I have just gotten home from a late Saturday night at work. We have to turn in two courses on Tuesday morning before the client arrives at work.
This weekend is especially difficult because tonight we switch to Daylight Saving Time. That means that four minutes ago, when it hit 1 a.m., the clocks were pushed forward to 2 a.m., loosing an hour of sleep tonight. That will be missed. I am going back to work right after church tomorrow, so no Sunday afternoon nap for me this week.
Mr. Mckenzie, I am terribly sorry that I am not in England to visit with you. I have been to England, though the last time was 1984. We really enjoyed the two weeks we spent traipsing around Roman ruins. I went with one of my Ancient Studies professors as the student assistant for their yearly trip. We had 30 people and my wife and I had a glorious time. We even got to hear John Stott preach at All Souls (he was back visiting) and then spent part of the afternoon at Speaker’s Corner where I got myself into a big argument with an anti-Christian speaker. He was on his podium and I stood on my aluminum camera case. Between that and my 6’5″ frame, we saw eye to eye, at least physically. In short order we had several hundred people listening to the debate that lasted about 45 minutes before he finally stepped down, folded up his podium and left. It was quite the experience. My wife photographed the whole thing and was afraid there was going to be a riot. She heard several of the eight or ten Bobbies that were ringing crowd worry about the same thing. There is nothing like that place of oratory in the U.S., more the pity.
God is still working. Our labors are his vehicle for change and he often does his best work when the vessel is active. It is easier to change the course of an object in motion, if you will. The work pressure is forcing me to focus and ramp up my efficiency well beyond what I am used to. I have always been able to work on a specific project, say a book index or editing and formatting a manual for someone. However, this is different. Starting from scratch, you tend to spend a lot of time planning, thinking, organizing, structuring, et al. You burn a lot of time before the effort turns productive (at least as far as lessons produced). Most of the time there is enough time to have the luxury of tweaking, redoing, etc. Not this time. Several false starts have eaten into my time and triage is a daily companion for practical reasons.
One of the things I see a lot in the Bible is how few times people have a chance to do it over. They often seem to be figuring out what to do on the fly and they struggle to keep up with the changing events. That only works if you are adequately prepared, if you have the basics down pat whether we are talking about prayer and theology or leading the rebuilding of Jerusalem. It is too late to “get prayed up” after the battle starts and figuring out how to use a sword the night before the assault is a little late in the game. Most of the biblical examples I want to emulate where well schooled before they took up the Lord’s task.
Fortunately, I was well-schooled in my trade before I took on this job. However, I have never worked with such a small margin of error and it is painful to have your elbows and knees clipped (metaphorically) because you are used to a larger buffer zone. God must be preparing me for something that will demand quick precision, since I believe everything in life prepares you to walk the road God has laid out for you to accomplish the mission he sends you on.
It is rare God throws an absolute novice into a difficult situation. One of the few I can think of is Joseph. Most of the time, God seasons you for a long time before using your steel in battle. Moses had 80 years and even then he felt inadequate. Abraham was well past that when his great test with Isaac came to bear. In a more literary vein, Aragorn (Lord of the Rings) was around 86 when the Ring saga commenced. So, at 58, soon to be 59, I have the possibility of a bit more seasoning ahead before my metal is truly tested. I say possibility because God’s timing is his own. It could be tomorrow, or it could be 21 years from now. No matter. I just want to be ready when the time comes. I want to be forged strong and true so that when God swings my metal it will slice through whatever he chooses to cut, even solid rock or steel beams (metaphorical rocks and beams). However, it is not easy being on the forge…
I keep coming back to the book of Philippians, one of my favorites. It is Paul’s most personal epistle, at least to me. He places life in perspective in those words to Philippi. Despair not; Christ will finish what he started. When you love, remember to try your love in the fire of discernment, not dipping it in mush of sappy sentimentality. Remember to be humble, even as Christ was as humble as a servant. You past means nothing, whether birthright or learning or accomplishment. Only Christ and living out the remainder of your time in service to him matters. You need to think on noble and holy things, knowing that you can bear up under any circumstance, whether blessings or curses because in Christ you have every need filled. You can do whatever God asks of you; he has given you the resources in his Son to meet the challenge. Never forget any of this and remember that your heart is guarded, the knowledge of your salvation is sealed, never to be snatched away.
So for the remainder of this Lent, I will add to my quest for a more disciplined prayer life, a desire to be adequately seasoned, tempered by events into an effective weapon in the hands of him in whom we live and move and have our being. Whether it is for one swing, one battle, one war, or one or many what evers, it is his choice. I, like Dr. Who (good British Sci-Fi character), will enjoy whatever happens because after all, it will all be to my good, the best possible result one could expect, no matter how Jobian it might seem at any given moment.
May grace and peace be your constant companion and may prayer come easy to your tongue and gentle to your knees. Think of me this Lords Day, as I write this for all of you and together may we accomplish what God has brought us together to do. For we are indeed a fellowship, a gathering of kindred spirits on a quest commissioned by the Great Lord, for a great purpose. It is his choosing, not ours, so even just sweeping up the floor afterwards is good enough. Do some small act of humble kindness at church today, or if you are reading this later, at some point where God will show you today. For God makes princes of fishermen and fishermen of princes. His choice; our submission and test.
God be with you, before and behind you, above and below you, to your left and to your right, and thus armored, may you go forth today to do his will. Amen.
I heard Stott as well at All Souls and exchanged a brief word with him as we shook hands. And I’ve paid a visit to Hyde Park’s Speaker’s Corner too, though I simply took the role of spectator. My wife was born in London and knows the area well. If you do want to make another visit, you and your wife would be more than welcome with us.
I met my wife on the internet (5 yrs. ago), then 10 days later in Atlanta at the airport, so I’m not immune to internet friendships.
When I come to the states I’m usually between Ohio and Kentucky with family. I only did a week in Maryland for a training seminar before going to Romania in 96′. Who but God knows where our paths might cross? Anything is possible for old hippies of the rambling sort.