Monthly Archives

September 2016

The House With Golden Windows (Leighton Ford)

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house golden windows

There is something almost magical to me about that border time between afternoon and evening when the sun is setting and casting its glow. Sunset )the ‘vespers hour’) like sunrise, is a liminal, in-between time. Like the rest in a musical score, it calls us to pause, to come to a stop between light and night, busyness and quietness, between winding up and winding down.

Late afternoon takes my mind back a long time, to the years when our Debbie was little and every night I was home I told her a bedtime story. Almost invariably she would insist, “Daddy, tell me about the house with golden windows.”

Whether it was a story I made up or one I had read I do not remember, but it was about a father and his little daughter walking at the end of the day and in the distance seeing a house “with golden windows.”

Entranced, they walked quickly toward that house, but as they drew nearer the golden windows disappear and the windows become just plain old glass. They walk away and then just as suddenly the golden windows reappear.

At last the little girl exclaims with sudden recognition, “Daddy, that’s our house! But why does it only seem to have golden windows?”

The father replies, “Every house has golden windows if you only look closely and carefully enough at the right time.”

With a sigh of wonder and contentment, Debbie would slip off into sleep.

The lure of the golden windows speaks to the universal longing for home in almost every human heart, a longing that often seems to summon us with a special pathos at Vespers.

 

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

 

 

Why Listening Is So Important

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“The world has always needed good listeners, for only good listeners are truthful tellers. ‘Good listening’ involves the surrender of a self-centered view of the world; it entails the equation of trust and love that flows from that surrender. To listen, to surrender, to trust, to love: these are to be open to the experience of discovery.

Spirituality flourishes in discovery, and especially in the discovery of shared story – the discovery that creates community. For community is where we can learn and practice storytelling and its virtues, ‘humility and ‘obedience’ – two painfully misunderstood qualities that are really the arts of listening.

Humility involves the refusal to coerce, the rejection of all attempts to control others; real listening may be the most humanizing act of humility. Obedience – to obey – meant originally ‘to listen thoroughly'”

From Experiencing Spirituality by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham (Penguin, 2014)

Words For This Day In Charlotte (Leighton Ford)

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charlotte protests

Two nights ago I went to a reception at the home of friends. On the way in I paused to speak to a security guard outside. I asked him how his day had been.

“Pretty good, Rev. Ford,” he said. Then, with a warm smile he went on to quote a well-known Scripture verse – but with one line added.

“This is the day the Lord has made

It will not come again

So, let us be glad and rejoice in it.”

At that very moment our city was in turmoil in an outbreak of protests after an African-American man had been shot and killed by a police officer. I didn’t know that, and perhaps that security guard, who was also African-American, didn’t know either.

But those few words he added to that familiar verse from the Psalms really got my attention. For the past two days I haven’t been able to get away from them – “it will not come again.”

 I’ve been asking myself whether that verse is appropriate this day as the protests continue.

 So I looked it up in the Bible – Psalm 118:24. And I realized that it was not a happy day for the Psalmist when he wrote that prayer.  He was speaking at a time of distress. He felt surrounded by enemies swarming like bees. He felt pushed and near to falling. It was not a day for sappy sentiments, but for hard reality. Yet he could say that on that day the Lord helped him.

It was a day like that when he wrote “This is the day the Lord has made …” Again and again in the Psalm, five times, he reminds himself that the Lord’s “steadfast love endures forever.”

It is a reminder to me that in all the turmoil in our city, all the rage in our nation, all the conflicts and terrors in our world God is at work.

This is a day to pray for all who are working for peace and justice. This too is a day of opportunity to show how the Lord’s steadfast love endures. It is a day to witness to that steadfast love, to share it with those we meet.

This day may not come again. But it can become a divine moment for reconciliation.

So let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Leighton Ford

Photo cred: USA Today

A Poem For Those Who Must Slow Down

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A prayer Leighton has appreciated as he recovers from surgery and is able to walk without pain again.

The Gift

Be still, my soul, and steadfast.
Earth and heaven both are still watching
though time is draining from the clock
and your walk, that was confident and quick, 
has become slow.

So, be slow if you must, but let
the heart still play its true part.
Love still as once you loved, deeply
and without patience. Let God and the world
know you are grateful.
That the gift has been given.

~ Mary Oliver

A Visionary in Christ (Leighton Ford)

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E Stanley Jones

E. Stanley Jones was one of the great missionary communicators of this century – to India, to America, to the world. His thoughtful and passionate presentations of Jesus and the Kingdom challenged American Christians to break out of their cultural blinders and see a bigger Christ.

Whether he began his message with a social problem or a personal story, he always aimed at presenting Christ. Stanley Jones’ vision began when, as a boy, he went to a series of evangelistic meetings at a little Methodist church in Maryland. On the third night of the series, he ran a mile to the church and could hardly wait to kneel at the altar to pray:

I had scarcely bent my knees when Heaven broke into my spirit. I was enveloped by assurance, by acceptance, by reconciliation. I grabbed the man next to me by the shoulder and said “I’ve got it”. “Got it?” “What did I mean? I now see that it was not an ‘It’ – it was a Him. I had Him – Jesus – and He had me. As I rose from my knees, I felt I wanted to put my arms around the world and share this with everybody. Little did I dream at that moment that I would spend the rest of my life literally trying to put my arms around the world to share this with everybody. The center of being was changed from self to Savior. I looked into His face and I was forever spoiled  for anything that was unlike Him. The whole of me was converted. There was nothing the same except for my name. It was the birthday of my soul. Life began there.

So too, when we see Christ, we may begin to see with the eyes of Christ, to be visionaries in him.

