Monthly Archives

May 2016

Letting Go And Reaching Out (Leighton)

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My wife and I were among a small group invited by President Lyndon Johnson to tour the White House on the last Sunday of his presidency. The president met us in the Cabinet Room and then turned us over to an aide. He explained that he had to go to the Rose Garden, where the Marine Band was playing a final salute for him.

That evening in our hotel room we watched the ceremony on the late news. I was startled when the announcer stumbled while explaining that the song the band played was named for the river by the LBJ ranch in Texas. “It’s the Perdenales Waltz”, he said. “No, sorry…the Perdernales…uhhh…the Padernales…”.

Confused, he paused, then said, “Oh well, I guess it doesn’t matter now!”

My first reaction was What a gratuitous insult to the office of the presidency, and the man. Then I thought, Sic transit gloria.

So quickly the trappings of power go.

That poignant scene stayed with me and came back to my mind when I was in my early sixties and thoughts of mortality began to occupy me. I was brought up short when a friend told me, “I don’t think you’re afraid to die. I think you’re afraid to die before you have truly lived”.

Those words challenged me to a new kind of discernment, to ask, What must I let go? What should I hold more closely? And to what could I reach out more hopefully?

Leighton Ford

Consider the questions in that last paragraph for yourself….what must you let go now – in your 30’s…or 50s….or 70s?

And to what should you hold on to more closely?

 

Adapted from The Attentive Life by Leighton Ford (2008, InterVarsity)

 

Process vs. Product…and The NBA Playoffs

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Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry heads down the court after making a three point shot during the second half of the Golden State Warriors 106-101 win over the Boston Celtics in an NBA basketball game in Boston, Sunday, March 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry heads down the court after making a three point shot. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

In the NBA playoffs the Golden State Warriors had an amazing comeback Saturday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder, to force a seventh game Monday night.

 

Analysts made interesting comments after the game.

 

Charles Barkley noted that the Thunder reverted to “hero basketball”, counting on their stars – Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook – to win, instead of staying with a team game.

 

Kenny Smith (a former UNC Tar Heel star – pardon the reference!) observed that instead of trusting the process they went for the product.

 

Occurs to me the same thing is true for us as God’s servants.

 

As the writer of James says, “Discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it#.

 

In other words, trust God’s process, and he will bring about the product!

 

Leighton Ford

Reynolds Price On Paying Attention

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Reynolds_Price

Much of our growth in knowing God involves learning to pay attention, as Leighton writes in The Attentive Life. The late novelist and professor Reynolds Price wrote of his own lifelong journey of paying attention, in his book Letter To A Man In A Fire.

“Starting on a warm afternoon in the summer of 1939, when I was wandering alone in the pine woods by our suburban house in piedmont North Carolina, I’ve experienced moments of sustained calm awareness that subsequent questioning has never discounted. Those moments, which recurred at unpredictable and widely spaced intervals till some thirteen years ago, still seem to me to be undeniable manifestations of the Creator’s benign, or patiently watchful, interest in particular stretches of my life, though perhaps not all of it. And each of the moments – never lasting for more than seconds but seeming, in retrospect, hours long – has taken the form of sudden and entirely unsought breakings-in upon my consciousness of a demonstration that all of visible and invisible nature (myself included) is a single reality…I’ve heard what amounts to a densely complex yet piercingly direct harmony that appears to come from the heart of whatever reality made us and watches our lives”

How about you? When did you first pay attention to God? How do you hear God speaking to you these days? How are you cultivating a watchful, listening heart towards God?

 

photo cred: wikipedia.com

 

 

The Art of Gratitude

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steindl-rast
“We can’t be grateful for everything, but we can be grateful in every moment” – Fr. David Steindl-Rast, OSB – recently on the On Being radio program.

Steindl-Rast grew up in Austria during the days of World War II.  He knows there are many situations – war, the loss of a loved one – for which we can’t be grateful. 
The difference is in the opportunity to grow in these moments – to learn, to grow, even to protest.
I am grateful for his words today!
Leighton Ford
Photo cred: ted.com

How Our Character Is Shaped By God’s Story

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It is transformed character that enables ordinary, tongue-tied Christians to become God’s storytellers-people who share the good news of Jesus. The transformed character of Christian men and women is the key to world evangelization.

Each of us has a story – what I call a ‘story with a small s’, the story of our own lives. At some point in our journey through life, our story collides with the Story of God – the Story with a large S. God’s Story calls our story into question. WE must make a choice: either to reject the Story of God or to merge our story with His Story.

In John 9, we have just such a collection of stories. Jesus and His disciples encounter a man who has been blind since birth, and Jesus heals this man. The man has no idea who has healed him.

