Blog

Is There Really A ‘Private Life’? (Henri Nouwen)

By | Reflections and Readings | No Comments

We like to make a distinction between our private and public lives and say, “Whatever I do in my private life is no one else’s business”. But anyone trying to live a spiritual life will soon discover that the most personal is the most universal, the most hidden is the most public, and the most solitary is the most communal. What we live in the most intimate places of our beings is not just for ourselves but for all people. That is why our inner lives are gifts for others. That is why our solitude is a gift to our community, and that is why our most secret thoughts affect our common life”

 

From Nouwen’s Bread For The Journey (1997, HarperCollins)

The Unexpected Power of Jesus (Leighton Ford)

By | Reflections and Readings | No Comments

Jesus came from humble parents. There was little in his lineage or early life to suggest the kind of power his peers found in him. In fact, as one of the ancient prophecies had said, God’s leader would be a “root out of dry ground” (Is 53:2). In years to come the people of his hometown who had known him as a boy would be offended at this background. Whey they saw his miracles or heard his gracious speech they sniffed, “But isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t this Joseph’s son? Aren’t these his brothers?”…”We know his family”. That was all that needed to be said by those who dismissed his power.

Jesus’ authority was not something imposed on others, but rather a force he exposed. He was not one to strut around saying great things, pulling off tremendous miracles, demanding attention, even passing judgments (until he felt it necessary, towards the end). Rather, his authority was the exposing of an inner spiritual power that was released little by little – through words, actions, attitudes, and his very presence – until finally his character itself seemed to be as wonderful as his greatest miracle.

Jesus’ strength of character is demonstrated in many dimensions of his personality and experience: in purpose, speech, and balance; in spirit, in suffering, and in dedication.

 

From Transforming Leadership (1991: InterVarsity Press)

Worry Is Loneliness (Lloyd John Ogilvie)

By | Reflections and Readings | No Comments

 

“At core, worry is a low-grade form of agnosticism. Shocking? Perhaps. But look at it this way. Worry is a lurking form of doubt. At base it’s rooted in a question about the adequacy of God to meet our own and others’ needs. And it is nourished by a fear that there may be problems and perplexities in which we will be left alone; out on a limb without him! Worry is a form of loneliness. It entails facing life’s eventualities all by ourselves, on our meager strength.”

 

-Lloyd John Ogilvie, The Bush Is Still Burning

Prayer Is Like Watching For The Kingfisher (Ann Lewin)

By | Poetry | No Comments

Prayer is like watching for

The Kingfisher. All you can do is

Be there where he is like to appear, and

Wait.

Often nothing much happens;

There is space, silence, and

Expectancy.

No visible signs, only the

Knowledge that he’s been there

And may come again.

Seeing or not seeing cease to matter,

You have been prepared.

But when you’ve almost stopped

Expecting it, a flash of brightness

Gives encouragement.

 

ANN LEWIN

Billy Graham – Evangelist or Activist? (Leighton Ford)

By | Evangelism | One Comment

Sixty years ago Billy Graham brought his historic 1957 New York crusade to a close with a pre-Labor Day rally that brought an estimated 200,000 to Time’s Square.

My wife and I were there as part of the team. That summer we heard Billy preach six nights a week in the old Madison Square Garden for sixteen and a half weeks. It was packed out every night except one, a record never broken. Up to 2.3 million attended and some 61,000 registered a new commitment to Christ.

That year and for many to come to come he would become known across the world for the huge crowds that came to hear his simple message: that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son with the gift of eternal life.

Billy was always an evangelist. What is often forgotten is that over the years he would also be known for an influence beyond his crusades. He desegregated his early southern crusades, and became an advocate for Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty, based on what the Bible said about God’s care for all and for the poor.

That New York crusade began in May of 1957. It was twenty-five years later in May of 1982 that he made perhaps his most controversial move: accepting an invitation to attend a peace conference in Moscow.

He accepted the invitation against the advice of many, because he believed the threat of global nuclear annihilation had grown so grave that he had to take a stand. As Duke historian Grant Wacker records, he believed that “to work for peace was a moral issue and not just a political issue.” He recommended that the conference call “the nations and leaders of the world to repentance.”

Several years later he was invited back to Moscow and led a mass gathering that attracted thirty thousand. No one claims this brought about détente with the old Soviet Union. But it did open some doors, perhaps more than we will ever know.

Billy the evangelist was a reconciler in the tradition of others, like John R. Mott, the respected student evangelist and YMCA leader, who worked for peace in Russia after World War I, and the Methodist missionary E. Stanley Jones, who through his contacts with Japanese diplomats sought to avert war with Japan.

