I have been thinking about worship. What does it mean to worship. Jesus told the Samaritan woman in His discussion with her about true worship that true worshipers must worship in spirit and truth. This is the kind of worshipers God seeks. “God is a spirit, and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
I want to be one of those He seeks.
I know my “truth” is in order. My doctrine is sound and in line with that of my church. I quote my ministry doctrine statement: “We believe the Bible to be inspired, the only authoritative Word of God. We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and His personal return in power and glory. We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential. We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose in-dwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life. We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ. We believe God is a God of redemption and restoration available to all.”
All of that is in order. But what about the spirit? Do I worship in spirit? The answer may determine how you define “spirit”. For this discussion I am not going to assume a worship team, repetitive choruses, speaking in tongues, speaking prophecies. That’s not what I am talking about when I talk about worship. I’m not talking liturgy, the Church calendar, the Eucharist, kneeling, and ancient creeds. I am not talking organs and old hymns out of a hymn book.
It’s not the style of worship that determines our worship. But the spirit. Not the Holy Spirit – though He is very much involved. It is our spirit I am talking about.
When we leave the house on Sunday morning where is our head? Have we just had a family row trying to get there on time? Do we turn on our radio to a Christian station to begin to quiet our hearts for the morning. But if they aren’t playing “our” kind of music, we get annoyed put in our own CD that suits us. (individual vs. community) When we arrive and don’t see someone we know well we feel awkward and just sit down. We bow to pray – but are we just trying to look pious? (hypocrite!)
The service starts and we participate but don’t enter in. The announcements are given and distract us for a moment – none of them concern us so our mind begins to wander. (diversion.) Things that didn’t seem so important an hour earlier now seem urgent. The pastor mentions those that need our prayers for one reason or another – we say a quick prayer for each or as a group. Dispatch it off our list.
Then the pastor begins the “Pastoral prayer”. We begin to mentally make shopping lists, think of friends we need to contact – our minds wanders down any number of unnecessary paths. When the service is over, we go about our day and by dinner may have forgotten all about the message.
Does any of this sound familiar? Are you as guilty as I am?
Like I said, for worship, style is not the issue, the spirit is. Are we just a “place keeper” in the chair at church?
Where is our spirit? Not only on Sunday morning but during the week as we go about our tasks. Do we worship God with our spirits?
What does that mean? I am sure more knowledgeable people could give a better answer but to me it means “focused”, “undivided”. But that does not mean we sit all day to read and pray – we don’t have those kind of schedules. We must be realistic. We have busy, hectic lives.
For me, it means to be aware of Him first thing in the AM – give Him my day. Kneel beside my bed, acknowledge Him as my God and ask Him to make me a blessing to those I encounter. Be aware of Him during the day – you don’t have to stop what you are doing to be mindful of Him. Breathe Him in. Ask His Spirit to renew yours – remember David asked God to, “renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
During the service this weekend we had communion. As my dear pastor was blessing the elements, he quoted Jesus when He said to his disciples, “This is my body broken for you…” All of a sudden those familiar words hit me like a sledgehammer. All of a sudden, my spirit was fully engaged. I love it when God breaks into my heart and life!
I want Him to do that more often. Do you?
So many of us face a Thanksgiving with one missing from the table. I have a dear Aunt Rosa who was a blessing to our family but recently went to Heaven. We wouldn’t want her back but we will miss her terribly – not just now but, in the days, months, years to come.
I read this a while back and wanted to pass it on to you – to all of you that have an empty place at the table this Thanksgiving. May we pause and think of all the blessings that remain.
May God grant you His peace and comfort.
There are loved ones missing
From the fireside and the feast;
There are faces that have vanished
There are voices that have ceased;
And we know they passed forever
From our mortal grief and pain –
And we thank Thee, Heavenly Father,
For the blessings that remain.
Thanksgiving, Oh, Thanksgiving!
That their love once blessed us here,
That so long they walked beside us,
Sharing every smile and tear;
For the joy the past has brought us,
But can never take away -
The sweet and gracious memories
Growing dearer every day;
For the Faith that kept us patient -
Looking at the things, unseen,
Knowing Spring will follow Winter,
And the earth again be green;
For the hope of that glad meeting
Far from mortal grief an dapin;
We thank Thee, Oh our Father
For the blessings that remain.
Have a wonderful Thanskgiving.
As promised…but can you believe, I don’t have any!? I did not take picture one! And the ones my daughter took I can’t seem to upload. ARRUGH.
There were 900 people there! Most I did not know. It was frustrating to see so many I did know and love but was unable to talk with. Like a gigantic wedding reception…wonderful, dear friends, but couldn’t get round to them. As you can imagine the security was tight and just to go to my father’s table to wish him a happy birthday brought scowls from the security folks who did not know me. Ask me if I care.
As soon as I stepped off the elevator I was greeted warmly by Jan Karon. I hadn’t seen her in years! She looks ever prettier than ever – so warm and gracious. From then on it was person after person to hug and greet – special folks – by and large.
Lots of family but so many members had not been included for some reason – I missed the Charlotte cousins and Dallas contingent. But I was not asked about the guest list! It was fun to see the next generation of cousins enjoy each other. It is a good bunch. Yes, there is an odd ball or two (as in every family) but by and large a really enjoyable, fun group. We definitely missed the ones who were not there.
I loved having my kids with me. My son actually wore a suit!! My girls looked beautiful. All three were poised, gracious, attentive – and themselves. They don’t “put on airs”. Windsor drove all the way down from Philadelphia and Todd took “daddy duty” so she could be there. Yea Todd! Windsor drove a far as Virginia, spent the night and picked up her sister so they could drive down together. Good “sister time”.
