Canon J. John is a member of our LFM Point Group, and a gifted evangelist in the UK. Here are some of his thoughts about arriving at his 60th birthday.
There’s no point in denying that I’m about to reach a particular milestone on 2nd June. Now there are different views about reaching sixty. Some people see it as being no more than some insignificant crossing of which brings little change, while others see sixty as marking your entrance into some unfamiliar territory of the ‘senior years’.
Inevitably I have been reflecting on reaching sixty and have decided that my attitude can be summed up in terms of what I accept, reject and expect.
First, what do I accept? Well I accept that, although welcome, the cards, candles and celebrations are indeed reminders of my mortality. When we are young we all consider our lives to be unlimited; any end lies safely out of sight beyond the horizon. However, when you reach sixty you realise there are more years behind you than there are ahead. And although we have made progress (after all, a century ago you probably were dead!), being sixty does mean that you have to start thinking about mortality. Here, of course, one of the perks of being a Christian is that not only can I look at this life’s ending without flinching, I can see beyond it.
Last week, on the same day, we received word of the death of two friends, both of whom had a close relation to Leighton Ford Ministries.
Todd died suddenly at his parents home in Charlotte. He was close to his 50th birthday.
Leighton and the Ford family knew Todd from his student years at UNC Chapel Hill, and later as part of the Arrow Leadership Program.
He was the founding pastor of two churches, and a talented writer and speaker in many venues. He helped to catalog Leighton’s Hour of Decision sermons, and helped to revise several of Leighton’s books.
He was also he valued editor of our website for several years.
Leighton and Kevin Ford, who was a close friend of Todd’s, will both speak at his service on Sunday afternoon, May 20, at the Church at Charlotte.
Tom died at his home, surrounded by loving family, after several years of failing health. He was 83.
He was a well-known business leader, community philanthropist, and YMCA leader, respected and well known. He was also a widely known NFL referee, including officiating for the Super Bowl.
He served as a board member and as treasurer for Leighton Ford Ministries for a number of years, and he was a strong supporter of our ministry, as well as a great encourager.
He and his wife Nancy were close friends of Jean and Leighton, and they often hosted our mentoring groups at their mountain home in Blowing Rock.
Leighton led in the readings for the celebration service at Christ Episcopal Church, Charlotte, this week. An overflow crowd of leaders and friends packed out the church the Dooleys attended for many years.
We loved them both, miss them both, and thank God for their friendship.
Ed Stetzer at Christianity Today recently interviewed Lon Allison, who is a senior member of my Point Group and chair of the Leighton Ford Ministries board. I encourage you to read it.
Ed: Not too long ago you were diagnosed with an aggressive liver cancer and have been receiving treatment. How has this impacted your faith and the way you view God?
Lon: I really didn’t know how my faith would be impacted by the news of a terminal cancer. My wife Marie, our children, and I had never faced something like this. I can now say five months into the journey that my faith is stronger than before my diagnosis about 90% of the time.
I have clung to two truths to sustain me. First is the sovereignty of God: “The Lord has established his throne in heaven. His Kingdom rules over all” (Ps. 103:19). The second great truth is his love for me and my family: “And I pray that you being rooted and established in love, may have power…to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:17-19).
The sovereignty of God means he has authority over this situation. He has allowed this cancer to strike me. He can cure it in a nanosecond, or allow it to grow within me. He is in charge, and I deeply desire he be glorified through it.
I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.
I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?
Rainer Maria Rilke
THE WORLD IS CHARGED WITH THE GRANDEUR OF GOD
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
Gerard Manley Hopkins
Seven Stanzas of Easter
Make no mistake, if He rose at all
it was as His body.
if the cells disillusion did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.
It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and befuddled eyes of
the eleven apostles.
it was as His flesh: ours.
The same hinge, thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that pierced, died, withered, decayed and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded
credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.
The stone is rolled back, not paper-mache,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of
time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.
And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque
in the dawn light, robed in real linen,
spun on a definite loom.
Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, for our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed
by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.
(Written for a religious arts festival sponsored by the Clifton Lutheran Church of Marblehead, MA) Taken from John Updike, Seventy Poems, Penguin Books, 1972.
Today, I am an evangelical Christian.
I have wondered, in some recent days,
whether I want to be called an “evangelical.”
The term has been so politicized, so pejorative.
But today, on Good Friday, how can I be otherwise?
It is not that I hold a privileged position,
Or, am a political activist.
Or, that I hold a certain set of beliefs.
It is that I am upheld, by the evangel, the good news,
that by the grace of God I am what I am,
a child of God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who loved me and gave himself for me,
who became obedient to death, and rose,
that I might live in him, fully, now and forever.
Today, and every day, I have the assurance
of living in that grace, and of telling others:
Jesus Christ is alive … and well!
March 30, 2018
Now to the gate of my Jerusalem,
The seething holy city of my heart,
The saviour comes. But will I welcome him?
Oh crowds of easy feelings make a start;
They raise their hands, get caught up in the singing,
And think the battle won. Too soon they’ll find
The challenge, the reversal he is bringing
Changes their tune. I know what lies behind
The surface flourish that so quickly fades;
Self-interest, and fearful guardedness,
The hardness of the heart, its barricades,
And at the core, the dreadful emptiness
Of a perverted temple. Jesus come
Break my resistance and make me your home.
From Sounding The Seasons by Malcolm Guite, Canterbury Press. Used with the poet’s permission.