Monthly Archives

June 2016

Was Jesus A Visionary? (Leighton)

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Some visionaries are entrepreneurs. Some years ago my friend Tom Cousins, one of the major developers in the city of Atlanta bought the rights to develop above the hundreds of sprawling acres of railroad yards in downtown. He took me to see the place and described his plan for a huge complex of hotels, office buildings, parking decks and a great stadium which would rise in that empty space. In the transformation of that great city, his vision became a reality.

Yet we never read of Jesus having grand schemes and designs like that. Vision is not used in the Bible in our sense of an entrepreneurial “visionary”. In the Scriptures, the word vision is commonly used of an ecstatic experience in which people deeply aware of God’s presence receive a special word from him.

These visions come to people waking and sleeping, at night and during the day, in dreams, through angels. People from all walks of life – kings, farmers and housewives – all had visions.

Visions abounded during times of spiritual revival in Israel but in periods of spiritual decline there was a marked absence of vision. And this decline extended from God’s people through the whole society. “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18 – “perish” here refers to casting off moral restraint. The blindness of society reflect religion without reality, the loss of spiritual vision.

As far as the biblical record shows us, Jesus was not a visionary in the ecstatic sense.

Yet Jesus has inspired more visions – in artists, composers, architects, leaders – than anyone who has ever lived. Without entrepreneurial plans or ecstatic experiences, Jesus stands all by himself as the transformational leader.

He was able to create, articulate, and communicate a compelling vision which changed what people thought and talked about and dreamed of. Today, Jesus’ vision leads his followers to transcend self-interest and enables us to see ourselves and our world in whole new ways, ways that penetrate to the heart of things and bring about the highest order of change.


Adapted from Transforming Leadership (1991, InterVarsity Press)

Singing On The Mountain (Leighton)

By | Life with God, Reflections/Essays | No Comments

Several years ago, I spoke at Singing on the Mountain, a day long fest of country/mountain/gospel singing which has been going since 1924.
I spoke there 45 years and 25 years ago … and they gave me one more chance!
The day was clear and brilliant and hot as several thousand folks sat picnicking and listening on blankets and chairs in a meadow at the base of Grandfather Mountain.
I spoke about A Song For All Seasons … and how the Bible is crammed full of songs – hundreds I suppose!
It’s a history book. A story book. A law book. A wisdom book. A gospel book. And a song book !
As I said to the folks there, we can read it, hear it, study it, memorize it … but if it hasn’t created a song in our hearts has it really got hold of us yet?
When she was about four, our granddaughter Anabel was singing in the back seat, “I Love to Tell the Story.”
“Daddy, sing,” she said to Kevin, who was driving.
He kept driving.
“Daddy, sing” she said again.
He kept driving.
Finally she burst out, indignantly, “Kevin Ford, sing!”
I told the folks on the mountain: I hope you leave not just with the sound of music in your ears, but with the song of God’s grace in your heart – and on your lips.
So .. . today .. SING!
It will do your heart good!

Leighton Ford 

A Sunday Walk In The Woods (Leighton)

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I went to the woods here on a recent Sunday morning with Buddy , as I did so often with Wrangler. We sat on the bridge, by a river bark tree where some of Wrangler’s ashes are scattered, and read one of Wendell Berry’s Sabbath poems.

Another Sunday morning comes
And I resume the standing Sabbath
Of the woods …

The mind that come to rest is tended
In ways that it cannot intend:
Is borne, preserved, and comprehended
By what it cannot comprehend.

Your Sabbath, Lord, thus keeps us by
Your will, not ours. And it is fit
Our only choice should be to die
Into that rest, or out of it.