There were many dear people there – the press mentioned the notables but there were sweet friends who quietly serve the Lord in obscure places. When we get to Heaven they will be the ones on the front row. Jesus Himself will honor them.
I was somewhat distracted as I was launching a new business that weekend in Bristol, VA. I had done 3 interviews that day. We left Bristol at 3:30 to arrive in Asheville by 5:00. I had my business partner, Bobby Griffin, and a sweet friend, Peggy Garvey, with me. We left the hotel by 10:00 and got back into Bristol at 11:30 to start the trade show at 9:00 on Friday which continued through Sunday afternoon. At one point Bobbby came up to me and said, “I want you to meet someone – let’s get a picture”. I looked up and none other than Donald Trump stood there! Bobby snapped a picture and I was able to thank Mr. Trump for honoring my Father for his birthday.
I will definitely let you all know about my new business in the next blog and give you a website. Exciting! We have been slammed with interest and orders. It is something I have worked on for 30-some years! So I am excited.
Two highlights of the evening – other than the video of my precious father and having my kids with me – was the opportunity to meet Glenn Beck and his wife. I invited them to be my guests. Along with two of his assistants. I had never met them, though we had corresponded and shared emails. (Several years ago I arranged for him to have time with my father.) What a lovely couple! He is such a gentle, gracious, humble man. I loved them both. We bemoaned the fact that Virginia voters had not seen the farce of the Libertarian candidate who, in fact, was put up and funded by the Democrats in order to spoil the election. Politics is a dirty business. But in the midst of that Glenn and Tania are warm, loving people who are passionate about this country and the direction it is headed.
Then I spotted Rick Warren who asked if I would take him to greet my father. There was security around Daddy – Rick’s plane was 2 hours late – I can only imagine how frustrated he was. I was delighted to see him and honored that he recognized me! He had a book full of signatures from Saddleback members wishing Daddy a happy birthday. About 35,000 names. After dinner he hung around. We were able to tell him how much we appreciated his candid interview with Piers Morgan on CNN about his son’s illness and suicide. He talked about what God had taught him about his son’s pain and the process of grief. How grateful I am for a man of his stature to talk about mental health – an area ignored by much of the Church.
I drove back to Bristol – adrenaline was pumping. A terrific evening that honored God and my father.
I went to Montreat on Sunday to be with him and wish him a Happy Birthday without a crowd around. He is my hero. I love him and while he did not invite the crowd back for his 100th birthday he said to me, “Maybe my 97th”! Amen!
We celebrate my father’s birthday on Thursday, the 7th. (I’ll post my personal pictures at some point.) There is to be a big party Thursday night in Asheville but there are several parties ahead of time – and one after – he’s going to be partied out! But you don’t turn 95 every day! For him, he may just as soon have a quiet day but I know he loves the excitement and attention, at this age. At one time in his life, he told my Mother about another occasion, “I dread looking forward to it.” Have you ever felt that way, just so tired, pressed, that it sucked the joy out of life? I think Daddy felt that way far too often. When you think of all that he carried…the schedule, pressures, decisions…
I will go to Asheville for the festivities. I have heard that there are between 600-900 guest invited! I don’t think that’s just family! Although we could have that many if we added all the cousins, and all the “second removeds, 3rd removeds” (I don’t follow how that works…) and great-grandchildren and one great-great!! In other words there are a lot of Grahams. By in large, we are a nice lot! There are some I’d rather not go on vacation with but we all seem to have a good sense of humor, love the Lord and are busy contributing. Some I enjoy, some I don’t. Typical family.
We do not sit around praying and reading our Bibles all day. We don’t wear halos. We are really rather ordinary but have an extraordinary relative. That does not make us special – it just makes us different. And Daddy is extraordinary because he has followed God’s call on his life in a single-focused way. Everybody has that opportunity. Most of us slip along the way – I sure did. But my father gave me extraordinary grace. To each one who has slipped, he gives grace. We have had divorces, affairs, unwed pregnancies, drug abuse, jail time…not a pretty picture except that God’s outrageous grace has been our comfort and His faithfulness, our security.
And look at God’s family! What a messy lot we are.
My father is loved around the globe. But nowhere as much as at home. (I think that is a tribute to my Mother. Had she been a bitter person… But no, she was a loving, joyful lady who saw her supporting role as important as his.) His family loves him. He is “Daddy” to his children and “Daddy Bill” to his grandchildren. We will celebrate him and in our memories, my mother. He wouldn’t be who he is without her. He misses her terribly and probably it is exacerbated by any celebration where she is absent. They will be reunited soon in an even greater celebration.
Any celebration we have here on earth is but a shadow of what is to come!! All of glory is ahead!
Today I took what, I hope, will be my last airplane trip for the year! Hooray! I will not miss the smell of AV fuel, the blare of CNN’s talking heads, the chatter of folks on cell phones, the rushing to or from a gate, taking off my shoes, lifting my suitcase…all the unpleasantries of travel.
Last week on my trip back to Virginia from Sacramento I sat in the very last row next to the lavatories in the aisle seat. Has to be the worst seat on the plane! My assistant, Anne, actually gave up that seat to sit in the middle – she can sleep standing up – or, as in this case, sitting up. I cannot. The accompanying odor just from the chemicals was noxious. And every time anyone came down the aisle they bumped me.
Okay, I can deal with all of that. But for 6 hours! After just a few hours, I had a headache from the fumes. