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  I was listening to the Pray as You Go devotional that I downloaded from I-tunes this morning. It’s produced by the Irish Jesuits at Sacredspace.ie. I heartily recommend this site. As i was listening, I was asked by the guide to think about the preparations we take as we get ready to come before the holiness of God. Immediately, my mind began to whirl and eventually, I began to think along these paths…

   I want to come into God’s presence. I can’t come into God’s presence because of my sin. My sin has been covered by the blood of Jesus. Somehow, though, I still don’t feel prepared to enter into the presence of God. Is this works righteousness? Where is the fine line that exists between being covered by the blood and feeling worthy enough to enter into God’s presence? On my own, I don’t belong there. In Christ I do.

I continued to struggle with this thought. I really was having trouble focusing this morning and this was the outcome of my struggle. Anyone have any thoughts that they’d like to share? How do you find balance between our sinful nature and the work that Christ has done in us in relation to coming into God’s presence?

Another God Moment

   Tom Kirby’s death this week caught all of us unprepared. We did not even suspect that he would die so suddenly. I was in Orlando, Florida at Sea World, when I received the message. It was Wednesday afternoon and it was Wednesday evening before I could speak with Dona. The boys were all involved in camp at Sea World. They wouldn’t be done until about 3:00 p.m. on Friday. I knew that my participation in the service would be next to impossible. When I spoke with Dona on Wednesday night. I learned the arrangements. She would be contacting Don Nation, a former pastor and current District Superintendent. I knew that the service would be well done and thought out. Yet I still felt like I needed to be there. The logistics, however, just were not on my side. To get back into Bluefield by 11:00 a.m. on Saturday morning would mean an all night drive. After a week a Sea World, I just didn’t think that would be possible.

God, however, had another plan in mind.

We left Sea World around 3:00 p.m. and began our 750 mile journey. Our goal was to stop in Hardeeville, South Carolina around 9:00 p.m. We got into Hardeeville right on time. We checked into our room. We found signs that we were not alone in the room. Rodent droppings were on the floor. We went to the front desk and were given another room. This one had dead cockroaches in the cabinets. We politely checked out and decided to drive another 3 hours to Columbia, South Carolina. En-route, I got on the phone and began calling motels in the Columbia area. They were all booked. On Saturday, there was a graduation ceremony at Fort Jackson and the rooms were full of military families. So we decided to press on to Charlotte. Once we got to Charlotte, we realized we were only about three hours from home. So, we continued pressing onward. Eventually, we arrived home to our own beds at 4:30 a.m. I had time for some rest and got up and went to the funeral and participated in the service.

  To me, all of these minor motel problems were a God moment. I think that God kept moving us up the road so that I could be here for the funeral. What do you think?

  A few months ago I was making some late evening visits to the hospital. I ran into my physician on the way into the hospital. I felt the urge to ask him to go get something to eat so that we could talk. I ignored the thought. However, by the time I was done visiting, the thought was persistently ringing in my mind. So I waited until he came back to the car and suggested that we grab a bite to eat. He said sure, so we went to Ryans’s for a late dinner. At Ryan’s we talked and I said to him, “The Lord laid it on my heart that I should get together with you and talk.”

   My physician was Roman Catholic and phrases such as “the Lord laid it on my heart” or “the Lord spoke to me” (another phrase I used while trying to explain to him why I had asked him to join me for dinner) were both phrases that were puzzling to him. He talked about a friend of his recently using the phrase “The Lord spoke to me.” We went into a long conversation about what is meant by that phrase. I explained that I did not hear and audible voice. It was more like a thought that would suddenly come to my mind that I simply could not get out of my mind.

   I gave him examples from my life when these words would come to me. Such as I would be out visiting and the name of a parishioner would come to my mind. I simply could not get the person’s name out of my thoughts. So, I would go by for a visit, and would discover that this person really needed someone to talk to right then and there. I also related other accounts of such words from the Lord.

   Being a minister, we deal with more than just the physical realm. I firmly believe that there is a spiritual realm and that every now and then we are given a glimpse into it. The Lord can and does “speak” to us. The only problem, is that most people never attune themselves to the voice of the Lord. They either discount that voice altogether or are unable to distinguish that voices from the other voices that clutter their mind on a daily basis. Hearing that voice, though, can be a blessing.