Today the nuclear-rattling threats come from North Korea. Political and military leaders are considering how best to respond without a war that would kill millions.

One of my friends who knows Korea well reminds me that Billy made a courageous visit to the leader of North Korea years ago. He was roundly criticized. Yet that was arguably the moment that convinced Kim Il Sung to allow US Christian agencies to serve there.

My friend asks: does the American church have a prophetic courage to provide that kind of presence now?

There seems to be no evangelist of Billy Graham’s stature to provide that today. But God cannot be barred from North Korea or any part of the world, and he is at work through his people.

There are many followers of Christ in North Korea living faithfully in a hard situation. We can pray for them.  There are Christian agencies (as described in a recent TIME article) who want to continue their humanitarian work, who could potentially provide channels of communication. We should urge the State Department to allow them exceptions to the recent order for all Americans to leave North Korea.

We should certainly take to heart the admonition of Paul to his young friend Timothy, and to fellow believers living under the pressure of a hostile government, that prayers should be made “for kings and all who are in authority, that we may live a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.”

Naïve this may sound.  But there is no travel ban on the Holy Spirit. And God’s ways and wisdom are greater than we can imagine.

 

Leighton Ford, Labor Day 2017

What Does It Mean To Be Contemplative? (Leighton Ford)

By | Life with God | No Comments

For many of us when we hear the word ‘contemplative’ we think of a monk, sitting for hours, eyes closed, hands folded, lost to the world around. Of course, such a monk is indeed a contemplative. But the idea of being contemplative is much bigger.

Contemplate is a two part word, compounded from the Latin ‘con’ (meaning ‘with’) and ‘templum’ (meaning ‘temple’), thus to observe things from a special place, and especially to observe in the presence of a deity. So a contemplative is one who looks at life in the presence of God, or we might say with the eyes of God, or though the eyes of Christ – at any time, not just special times; anywhere, not just in certain places; toward anyone, not just “special” people.

 

Leighton Ford

Adapted from The Attentive Life: Discerning God’s Presence In All Things (2008, InterVarsity Press)

A Prayer (George Macdonald)

By | Poetry | No Comments

My prayers, my God, flow from what I am not;

I think thy answers make me what I am.

Like weary waves, thought follows upon thought,

But the still depth beneath is all thine own,

And there this mov’st in paths to us unknown.

Out of strange strife thy peace is strangely wrought;

If the lion in us pray, thou answerest the lamb.

 

George Macdonald

Reflecting On The Eclipse (Leighton Ford)

By | Reflections/Essays | No Comments

This week almost the entire nation stopped to pay attention to the total eclipse of the sun.

What an amazing spectacle as the power and beauty moved swiftly across the sky and was gone in a few seconds

Why, I wonder, do we not pause to take in the everyday miracles that surround us all the time?

As the poet Denise Levertov wrote, days pass when we forget the quiet mystery …

that there is anything, anything at all,
let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything.
rather than void; and that, O Lord,
Creator, Hallowed One, You still,
hour by hour sustain it.

What if we took a few moments every day to wonder at this?

We might truly live an attentive life.

 

Leighton Ford

 

Photo Credit: NASA

God’s Strong Voice

By | Life with God | No Comments

Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s grandson – also named Winston S. Churchill – was once speaking at an occasion commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. He was approached afterward by a lady who related this personal story:

“Mr. Churchill, I was a girl of just twelve, living in the Ghetto at the time of the Uprising as the Nazi storm-troopers were attacking us to take us to concentration camps. Whenever your grandfather broadcast over the BBC we would all crowd around the radio. I could not understand English but I knew that if my family and I were to have any hope of coming through this war, it depended entirely on this strong, unseen voice that I could not understand”.

The power of a voice – even when one cannot understand the words.

The much greater power of a voice – when one can understand the words and they are words of life.

“Call to me and I will answer you, and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” – Jeremiah 33:3

 

Hope In Insecure Times (Leighton Ford)

By | Reflections and Readings | No Comments

When the morality of the Judeo-Christian tradition was firmly in place, society could be somewhat assured that scientists would use their knowledge in ethical ways, for the betterment of the human race. Today we have no such assurances…many postmodern people see the possibilities that await them on the horizons of science – and they are justifiably scared.

As the foundations of the modern mindset continue to crumble, the world increasingly becomes a frightening and insecure place…people are searching for new directions and answers. As a result of the confusion and disquiet generated by the swift change that has come upon the world, we now see…our opportunity as Christians in a postmodern world: people need what the Gospel offers – meaning, hope, and absolute truth.

Despite the strong challenges that face us, the Christian Story has never had a greater opportunity for advance than it does right now.

 

Leighton Ford

Adapted from The Power of Story (2015, LFM)