Monday, September 17, 2012

He Kissed His Hymnal and Slammed It Shut

I didn’t even see it myself. Someone told me after worship on Sunday how much it touched her heart. Just hearing about it, I was brought to tears and it’s been resonating in my mind. Often a serendipitous worship moment fills my heart with joy.

One of the many, many wonderful ministries of the church I serve is our Good Neighbor Fellowship. They reach out each month to 40 or 50 Birmingham area adults with mental challenges. I love to visit them at their monthly dinners, the annual Birmingham Barons game, and their Christmas party. I’ve never, ever seen such excitement when Santa walks in!

Since I came to Saint Mark last year, two of the delightful men from Good Neighbor Fellowship joined our church and they just love to come. They are part of a Sunday School class created especially for them and others with special needs. They come to Men’s Breakfast and sing in the Men’s Chorus at 8:30 each month. And they sing with joy and enthusiasm … though neither of them are actually able to read. They wave and they smile. And I remember how truly grateful I am to be a part of a church who strives to welcome all of God’s children with unconditional love. It blesses us all.

On Sunday, after we considered our commitment to become a Christian and many came to renew their vow to be a follower of Christ, we sang the old hymn “I Surrender All.” One of these dear friends had his hymnal open and sang his heart out. When he was done, he kissed the pages of his hymnal and slammed it shut.

I wish I had seen it myself, because for at least one person who told me about it, it was a holy moment. In his own way, he says yes to God and surrenders his heart to the holy one who created all of us.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

God Before Us

I realized that I have not included one of my hymns on the list of publications found in the right column of my blog.

I composed the tune and text of "God Before Us" which emphasizes the immanence of God's grace.

The music can be found by clicking the link to the General Board of Discipleship Worship Website.

The text is below.

“God Before Us”

God, before us as we seek,
Yours the path, our guiding.
Word, our lamp and light of day,
Show your will abiding.

God, behind us as we walk,
Make our way unswerving.
Hands and lips in concert sing,
Into freedom serving.

God, below us as we fall,
Weakened knee, our binding.
Race ahead, we take our cross,
Strength in weakness finding.

God, above us as we reach,
Yours the earth our grounding.
With creation, lift our praise,
Guide our understanding.

Copyright 1994 by Stephen P. West, all rights reserved

Monday, September 3, 2012

Finding Your Voice

As I write, I am taking it easy on Labor Day. I really was planning on biking this morning, but the rain last night (and sleeping late after my daughter’s birthday party) compelled me to stay inside. So far, it’s been a good day. As I relax, at the same time I am thinking of how much I appreciate the opportunity to work, not just to pay the bills but to do something with my life that makes a difference.

Labor Day came about in the late 1800’s after a labor union strike where a number or workers were killed at the hands of the government. President Cleveland sought reconciliation with the union chief, and congress unanimously approved rush legislation to make Labor Day a national holiday. It had, however, for years been developing in various states as a reflection of the strength of the American worker.

The day has become a relaxing rite of passage at the end of summer, a great day to go shopping, a time to put away my new seersucker in the closet, and an afternoon to fire up the grill. This is what Labor Day is about, but there is so much more. It is about celebrating work as an expression of the human spirit.

Today, I am pondering Christianity’s unique understanding of work. For Christians, life is not about toiling hard to get the rewards you deserve. It’s not about success, achievement, or getting ahead. We operate instead from the larger vision of being part of the body of Christ. Our work reflects how we fit in to what the Spirit is doing in our broken world.

The word vocation comes from a root word meaning a “calling” or “summons”. For Christians, our occupation is not a choice but a response to the designs of the Holy Spirit, who imparts gifts on God’s people. I am reading a book by spiritualist Parker Palmer called “Let Your Life Speak,” the title reflecting a Quaker phrase. Christian understanding of work is rooted in the spirituality of the incarnation … our task is to be the hands and feet of Christ, an expression of God’s love in the world. Life is not just about working hard but about being the presence of Christ for others. In short, it’s about finding your voice.  It’s about living a life beyond desires for your own happiness and security, with a higher purpose in mind. Each of us find our voice in the world, and every voice needs to be heard.

The concept of a calling is not just for clergy. Each of us discovers joy when we let our soul speak its own truth. The Christian concept of vocation is at odds with popular attitudes about self-actualization and following one's dreams. Our vocation is a gift of God, not a goal to achieve.

How are you letting your life be an expression of God’s desires for you? How are you letting your life speak, unfolding the gifts and passions God has placed in you?

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20