Monthly Archives

June 2017

Linville River (Leighton Ford)

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“The grace of a river is a reminder of how nature seeks elegance and  achieves immense beauty of  cohesion and balance … If only our lives could achieve, or indeed allow, such grace and elegance … our pilgrimage through this world would flow  in  beauty through the most ragged and forsaken  heartlands of confusion and dishevelment.”

-John O’Donohue

The ‘Whisper of Things’ (Leighton Ford)

By | Life with God, Uncategorized | No Comments

During a recent installment of her wonderful radio program, On Being, Krista Tippett was interviewing the artist/philosopher Enrique Martinez Celaya.

Ms. Tippett: You use the word “whisper” a lot — do you know that? — in your writing.

Mr. Martínez Celaya: I didn’t know that.

Ms. Tippett: “The whisper of the order of things.” And then you said somewhere, “The whisper is faint, but the best art helps us to hear it.”

Mr. Martínez Celaya: Yeah, I mean I think the reason why I use “whisper” is because maybe — maybe I have little ears.

But it seems that both in science and art and anything — in anything, the truth is not screaming that much. And I think that you have to be attentive, silent enough, be able to look and listen very, very carefully. And even then, you have to be very lucky to hear something. But when you do hear something, it’s transformative. And that order of things, that more stable reality underneath the appearance of things, is life-changing. And I think scientists will say that’s the case, and I think poets, and I think theologists — I mean I think everybody agrees that truth is — requires some suppressing of other things to see it.”

This makes me think of the “still, small voice” of Scripture!

Leighton Ford

Challenging Times in Britain (Rev. Canon J. John)

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In Britain we find ourselves in challenging times. We have had an election in which the winners lost and where the losers feel they won, we seem to have regular acts of terror and we have had the most appalling catastrophe in London which has revealed incompetence and injustice at the heart of the nation. Finally, almost as an incidental, we have a weakened and divided government starting the most important international negotiations since the Second World War. In these troubled times we hear all around angry cries for ‘change!’ and ‘justice!’.

How do we respond? I’m afraid neither the overused mantra to ‘keep calm and have a cup of tea’ or the appeal to ‘the British spirit’ are really adequate. Instead, I find myself turning to some very old and very wise words: the Beatitudes of Jesus recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 5. Here Jesus pronounces eight blessings and for each gives an appropriate promise.

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’: this is a time for prayer and dependence on God rather than pompous pronouncements. There are issues here that are beyond trite and simplistic solutions.

‘Blessed are those who mourn’: at a time when there is a suspicion that behind public grief lurks private ambition we need to be those who mourn for no other reason than we stand because those who suffer are in misery.

‘Blessed are the meek’: crises bring out both the best and worst in people. One of the worst can be the pressure for ‘strong leadership’, for ‘firm measures’ or even ‘radical change’. In contrast, meekness presents no agenda: it listens, seeks wisdom and neither shouts nor screams.

‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness’: our society is full of cries. Some, out of a genuine desire that right be done, are for justice and explanation, and to these there must be an honest response. Yet amid these voices are similar cries which are driven by anger and the hunger for revenge. A legitimate demand for justice must not be diverted into revolt and disorder.

‘Blessed are the merciful’: to be merciful is the authentic and caring desire to put others first and seek their welfare. It’s encouraging what we have seen but there needs to be more and it needs to persist when the cameras have gone.

‘Blessed are the pure in heart’: motives for protest and calls for change can be complicated. We must be sure that in what we say and do we are truly seeking the welfare of others rather than seeking our own good.

‘Blessed are the peacemakers’: perhaps the most distressing element of these times is the sense of disunity; of factions, of communities talking in increasingly bitter terms of ‘them’ and ‘us’. Peacemaking can be a blessing.

And finally ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.’ The last and longest of the Beatitudes is the sting in the tail. To do these things, Jesus says, is no easy path to popularity and acclaim. On the contrary, to be a peacemaker is to be assured of being mistrusted, hated and attacked by both sides. And as that rarest of things, Jesus, who lived out what he taught, knew what he was talking about.

These are challenging times but they are also times of great opportunity: opportunities to pray, to serve and – slightly less comfortably – to suffer for what is right.

 

The Revd. Canon J. John is a Leighton Ford Ministries Point Group member

Buried Things – A Poem (Leighton Ford)

By | Poetry | One Comment

Yesterday morning Buddy and I
sat for a long time outside
in the cool.

After a while he became restless
and went searching for something
in the back yard. I watched him
nuzzle in the twigs at the base of
a large tree, then disappear into
some bushes where he pawed around
until he found what he was looking for,
a chewy thing he had hidden days
before. He carried it to another bush
for safe deposit, then came back and
sat once more, at peace,
on the edge of the porch.

I wondered, watching,
after all the passing years.
where may I have buried my loves,
my life, my longings to keep them
safe, secure?

Have I forgotten where?

“Your life is hidden with Christ in God”

Leighton Ford

Photo not Buddy!

Prayer as Conversation (Henri Nouwen)

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To pray unceasingly as St. Paul asks us to do would be completely impossible if it meant to think constantly about or speak continuously to God. To pray unceasingly does not mean to think about God in contrast to thinking about other things, or to talk to God instead of talking to other people. Rather, it means to think, speak, and live in the presence of God.

