October 2009


This summer a colleague invited me to join  him and his family and some other Redeemer friends on Fire Island. I’ve never been and so I took him up on it. It’s a really unusual and beautiful place, but the highlight for me was watching a delightful 4 year old kid called Noah – who has no sense (yet) of his limits.

He and his family joined us after lunch for an afternoon on the beach, and as soon as they got there, he went racing into the sea after his father and older brother.   They were already quite far out and had no idea he was chasing them. Meanwhile his mother looked on panic-stricken, but she couldn’t go after him herself because she had to attend to her infant daughter.  She tried calling after Noah, but he was gone.

As he waded in deeper and the waves reached his waist, he began to stumble.   Fortunately one of the guys with us had seen Noah, followed in after him and caught up to him, so just when he started to lose his footing, Tony was right there to grab him by the hand.  Noah, having no idea that Tony was there, looked around bewildered but recognizing him, gladly took his hand, and sheepishly came back to join us on solid ground.  Poor thing.  Noah spent the next few minutes shivering under a towel – having to spend a time out for acting unwisely.

I fell in love with this kid.  I was so touched by his exuberance for life.   It was a beautiful reminder of what God wants of us:  to be child-like, open, eager for new adventures, and ready to embrace that which he brings us.  But he knows that, like Peter, once we realize we are walking on water, and our faith  starts to waver, we’ll start to sink.   

Even then, we needn’t worry.  Like Tony’s timely rescue of  Noah, God is right there ready to give us his hand, even before we even know we need him.

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After a recent inspiring sermon where I learned about the convicting story of William Borden, I picked up ‘Borden of Yale’, the biography of his short life. (He died at the age of 25.)

He was raised by a mother, who clearly had a vital relationship with Christ and  this profoundly influenced him.  There is evidence that Christ was real for him too at a young age. In his teens at the Hill School in Pennsylvania, he heard a sermon about Jesus, contrasting two very different views of him.

In Mark 6:3, as Jesus began his preaching ministry, those who knew of him before this time wondered aloud, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? What’s this wisdom that he even does miracles.” People were amazed and yet confused.  Ultimately many viewed him as an ordinary man who worked with his hands for a living.

Earlier in Mark 1:11, we are given a beautiful insight into God’s view of Jesus: “You are my son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” What an incredible  declaration made at the start of Jesus’ years of public ministry.

This reminded me that when I question the significance of what I’m currently doing – working full-time for a church supporting and encouraging group leaders –  I’m clinging to the world’s view of my work, and losing sight of God’s eternal, kingdom-centered perspective.

Oh, that I would have eyes of faith to see more and more as God sees…

Last spring I offered a 3 session class on a Thursday night at the office called ‘Intimacy with God’. The idea was to create an environment where a small group could come together to be encouraged to consider what our role is in nurturing what should be the most important relationship of all. I capped the class at 20 – wanting to foster an intimate, close and safe space.

When the Thursday evenings came around, I found myself a little drained by the prospect of teaching at the end of a work day, and no doubt at least some of those who came probably felt the same way.  The first evening was hot and we were packed into a room that was really too small.  And though we were looking at Jesus’ relationship with his Father, based on Luke’s gospel, much of what happened that night was far too didactic – admittedly my fault.

Not surprisingly, a good handful of folks never returned for the second week. I persevered on, being honest with the class about my own reticence at teaching, and inviting them to participate actively in their own learning. We re-examined what it meant to talk with God. Week 3 then looked at what it meant for us to (re)learn how to listen to God’s voice, and walked folks through a Lectio Divina exercise. Even fewer came back for that final session, though the few who had stuck with it all the way through gave encouraging feedback about how meaningful the class had been for them.

The back bone behind this class was prayer. The head of our prayer team at Redeemer (LC) had asked a small group to bathe this class in prayer. And – God bless them – they did.

I felt disappointed by the low turnout and discouraged by the dwindling numbers each week. I was also a little confused as to why the prayer invested in this class seemed to have made no discernible difference.

But God was at work.

This fall, I was asked to teach the class again, and agreed. It’s happening on a Sunday after the East side morning service and the turnout has been a delightful and encouraging surprise!  I’m  less controlling in my teaching and more trusting that the Holy Spirit is there.  I’m learing to allow him to guide it more.   And folks in the class are sharing honestly and openly about their struggles and fears that interfere with them spending time alone with God, our beloved.   Others are sharing stories of ways in which they are learning to triumph in this area.  Praise God for this!

I am convinced that the prayers prayed many months ago for this class by a few committed people behind the scenes are now beginning to bear fruit.

It’s a wonderful reminder that God does answer our prayers.  But so often it’s not in the ways we expect him to, and it’s certainly rarely according to our timetable!