Friday, January 23, 2009

When the Light Goes On ...

It’s happening again.

I’ve seen it happen ten thousand times … well, not that many times, but maybe a hundred times in my 39 years of ministry.

When a light goes on.

It happens in Bible study … not at first, and not all at once.

It’s like starting a cold car (I know; folks in SoCal don’t know about that!) – the engine cranks slowly, groaning and coughing, and then, it catches – the engine begins to turn and generate some heat.

So it is with the soul and the Bible.

A lot of groaning at first – who are these strange people about whom we read? All their odd names and weird goings on? Grace on one page and blood splattered on the next. Lambs slaughtered and the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

And then a cough or two; a spark of understanding flares for just a moment, and then it’s gone again.

But then, another spark … and another, and the soul’s engine turns over and begins to generate some heat.

The frown of consternation eases over into a smile of recognition – this is the God who created us and loves us dearly.

The light goes on. They student moves closer to God, or shall I say, the God who is always close to us, the presence of grace, is recognized - “Ah, so you’re the one who’s been stirring my soul.”

That’s a lot of fun for me as a teacher – I love to see it happen.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Forget Our Debtors

While saying the LORD's Prayer a few days ago in my morning prayer-time, my mind wandered for a moment (which happens now and then), and I heard myself saying, “forgive us our debts as we forget our debtors.”

A fortuitous slip of the tongue!

Like a New Yorker, “forget about it” – not a bad idea.

And to forget about “our debtors,” those who owe us something – and maybe they do – but it’s unlikely they’re ever going to pay up, and then the realization sets in, some debts can’t be paid – they’re too big, and even if someone tried, maybe it wouldn’t satisfy us! Maybe our need is too big.

“Forget about it” - good spiritual advice.

In other words, get on with life and count our blessings.

Maybe that’s what forgiveness is all about … letting something go and getting on with our life … thoughts and feelings no longer revolving around the recollections of being wronged by someone, or driven by an emotional need that can never be meet.

Forget about it!

Because life is so much bigger and better than all of that, and everyone of us deserves to be free from those nagging thoughts and irritating memories of what others said or did, or failed to say or do. Forget about it.

Forget about our debtors … and think a whole lot more about God!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year

What follows is the January 1 reading from Frederick Buechner’s Listening to Your Life … may it set the pace for the year ahead …

I discovered that if you really keep your eye peeled to it and your ears open, if you really pay attention to it, even such a limited and limiting life as the one I was living on Rupert Mountain opened up onto extraordinary vistas. Taking your children to school and kissing your wife goodbye. Eating lunch with a friend. Trying to do a decent day’s work. Hearing the rain patter against the window. There is no event so commonplace but that God is present within it, always hiddenly, always leaving you room to recognize him or not to recognize him, but all the more fascinatingly because of that, all the more compellingly and hauntingly…. If I were called upon to state in a few words the essence of everything I was trying to say both as a novelist and as a preacher, it would be something like this: Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.

Happy New Year to all of you … life itself is grace!