   Sybil Dudley, the mother of one of my parishioners has just died. Her funeral is this afternoon. I went by Jean’s house on Sunday to talk with her about the funeral. During our visit, the song Wayfaring Stranger came to my mind. I knew that I would have to use that song during the service. Jean never mentioned the song. It simply came to me. Last night Jean called me at home and talked with me about the service. I had suggested that someone from the family might want to say a few words when I met with her on Sunday. She was calling to say that her son Keith didn’t want to say anything, but that he would like to sing an old Appalachian Folksong. The Lord spoke to me again. I knew the name of the song that he wanted to sing. Jean said that he wanted to sing Wayfaring Stranger. I told her that would be fine. As a matter of fact, I had already decided that I would sing that very song during the service. I told her that it was meant to be and that the Lord definitely had a hand in the planning of this service.

   The Lord had laid it on my heart. I am so glad that I listened, because I got to experience one of those God moments that don’t come around every day. I was blessed and I feel certain that this service will be a blessing for all that attend.

It seems as if the daily Lenten Devotionals took more out of me than I bargained for. It hasn’t helped that the post Lenten season has been a busy one both at the church and in my own personal life. Busyness is something that has always plagued me. In the New Testament story, I suppose that I am much more like Martha–busy in the kitchen–than like Mary–sitting at the master’s feet. The one good thing about this is that I know I act more like Martha. Deep down inside, however, I want to be more like Mary.

   One of my daily routines is to spend about 10 minutes in prayer. I use a guide to prayer published by Phyllis Tickle based upon the Book of Common Prayer. I chant the psalms, and read the readings and use this as a way to focus. I am beginning to realize, though, that this is only the tip of the spiritual iceberg that I need to be exploring. This simple pattern of prayer is not enough. I suppose that means I will be looking for other avenues in the days ahead.

   If there is one thing I am aware of, it is the vast spiritual resources that are available to the Christian. I have practiced many of them. Perhaps it is time to get back in the habit of practicing more of them. In the days that lie ahead, I’ll let you know about some of those techniques and how I feel about them and their impact upon my spiritual life.

John 13, 31-35

When Judas had gone out, Jesus said, ‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

I like the word Love. It brings to mind warm feelings of acceptance and nurture. Yet, If you were to ask me to defive love, I might be hard pressed to give you an adequte definition. After all, the greatest poets of the world have yet to come up with a simple definition of what the word means.

In this passage from John’s Gospel, we see Jesus using the word love. I didn’t look up the greek because from the context I can see that this isn’t some warm and fuzzy type of love. It’s not about walks in the park on a spring day holding the hand of your loved one and letting the infatuation of the moment flow across you. The love that Jesus is referring to here is love with some teeth. How do I know, look at what he says: “Just as I have loved you…” At this point, he is telling the disciples about a future aspect of his love for them, but with the advantage of hind sight, we know that he is referring to his sacrificial giving of himself on the cross.  Perhaps an earlier verse from John will corroborate my viewpoint: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believed in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

  It seems from the beginning that Jesus knew and was ready to practice a radical kind of love. He was willing to offer himself for those that he loved. Elsewhere in John, he says, “Greater love hath no man than this. That he should lay his life down for his friends.” If you read carefully enough, you’ll begin to see that Love for Jesus was a costly thing. It wasn’t just some fleeting emotion. It was a deliberate action of his will. It was what his whole life was about. He lived out his love for his followers.

   That is a hard kind of love to live up to. Lord, help me to make that kind of love the standard in my life.

This past Monday night I was watching one of my favorite shows, Heroes. During one of the commercial breaks, a commercial comes on that has a young man in his 20’s simply standing and looking at a magazine. After a few seconds it becomes clear that it was a Penthouse or Playboy or some similar type of magazine. After about 15 seconds of him looking at the magazine and the centerfold from all angles, he looks at the camera and says, “No. It didn’t work. I’m still gay.” At that point I was so taken off guard that I did not hear the rest of the commercial. My wife told me that it was an advertisement for a gay dating site similar to the E-harmony site for heterosexual couples. I’m still thinking about this commercial and wondering at its placement and whether it will be the first of many along similar lines that we will be seeing in the future.

Did anyone else see this commercial? If so, what are your thoughts on it?