Although it is important and even indispensable for the spiritual life to set apart time for God and God alone, prayer can only become unceasing prayer when all our thoughts – beautiful or ugly, high or low, proud or shameful, sorrowful or joyful – can be brought and expressed in the presence of God. Thus, converting our unceasing thinking into unceasing prayer moves us from a self-centered monologue to a God-centered dialogue. This requires that we turn all our thoughts into conversation. The main question, therefore, is not so much what we think but to whom we present our thoughts.

Prayer is an outward, careful attentiveness to the One who invites us to unceasing conversation.

Prayer is the joyful affirmation that God knows our minds and hearts without anything being hidden.

 

Henri Nouwen

From Spiritual Direction: Wisdom For The Long Walk of Faith

How Does God Get Our Attention? (Leighton Ford)

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We have so many ways to try to get people to pay attention. If you are married, how does your spouse get yours? How does a coach get his or her team’s attention when things are going badly? How do advertisers get our attention in this new media age? Politicians? Teachers?

More importantly, how does God get our attention?

In the long ago days God got our attention in ways such as these…

Adam and Eve: he walked in the garden and called “Where are you?”

Moses: he spoke through the spectacle of a bush burning but not burned up

Jacob: he came to him in a dream of a ladder going up to heaven

Samuel: he spoke to him during the night by name

Elijah: he startled him with earthquake and wind, then quieted him with a still, small voice

Mary: he sent an angel to tell her his plan

Wise men: he used a star for them to track

Paul: he had to use a blinding light to get his attention

John: he gave him visions of an open door to heaven

 

How does God get our attention these days?

I believe there are three primary ways:

  1. Through moments of special love, joy, and beauty, such as falling in love or in C.S. Lewis’ famous telling, being “surprised by joy”.
  2. Through the longings of our heart such as the pangs we feel when we realize that all of life is an unfinished symphony (Karl Rahner) and “If nothing on this earth can satisfy then it must be because we were made for another world” (Lewis again). We ought to pay particular attention to our tears. What brings tears springing to your eyes?
  3. Through our pain – if nothing else wakes us up, God may whisper in our joys and shout in our pain.

Where are you finding God getting your attention these days?

 

Leighton Ford

The Attentive Life (Leighton Ford – Video)

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One of Leighton’s most beloved books, The Attentive Life: Discerning God’s Presence In All Things, is now available in a second edition. You can find it here.

In this new video, Leighton talks about why he wrote the book and why attentiveness as a spiritual discipline and a way of living in our world is more important than ever.

 

The attentive life from Leighton Ford Ministries on Vimeo.

Three Postures of Prayer (Leighton Ford)

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Brother Lawrence famously wrote of “the practice of the presence of God” – one of the finest descriptions of attentiveness to God. In his book of the same name he described how he considered himself “before God, whom I behold as my king” using three images: subject, son,  and stone.

As Subject

the Posture: kneeling, prostrate

“Touched with a sensible regret, I confess to Him all my wickedness, I ask His forgiveness, I abandon myself in His hands that He may do what He pleases with me. The King, full of mercy and goodness, very far from chastising me, embraces me with love…and treats me in all respects as His favorite…”

Kneeling or prostrate we pray: “As your Subject, redeem me – and converse with me as friend”.

 

As Son

the Posture: embracing, leaning, expressing need

“My most useful method is this simple attention, and such a general passionate regard for God, to whom I find myself often attached with greater sweetness and delight than that of an infant at the mother’s breast; so that, if I dare use the expression, I should choose to call this state the bosom of God, for the inexpressible sweetness which I taste and experience there”.

Embracing, leaning, we pray: “As your Son, embrace and nurture me”.

 

As Stone

the Posture: sitting, desiring change and transformation

“As for my set hours of prayer, they are only a continuation of the same exercise. Sometimes, I consider myself there as a stone; presenting myself thus before God, I desire Him to form His perfect image in my soul, and make me entirely like Himself”.

Sitting, we pray: “As your Stone, form me into your image”.

Paying Attention To God’s Voice – Discernment in Community (Leighton Ford)

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Spiritual mentoring is not a program, or a technique, or a profession.  It is a calling and an art:  a calling to be discerning together in community and the art of listening to and with others in the presence of God.  The central mark of the community will be a commitment to help each other to listen:  to God, to our own hearts, and to each other.

Following are five elements of discernment, along with Scripture references for each. These can be used for personal study and meditation, in small groups, and among a group of friends who are committed to helping one another grow towards and like Jesus.

Personal and Community Discernment – 5 elements

  1. Scripture
    • Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
    • “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. II Tim. 3:16-17
  2. Holy Spirit
    • “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” John 14: 16-17
    • “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” John 14:26
  3. Stillness and Quiet
    • “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10
    • “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” John 14: 27
  4. Submission and Trust
    • “I urge you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God– what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12: 1-2
    • “But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.” Psalm 52:8
    • “Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning, for in you I put my trust. Teach me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” Psalm 143:8
  5. Community Listening
    • “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.” Romans 12:3-5
    • “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Acts 2:42 (koinonia/close relationship and sharing)
    • “but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” I John 1:7

 

Leighton Ford

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