Sister Wendy on Prayer (Leighton)

By | Prayer, Reflections and Readings | No Comments
sister wendy
I just came across this book (hidden under another) that I had been looking for by Sister Wendy, that whimsical and wise nun, art historian and TV Presenter. It’s called The Gaze of Love: Meditations on Art and in it she writes:

Books on prayer are dangerous, They take time to read and they demand attention. This is proof, is it not (says our subconscious), that we are serious, prayerful people? Does not our reading matter, the interest we take in prayer, differentiate us from the careless, the frivolous, the less committed? The answer is no. At some level that we do not recognize, we may well be reading books on prayer as a way to allay our guilt about not actually praying. The overweight, it is said, are devoted readers of diet books, the sedentary devour travel books. Reading about prayer, even writing about prayer:these are not useless activities but they are dangerous.

Mmm. Oh, oh.

Leighton Ford

Roger Fredrickson: Dancing In Grace (Leighton)

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I am sitting on our back porch. A light summer breeze is making music through our hanging chimes. And I can see my friend Roger dancing to the rhythm of the chimes, with his beloved Ruth.

I have just heard that Roger died this week at the age of 95, to rejoin his Ruth who went ahead of him some years ago.

I can imagine them dancing, because that’s the title of his memoir Learning to Dance: A Story of Grace. An apt title, because Roger was as grace-filled as anyone I have ever known.


He was respected as the pastor of a large and successful church in Sioux Falls, president of the the American Baptists, a key leader in Faith at Work and Renovare, the chairman of two of my crusades. Late in life he left his influential congregation and went to a broken down and split church in Wichita to help bring healing.

I simply remember him as friend since we met nearly forty years ago. He didn’t use email or have an answering device on his phone, but he would so often leave a message on my phone, in his rich, a-bit-gravelly prairie tone, just to say, “Brother Leighton, this is Roger. I love you. I pray for you every day.”

From the time when our son Sandy died during heart surgery on the day after Thanksgiving 1981, a poinsettia would arrive every year at Thanksgiving from Roger. I will be sure there is one this year, and in honor of my dear friend.

Roger once told me how a student came into his office and said, “Pastor, the Bible doesn’t tell us God is going to make a lot of new things. He said he would make all things new.”

So Roger is now made new, past the disease that finally wore him out.

Dancing in glory. Dancing in grace.

Leighton Ford

A Prayer for Ministry – And Life! (Leighton)

By | Life with God, Prayer | No Comments

There is a prayer written by my friend Lloyd Ogilvie that I often use, praying it quietly before I speak or have a meeting or conversation.

It recognizes that when we ask and trust him Jesus Christ will indeed communicate through us.

Lord, here’s my mind, think your thoughts in me. Be my wisdom, knowledge, and insight. Here is my voice. You told me not to worry about what I am to say, but that it would be given to me what to say and how to say it. Free me to speak with silence or with words, whichever is needed.  Give me your timing and tenderness. Now, Lord, here is my body. Release creative affection in my face, my touch, my embrace. And Christ, is there is something I am to do by your indwelling presence, however menial or tough, control my will to do it.

Lord, I am ready now to be your manifest intervention in situations to infuse joy, affirm growth, or absorb pain or aching anguish. I plan to live this day and the rest of my life in the reality of you in me. Thank you for making it so!

Leighton Ford

What Do The Chief And His Wife Do In Church? (Leighton)

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What do the chief and his wife do in church?

I visited recently with an old friend, Dois Rosser, a very successful businessman who in his retirement (now in his early 90s) has helped with his friends to provide buildings and nurture (through a mini-Bible college) for some 4,800 new churches – in VietNam, Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Central America, Africa.

One of these churches is among the pygmies in Central Africa.

Dois drove eight hours through the jungle to visit this church and the believers there.

“The chief had two requests,” he told me, “one that the church building would be placed where he could see it from his own house. The other that we would train his son to be a pastor.”

Dois also learned that the chief and his wife go to the church early every morning, and sit for two hours in silence.

What did they do? They were not literate, so they weren’t reading the Bible.

Someone asked the chief what he and his wife did in those two hours every day.

“Oh,” he said. “We just sit and let God look at our hearts.”

What could be more important – for a pygmy couple in the jungle of Africa…

Or for you and me in our busy and crowded places…

Than to just sit and let God look at our hearts?

Leighton Ford (2013)