Monthly Archives

November 2016

Giving Thanks When It’s Hard (Leighton Ford)

By | Reflections/Essays | No Comments

The essay below is a column Leighton wrote for the Charlotte Observer, Thanksgiving 2016.

We are thankful that all our extended family live nearby, and that we could share our Thanksgiving feast with them.

But I threw a bit of a curve into our conversation as we dove into the turkey and dressing.

“Here’s a question,” I said. “In the Bible Paul says we should ‘give thanks in everything.’ He says that’s the will of God for us. But was he kidding?

Paul was facing torture and jail. He wasn’t very realistic, was he? How can we give thanks ‘in everything’ when some things are very hard, and often seem very bad?”

We tossed that around and finally agreed: while we can’t always be thankful for everything, we can find something to be thankful for in everything.

This week I asked our friend Mary how she could be thankful when tests showed her cancer had returned and she may need more treatment.

After a moment she quietly said, “I am thankful for my husband Tom. He’s with me, has my back, and helps me to talk through all the options. I am thankful for all the friends, my little angels, who support me.”

Last Monday a pastor friend called. He had just preached at the funeral for the wife of one of his best friends. I asked him that same question. “Hmm,” he said, “that will be my question for this week.”

Then, after a pause, he said, “I am thankful that I have a friend, a brother in ministry, to care for.”

On a wider scale, how can we be thankful for the most brutal election we have ever experienced (except that it’s over!) or for the divisiveness in Washington? Yet this week I learned that for two years a bipartisan group of congressional members and staff have been meeting in the Capitol every other week to worship and pray.

It is, I was told, the first time since Thomas Jefferson the Capitol has been used for such a gathering. I hope that as they listen to the Lord they will also listen to each other.

Can we find reason for thanks here in Charlotte after the shootings and protests and near riots this fall that ripped at the fabric of our community? Perhaps we can, in that many of us are listening to each other and working together in new ways toward understanding.

Finding thanks “in everything” is not easy. Fear actually narrows our field of vision, both physically and emotionally. Deep loss makes the bottom drop out.

So giving thanks in hard things is not looking for a silver lining. It takes a longer, wider, deeper view, an opening of our hearts both to pain and hope. It is not simply saying “Everything happens for a purpose.” It is the faith that God can bring good even out of the worst things. To realize that may take us a long time, and for some things beyond time into eternity.

For our family Thanksgiving is a bittersweet time. It was the day after Thanksgiving thirty-five years ago that our twenty-one year old Sandy died during surgery to correct a runaway heart.

Could we “give thanks” that he died that day? Not at all. But we learned to be thankful for the twenty-one years we had with him. For the bright and shining light he was and still is to his friends. For the vision he inspired in us to provide scholarships and mentoring to other emerging young leaders.

At times like this I often recall Corrie Ten Boom, that remarkable Dutch woman who had the courage to hide Jews from Nazis during World War II, and who herself experienced the horror of the Nazi prison camps.

“There is no pit so deep,” Corrie would say, “that God’s love is not deeper still.”

In everything, in that kind of faith, we can give thanks.

Leighton Ford

The Point Group’s Stephen Abbott

By | Evangelism, Videos | No Comments

The Rev. Dr. Stephen Abbott has seen his life and ministry influenced for the good as a result of his twenty-five year membership in Leighton Ford Ministries’ Point Group.

From his home in Australia, Stephen’s ministry has been influential in evangelism and helping Christians leverage “God-talk” to invite others to follow Jesus. At the most recent meeting of the Point Group, Stephen shared this with Leighton.

 

Stephen Abbott – The Point Group from Leighton Ford Ministries on Vimeo.

What Is Grace?

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Being gracious to the one who has only unkind words to say—that is grace. Generosity to those who cannot give in return—that is grace. Kindness to those who wish us harm—that is grace. Going beyond what is strictly necessary into a realm of sheer possibility–grace.

 

Br. Mark Brown

Society of Saint John The Evangelist

A Poem For The Early Fall (Leighton Ford)

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yellow leaves boy

Without warning
A harsh, hard breeze whistled through
our back yard this morning
without warning, sneezed
and was gone, scattering
with its breath a flock of brilliant leaves,
shockingly yellow, swirling
like a troop of dancers
offering their final performance
of the season
before the curtain of fall fell
across the stage.

 

Leighton Ford, November 2015

The Mount Everest of Evangelism

By | Evangelism | No Comments

Everest-575683

Leighton’s son-in-law, Dr. Craig Gourley, is a physician in Charlotte with a heart for God and for evangelism. He often spends time with the Point Group, and wrote this reflection after the Group’s recent meeting.

I have always wanted to climb Everest.

The physical challenge.
The astounding views.
The stars with little to obscure them.

But to do it there are problems:
-Poor physical abilities in low oxygen air

-The cost is greater than $60,000

-Time off to train

-Risk (One third of those that make it to the top die coming down).

Long ago when I mentioned that I wanted to do mountain climbing to my eight-year-old daughter Christine, her innocent question to me was: “How hard is it to get a new dad?”
Wow.

Thus endeth the idea.

I spent last week at a retreat with eight evangelists from several nations.

My father-in-law has been mentoring them yearly for twenty-five years. I have been “along for the ride” for the last ten years.

 

My pastor friend there from Germany, Roland Werner, gave me good counsel when I told him my men’s group was studying evangelism, and the Book of Acts.
I told him that I felt very inadequate as an evangelist.