When the Pharisees ask him how he was healed he replies “The man they call Jesus” did it. But the Pharisees are not satisfied. They demand to know more. So, what does the man do?

He tells his story!

He tells it simply, without adornment. He doesn’t know theology and hasn’t been to seminary. He just tells what “the man they call Jesus” has done for him.

When the Pharisees demand that he explain how Jesus healed him he replies, “I only know one thing. I was blind, but now I see!”

That is his story. And this story produces a vision in this man’s life. Later, when Jesus again encounters this man, Jesus asks him “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

“Who is he, sir?” the man says in response. “Tell me so that I may believe in him”.

“I am He”, says Jesus.

And the man believes. His eyes are truly opened – not just his physical eyes but his spiritual eyes as well -so that he can see Jesus clearly. His story (“the man they call Jesus has healed me”) has produced a vision (“Jesus is the Savior, the Son of Man”) and that vision has transformed his character (“I believe!”). Now, he is a storyteller.

The Story produces a Vision, which then transforms Character, resulting in evangelism.

How about you? Where are you in this process?

Has your story intersected with God’s Story yet?

If so, has your vision of God, yourself, and the world begun to change?

Are you seeing your character transformed?

Why not ask God, “God, I want my story to be aligned with yours. I want to see things the way you see them. And I want to have a new character as a result. And I long to see you use me to begin this process in others!”

 

Adapted from The Power of Story (Leighton Ford, 2015)

‘Meeting Jesus’ Re-Released!

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Leighton’s classic booklet Meeting Jesus has just been re-released by IVP, with a new, fresh cover. It is part of IVP’s much-loved LifeGuides series.
The booklet has nearly 60,000 copies in print for a reason! It has thirteen individual studies, drawn from all four Gospels, offering a new and very personal look at how Jesus’s words and Story intersect ours.
It makes for a great personal study, a wonderful small group resource, and also is an outstanding gift to someone who is coming to terms with who Jesus might be for them – perhaps even a great opportunity to study with them!
Leighton wrote this in the 1980’s – in between meetings in Australia- but its message is timeless.
Here’s a sneak peek at the new cover!
Meeting Jesus cover

A Famous Star On Pleasing The Lord

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ethelwaters
Ethel Waters, the famous and gifted African-American singer, later in her career became a regular at the Billy Graham crusades – and often at my own meetings.
Once I asked her what it was like to be a “star” performer.
“Honey,” she said, “A star is just the servant of the public. And you can’t always please all the people. But you can always please the Lord”!
Leighton Ford
Photo cred: biography.com

God’s Work On Our ‘Mess’ – A New Painting from Leighton

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Leighton flowers

Above is a painting I worked on yesterday of some flowers I saw on a recent day retreat. Last week when I started it was a mess of shapes where nothing stood out. I was disappointed.

But yesterday, with more work and color and contrast, it began to appear in a semblance of its beauty. It still needs more attention to highlights and small places before it’s finished.

But I wish I had a photo from last week to show you the difference!

And isn’t that how God is at work in us?

We’re a mess. But He patiently shapes, adds, removes, covers, and brings out who we are. And the good news is that He is not finished yet!

Leighton Ford

When Your Best Isn’t “Enough”

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Melvin Graham

Melvin Graham is the younger brother of Dr. Billy Graham. One Sunday morning, many years ago, Melvin was sitting at home, reading his Bible. For some time he had felt completely overshadowed by his famous brother. In fact, he felt so inadequate as a Christian that he had stopped attending church.

Looking back on that time of discouragement, he recalled, “I couldn’t witness. I couldn’t speak publicly like my brother, I had no education to speak of – I just felt like a nothing.”

As he was thumbing through his Bible, he happened upon the story of Moses in Exodus 4, where the Lord speaks from a burning bush and appoints Moses to be His spokesman. “Oh, Lord, I have never been eloquent”, objects Moses. “I am slow of speech and tongue”.

Those words of Moses resonated like a clanging bell within the soul of Melvin Graham. That was his story! That story gave him a vision of how God wanted to use his life. Melvin Graham might not be Billy Graham, he might not possess the eloquent tongue of his brother, but Melvin Graham could offer to God everything he was and everything he had: his willingness, his obedience, and his responsive spirit.

Melvin Graham allowed God to tell His Story through Melvin’s story. He became a living example of narrative evangelism.

What about you?

Where do you believe that you have limitations that might prevent you from being used by God?

Is there someone in the Bible who shared your limitations whom God used powerfully?

Can you envision some ways in which God might use your limitations to tell His Story?

Are you willing to allow God to tell His Story through your story?

 

Adapted from The Power of Story by Leighton Ford; copyright 2015 by Leighton Ford

 

Image cred: billygraham.org