Life with God

Why We Need Lent (J. John)

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Why we need Lent

Ash Wednesday, this year on 14 February, marks the start of the forty-day period of Lent that runs up to Easter Day. Some Christians follow a longstanding tradition of fasting during Lent; denying themselves something – chocolate, alcohol or even social media – that is good but not essential. Today, this whole idea strikes some people as bizarre but in fact the idea of Lent and fasting has perhaps never been more relevant.

Our modern culture is fixated not simply on having things, but on having them now. Advertisements encourage us not to save but to buy on credit and have what we want immediately: instant food, instant messaging, real-time meetings and instant downloads of music, films or books. We don’t ‘do’ waiting anymore. Whether it is food, pleasure or possessions, we expect to have them all now.

Yet there is something very dangerous about this demand for ‘instant gratification’ and it’s not just Christians who say so. The reality is that all good things (whether food, pleasure or possessions) are truly at their best when they are taken at the right time. Intentionally delaying a pleasure (and that’s what fasting in Lent is all about) is a wise thing. The ability to postpone our gratification may actually be critical to making us fulfilled human beings. After all, if we want our pleasures now, we are going to struggle with things like learning to play the piano or acquiring a foreign language where it may be months before we can tap out a tune or engage in a meaningful conversation on holiday.

Postponing a pleasure may even have been fundamental in making the human race what it is. A great breakthrough in history was when people realised that instead of eating grains of wheat or rice they could plant them and wait a few months until the crops sprang up. The discovery of cultivation allowed settlements, farms and ultimately civilisation to flourish.

It’s not just history that teaches us about the disadvantages of instant gratification; there is also some hard psychological evidence on the subject. In the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment in the 1970s a group of four-year-old children took part in a psychological study. Each child was given one marshmallow and promised that, if they could wait twenty minutes before eating it, they would be given a second one. Some children could wait the twenty minutes and others couldn’t. Records were kept and sixteen years later children were revisited; those who had been able to delay eating were found to score significantly higher in academic tests. The ability to say ‘no, not now’ seems to be vital to both civilisation and education.

Lent helps us to learn to say ‘no, not now’; it teaches us self-control and an expectation and an anticipation of what God may reveal to us. Lent isn’t just a human exercise but a sacred discipline.

Rev. Canon J. John

A Prayer for Growing Old

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The Prayer of an Anonymous Abbess

Lord, thou knowest better than myself that I am growing older and will soon be old. Keep me from becoming too talkative, and especially from the unfortunate habit of thinking that I must say something on every subject and at every opportunity.

Release me from the idea that I must straighten out other peoples’ affairs. With my immense treasure of experience and wisdom, it seems a pity not to let everybody partake of it. But thou knowest, Lord, that in the end I will need a few friends.

Keep me from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point.
Grant me the patience to listen to the complaints of others; help me to endure them with charity. But seal my lips on my own aches and pains — they increase with the increasing years and my inclination to recount them is also increasing.

I will not ask thee for improved memory, only for a little more humility and less self-assurance when my own memory doesn’t agree with that of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be wrong.

Keep me reasonably gentle. I do not have the ambition to become a saint — it is so hard to live with some of them — but a harsh old person is one of the devil’s masterpieces.

Make me sympathetic without being sentimental, helpful but not bossy. Let me discover merits where I had not expected them, and talents in people whom I had not thought to possess any. And, Lord, give me the grace to tell them so. Amen.

From Aging Matters, R. Paul Stevens pg. 113-114

Dealing With Stress

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A young lady confidently walked around the room with a raised glass of water while leading a seminar and explaining stress management to her audience. Everyone knew she was going to ask the ultimate question, ‘Half empty or half full?’
She fooled them all. “How heavy is this glass of water?” she inquired with a smile. Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.
She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you’ll have to call an ambulance. In each case it’s the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”
She continued, “And that’s the way it is with stress. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won’t be able to carry on.”
“As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we’re refreshed, we can carry on with the burden – holding stress longer and better each time practiced.
So, as early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don’t carry them through the evening and into the night. Pick them up again tomorrow if you must.


Article from Perspective Health and Wellness

The Antidote for Christmas Busyness (Amy Julia Becker)

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Amy Julia Becker is a former Sandy Ford Fellow and is now an author and speaker. You can find out more about here. We loved her recent Christmas letter and reprint it below:

Dear Friends,

Has your December been busy? Mine has. We’ve raced through activities, rehearsals for the Nutcracker performance, holiday parties for multiple schools and at multiple’s friends’ houses, the holiday party for faculty at our own house, not to mention the shopping and putting up the tree and some of our favorite local traditions, which include Holiday in the Depot (a fun night in our little town which includes a hay ride pulled by horses with jingle bells, fire pits with s’mores, carolers, Santa, and more), Slices with Santa (Santa. Pizza. In the local firehouse.), and our church’s annual Christmas concert and pageant.

But as I felt myself bracing for what felt like an inevitable onslaught of activities, I was reminded of Paul Miller’s words in his book A Praying Life. He wrote something along the lines of, “Jesus had a busy life. But he didn’t have a busy heart.” That’s my desire this season—to quiet my heart, to keep my soul and my inner being in a simple, receptive state of being, ready for joy and wonder and peace and hope and love to enter in. (It’s not my reality. But it is my desire. Perhaps you feel the same way.) Scroll down for upcoming events and family book picks.

Blessings to you—

Amy Julia

An Autographed Copy of ‘Sandy: A Heart for God’

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Would you like an autographed copy of Leighton’s much loved book Sandy: A Heart For God, written about his beloved oldest son and his impactful time on earth?

Just in time for Christmas, you can get one now!

Simply click here and the ordering process is simple and easy.

A great Christmas or New Year’s gift for the special younger person in your life who wants to run their race well for Christ.

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

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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)

God’s Strong Voice

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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


God And The Fact Of Suffering

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“Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that walketh in darkness and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.” – Isa. 50:10

There is a very moving scrap of conversation near the beginning of the Pilgrim’s Progress. Poor burdened Christian had met Evangelist, and begged for help and guidance. Whereupon Evangelist pointed to the far distance, and asked, “Do you see yonder wicket-gate?” And Christian looked, and shook his head, and answered “No.”

Then Evangelist tried again. “Do you see yonder shining light?” he asked. And Christian peered away to the far horizon, and noticed something – one spot that seemed not quite so dark as all the rest; and he answered, “I think I do.”

“Keep that light in your eye,” said Evangelist, “and go up directly thereto, so shalt thou see the gate.” I fancy that if someone inquired of you or me, “Do you see the answer to the riddle of lite and the mystery of sorrow?” we should have to answer, as bluntly as Christian did, “No, I don’t see it.”

But if the inquirer went on to ask, “Do you see any points of light, any places where the darkness of the mystery is not quite so dark as elsewhere?” some of us, with Christian, would reply, “I think I do.” It is some of these beams of light that I invite you to consider now. It may be that if we keep them before us and trust their guiding, we, too, may “see the gate.” For the darkness in which we walk is not impenetrable gloom; and the night – thank God – has stars.

James G. Stewart

The ‘Whisper of Things’ (Leighton Ford)

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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

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

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