The Basin and Towel

with Indispensable Churches and Tending the Light



Formational Prayer and the Father

This Sunday coming up is the Sunday of the Holy Trinity in the church year.  It’s also the day in which a number of folks leave home and family to spend a week at Ashland Theological Seminary in Ashland, Ohio for seminars in Formational Prayer.  If you’re one of these folks, this post is for you:

As Christians, we believe, teach and confess our God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The Apostles’ Creed says “I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”  Martin Luther said that this means that God not only has created everything in the world, but every part of what makes you and me human beings – eyes, ears, and every part of you.  He’s given you everything you need to support your body as well as your life.  And He doesn’t just hand over these things to you, then sit back and watch.  No, He keeps giving you everything you need, “daily and richly,” for no other reason than that He loves you.

As you’re getting ready to head for seminars at Ashland this next week (or, whenever you’re getting ready to go away for a while), it’s easy to get caught up in the worries of what needs to be done before you leave, what will happen while you’re gone, and what you’ll need to do when you get back.  Maybe these exercises will help:

Do a mental survey of your body, as many parts, pieces, senses and functions as you can think of.  Thank God the Father for making these all for you and for preserving them even when you are unaware of Him.

Do a mental survey of all the “stuff” you have (food, clothing, house, home, pets, family, material possessions).  Thank God the Father for His generosity in giving you all these, and for renewing those gifts to you every day, even when you aren’t home to enjoy them.

Why does the Father do this for you, daily and richly and generously?  Because He owes it to you?  Because He feels guilty about Eden?  Because you’re worth it?  or just because He loves you with an incredible love that passes your every imagination and understanding?  Yes, that’s it!  Spend some time praising Him for that love!  And let Him take care of all these things for you while you are in Ashland next week!

The “other” Mary

Several women went to the tomb of Jesus on Easter Sunday to anoint His body – Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Salome.  One of the Gospels mentions the “other” Mary.  There may have been more, who remain nameless.

Not just “quiet” disciples, these, but almost secretive ones – these women who come for the final act of devotion for their beloved Jesus, who doubtless supported Him behind the scenes all through His ministry.  Perhaps He knew who they were all along, but perhaps He didn’t.  Perhaps they liked it that way.

Other people threw dinner parties for Jesus, invited Him into their homes, gave Him a place to stay when He was in town.  They supported Him openly, even at the risk of their own lives.  And that was fine with Him.  But I wonder if there weren’t some besides these women who just did their little things here and there for Him along the way that maybe brought a smile to His face or a chuckle to His heart for just a minute when He needed it, and the memory of those little but tender gifts later on.

On Easter Sunday somebody always leaves a 4-inch chocolate cross on my desk.  No note, no signature, just a chocolate cross in a wrapper.  I have my suspicions as to who is responsible for it, but still . . .

Sometimes one or more of the little kids will color a picture and give it to me.  If I can’t hang it on my office door, I scan it and put it on a page called My Office Door on our church website. . . .

Every once in a while something utterly frivolous and fun shows up on my desk.  Again, I have my suspicions, but still . . .

And every so often one of our Elders calls me up and we have lunch together, just to chat.

These things are as precious and as welcome as the Christmas collection, Pastors’ Appreciation, or getting through another summer without having to split a paycheck, because they come from the hearts of the people who love Jesus and love me, too.  Too often I’m so focused on the difficulties, the struggles, the trials and the “crosses to bear” and these things get pushed to the side.

But please don’t do that when these things come your way.  They are truly gifts from people like the “other” Mary, whoever that was.  Please enjoy them – play with them a while – put aside your cross and celebrate their love a bit.  I don’t know what form they’ll come in:  they’re like Happy Meal toys, something new and different each time, but worth taking some time out to enjoy and wonder at and play with for a bit before diving back into the salt mines of ministry. Truly that will help, because these little gifts come from some precious gifts that God has given you and me to encourage us in His work – the hearts of His people.

God bless us everyone!

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