“The exceptions in evangelism,” he said, “are those like J. John, Billy Graham, Leighton Ford. They can close the deal.
“We however are only a part of the process. We have the greatest influence with those in our social class, social context, and those with a shared history – those people who can relate to us. There is a natural group that fits.
“If a nonbeliever, open to Christianity, has enough “meaningful contacts” with believers, it takes an average of SEVEN YEARS for them to make a commitment to Christ…”

To finally see the big picture of someone’s faith journey and how it naturally flows, was a huge relief to me. In most cases, it seems like a much longer process than I thought. And it looks like there are many people involved, not just me. It seems like I am only being asked to:

Be myself,
have integrity,
care about other people,
be a good listener,
and be able to tell my faith story when prompted.

I will never summit Everest, but I can probably trek to basecamp.
And there are people I know that may want to walk with me.

 

Dr. Craig Gourley

 

God And Our Turbulent Times (J. John)

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Trump

2016 has featured all kinds of upheaval and turbulence! From Brexit to a difficult presidential election in the United States, to unrest and war, our world has been tossed and turned. From the United Kingdom, Reverend Canon J. John, a long time member of LFM’s Point Group, offers this perspective.

Many of us are still adjusting to the second great political upheaval of the year. For some it is a time of delight and for others one of dismay.

Although there will be deeper and wiser analysis of these events, one obvious common feature of the Brexit referendum and the US presidential election is that they were not so much won by the winners as lost by the losers. They were both fundamentally protest votes; an assertive anti-establishment protest by those who feel hard done by against those in power who they hold responsible for their plight.

A second – and troubling – feature is that they were not good, clean campaigns. There was far too little truth and honesty and far too much of the soundbite, the allegation, and the subtle play on fear, hatred and greed.

So what do I as a Christian make of it all? I am reminded of the great passage in the Gospels (Matthew 22:15–22) where Jesus is asked about paying taxes to Caesar, the seemingly all-powerful and hated head of the Roman occupying power. The well-known conclusion of the account is Jesus’ statement: ‘Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’

The first and most obvious point that comes from this is the reminder that behind all the powers of this world, whether Caesar, presidents, prime ministers or political parties, lies God. You may feel disturbed or even depressed at events, but be reminded that behind and above all the turbulence of our world stands our unchangeable and eternal Almighty God. His power and authority never suffers a crisis at the ballot box. These events have not surprised him. And equally, if you feel jubilant and delighted at what you may see as your victory, allow yourself the sobering thought of the same truth. Ultimately it is God who rules and those in power are responsible to him – whether they acknowledge it or not. So let that be a great truth that either comforts or challenges.

A second point is worth pondering. Both events have arisen because of the perception, if not the reality, of a remote, uncaring elite managing the affairs of a nation for the benefit of themselves. Yes, there is anger and fear in these votes, but there is also genuine pain. It is widely felt that the sufferings of the economic disaster of 2008 were not borne fairly and universally; that globalisation, privatisation and any number of other forces have been allowed to crush little people under the heel of the powerful. And here, too, we must feel the impact of Jesus’ statement because, in making it, Jesus grants the political system of the world legitimate rights and duties.

It is sometimes said that a nation gets the government it deserves. That may be so but history declares loudly that unless there is a strong voice speaking out for what is good, right, just and compassionate, those virtues are all too easily pushed to one side. These events should be a great challenge: a clarion call for us to be involved in the rule of our countries in the widest, deepest and best sense. Politics is too serious a business to be left just to politicians.

Let me leave you with a final concluding thought. Remind yourself of this: the Christian faith is alive and flourishing, but where is Caesar and the Empire of Rome now?

J. John

Rvd. Canon

A Prayer Through The Day (Leighton Ford)

By | Life with God, Prayer | No Comments

coffee cup

Drawn from the 139th Psalm, this prayer has helped many to order their days and move through them with an awareness of the presence of God.

 

MORNING

“Search me and know my heart”

Is my heart centered right as I begin today?

 

NOON

“Test me and know my restless thoughts”

Recognize and rest from thoughts which will not let go.

 

EVENING

“See if there is any hurtful way in me”

What hurts I have caused, or received, which need forgiving?

 

BEDTIME

“Lead me in the way everlasting”

Rest in God’s hands.

night

A Prayer For Election Eve (And Day!)

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“Creator of us all:
you are the source of every blessing,
the judge of every nation
and the hope of earth and heaven:

We pray to you on the eve of this important and historic election.

We call to mind the best that is within us:
That we live under God,
that we are indivisible,
that liberty and justice extend to all.

We acknowledge the sin that runs through our history as a nation:
The displacement of native peoples, racial injustice,
economic inequity, regional separation.

And yet we profess a deep and abiding gratitude
for the goodness of ordinary people who have made sacrifices,
who have sought opportunities,
who have journeyed to this land as immigrants
strengthening its promise in successive generations,
who have found freedom on these shores,
and defended this freedom at tremendous cost.

Be with us in the days that are near.
Remind us that your ways are not our ways,
that your power and might transcend
the plans of every nation,
that you are not mocked.

Let those who follow your Son Jesus Christ be a peaceable people
in the midst of division.

Send your Spirit of peace, justice and freedom upon us,
break down the walls of political partisanship,
and make us one.

Give us wisdom to walk in your ways,
courage to speak in your name,
and humility to trust in your providence.

Amen.”

Ken Carter

Resident Bishop, Florida Conference
The United Methodist Church

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