, one prayer that will deepen our conversation with God. After we converse about that, we will come to the Table to be met by the mystery of a God who wishes to be our conversation partner.
Hope to see you Sunday for the family conversation.
Grace and peace. rcf
Sing A Song
Third Day (a contemporary Christian group for those who may not know) have a song entitled “Sing a Song.” This is not to be confused with songs of the same title by Earth, Wind, and Fire or the Carpenters (and yes, I know how much the last sentence dates me, no need to send me emails telling me).
Third Day sings “I want to sing a song for you, Lord; Lord, for you I want to sing a song. And I want to lift my voice to heaven and listen while the angels sing along. A song of your faithfulness, a song of your grace, and of your loving kindness to the glory of your name.”
Now, truth be known, I doubt that angels sing along when I sing. They probably wing away and hide. On the other hand, if your experience is like mine, sometimes the only thing to do is sing. The only way to praise or pray or proclaim is by singing. I simply try to be considerate of others and not do it around them too much (and I pray, for your sake, that the sound techs mute my microphone during the hymns).
Singing the faith is as old as the faith. The Bible contains within its pages a hymnal – we call it the Book of Psalms. We read that Jesus and the disciples sang before leaving the Upper Room for the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of Jesus’ betrayal. Paul encourages the church to strengthen one another with prayers and spiritual hymns. And, if all of that is not cause enough, we as Methodists are children of the Wesleys who believed that the faith was best taught by singing and who wrote hymns themselves (over 6000 by Charles alone!).
It would not be out of character, then, for us to sing. Singing is at the heart of Christian life and practice.
Last week, we encouraged you to choose one word to guide you through the year in your spiritual journey. This week, we will encourage you to choose a song – one song – that compliments your word, reinforces its central meaning for you, and that will help you stay focused on your way. I hope you’ll come and join us in singing of “God’s faithfulness, a song of God’s grace, of his loving kindness to the glory of God’s name.” I promise to sing along with, just not loud enough for you to hear me.
Grace and peace. rcf
In my line of work, one of the occupational hazards that we inflict on others is an over-employment of words. Why use one when five will do? Why use five when ten will do? Why speak for fifteen minutes if they’ll give you twenty? And why not try to squeeze the twenty into twenty-two? (And always use parentheses – they allow you to slip in asides without anyone noticing!)
One of the most dangerous places to be on the planet is between a preacher and a microphone!
So, encouraging others to choose just one word may seem a bit…hypocritical at best, downright disingenuous at worse (see, here I go). But bear with me – and offer me the benefit of the doubt.
When William and I began planning a January sermon series, we discussed ways to begin the New Year that would help us all focus our year. William suggested that we encourage everyone to choose just one thing for their focus this year: one word, one song, one fruit of the Spirit, one story, one prayer. What would it look like, he wondered succinctly, if we encouraged each member of the church to focus? He went on to tell me that the idea was based on a ministry created by Mike Ashcraft, the pastor of Port City Community Church in Wilmington, who annually encourages the members of his church to choose one word for their focus for the year rather than making a long list of resolutions.
William’s suggestion set off fireworks for me as I had a “one word” experience this past year and didn’t even know that’s what I was doing (I’ll tell you more about that Sunday – this is what we call “the teaser”).
The long and the short of it (and you’d prefer the short) is that’s what we decided to do. Beginning this Sunday, we’ll talk about focus in our spiritual lives. This week, we will reflect on words, how they shape us, how they surround us, and what it might look like to live this year with one word at the center of our prayer life and spiritual journey. We’ll talk about ways to choose a word and offer you some suggestions.
Ours is a faith that finds its traction in words. Genesis reminds us (1:1-5) that the world came into being through divine speech, through a word. John poetically recounts that same Word becoming flesh and living among us. We are a people and a faith of words. Join us Sunday as we all choose one.
That’s all for now. I’ll have a microphone Sunday and will probably have more to say!
Grace and peace. rcf