 

Adapted from Transforming Leadership by Leighton Ford (1991, InterVarsity Press)

 

Photo cred: www.christianashram.org

How To Develop A Vision (Leighton Ford)

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

lightbulb in grass

At Leighton Ford Ministries we ask the young men and women who join us to go through a process of observing, reflecting, and acting.

This threefold process was practiced by a Roman Catholic bishop in Belgium, who, following the two great world wars, took little orphan waifs off the streets to shepherd them. He would never tell them what to do; instead he taught them to read the Bible, to pray, and to ask God to show them how to do what He wanted them to do.

He would tell them to look around them and see what the needs were, to wait until God spoke to them, and then to do something about it.

This process can be a key to learning to see as Jesus does.

We must observe carefully and prayerfully where people are hurting and suffering and longing, and what God is doing in the world, until in our hearts we are drawn to an area which may be God’s vision for us.

We need to reflect on what we have observed, praying and reading, thinking and talking, and perhaps writing, until our sense of call begins to emerge and we see what it is that God would have us to do.

Then we must begin to act on that vision – even if it is just in small ways to begin with.

What about you?

Where are you in the process of discerning a vision for your life?

Where is God calling you to observe?

Upon what is he calling you to reflect?

Where is he calling you to act?

 

Leighton Ford

What Is Spiritual Direction? (Thomas Merton)

By | Life with God, Mentoring, Reflections and Readings | No Comments

merton-photo

Spiritual direction does not consist in merely giving advice. The  (person) who has only an advisor does not really have a director in the fullest sense. Since the spiritual life does not consist in having and thinking, but in being and doing, a director who only gives ideas has not begun to form the one he directs.

He forms his by counsel and “precepts” by exercising him, by testing him, by giving him, when necessary, penances. The penitent is not formed by listening, but by complying, if possible, in his whole being, thought, desire, and actions…

In order for this to be fruitful, the director must be, as St. Benedict says, a ‘loving Father’, humble and discreet, aware of his own limitations, docile and respectful before the Holy Spirit.

A good director must have almost as much respect and veneration for the ones he directs as the penitent should have for the director.

Thomas Merton

From A Search For Solitude: The Journals of Thomas Merton, Volume 3: 1952-1960 (HarperCollins, 1996)

John Wesley White: Silenced No More

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John Wesley White BG

John Wesley White can preach again as of last Sunday evening.

 

Although he may not need to preach, since there are quite a few preachers where he went – heaven!

 

He will, however, be able to speak of his love for his Kathleen who preceded him to the Lord.

 

John was an evangelist suddenly silenced years ago by a stroke just as he was about to preach at a crusade in Tennessee. Since then he could say only a few words clearly.

 

He was my friend and classmate at Wheaton College. We played hockey together. Prayed together with other guys most afternoons. We chuckled at his eccentricities, like wearing a bowler hat and a blue Burberry overcoat, and washing his dirty clothes by stomping them in the bathtub!

 

He was an unforgettable character. When he graduated before us he went to Ireland to preach and there at a street meeting spotted lovely Kathleen and was speechless then too. He wrote that they married in the arch of Westminster Abbey as Big Ben tolled in the New Year.

 

That was wedding number two. They had already been married a few days before in her chapel in Belfast!

 

He was brilliant, earning two PhD’s from Trinity in Ireland and Oxford. And he was as passionate in his preaching and heart to bring others to know his Savior as much as anyone I have ever known. He traveled and preached incessantly for years, often with little monetary reward, until I introduced him to Billy and he became part of the Graham team.

 

My biggest appreciation is that he introduced me to Jeanie. He told me when we were Wheaton students that he was not getting anyplace with this farm girl from North Carolina. And then arranged a double date to a hockey game. He took Jeanie as his date so I could meet her. So I had to invite him to be an usher in our wedding.

 

After his stroke we would sometimes talk by phone, occasionally in person. He had an infectious chuckle even when his words would not come out straight. But always, when we ended, he would burst out, clear as a bell, four words: “Jesus Christ is Lord”!

 

Yes he is, John. And now you have seen him face to face.

 

And I think I can hear your words from heaven.

 

“HE IS! JESUS CHRIST IS LORD!”

 

And countless others know that, John, thanks to you.

john wesley white book cover

Leighton Ford

 

Photo credit: Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

Longing and Looking (Leighton Ford)

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house windows

Each of us is part of a Greater Story and behind our stories is a Storyteller calling us home. The deepest longing I have is to come home to my own heart, so in a sense I am writing this book for myself. But it is not just about me, for I believe all our stories are of longing and of looking.

That has become very clear to me as I have read and reread the notes and journals I have kept in recent years. For many years, “journey” was a call to go as I travelled the world in ministry. “Home” was an equally powerful inner voice calling me to stay, to be rooted. Now I realize that these were not the only two ways I spent my time but also a response to two notes of my own song; the lure of the road and the call home.

The call was to  be “home on the road”, to bring my real self before the real God, to be changed into his true image, to become all that God has made me to be. It was and is a longing to belong, to have a home for God in my heart.

This sense of longing runs like an underground river through the writings of many observers of the human condition, like the novelist Walker Percy. A character in his Love in the Ruins, the lapsed Catholic psychiatrist Tom More, sits in a sand trap on a golf course and muses, “The sand trap and the clouds put me in mind of being ten years old and in love and full of longing. The first thing a man remembers is longing and the last thing he is conscious of before death is exactly the same longing. I have never seen a man die who did not die in longing.”

Yet why do I so often hide from this longing? Spiritual attentiveness, I believe, comes in large part from our fear of being known for who we really are. Often we keep ourselves busy and distracted because we fear that if we slow down and are still, we may look inside and find nothing there.

Leighton Ford

 

Adapted from The Attentive Life (2008, InterVarsity Press)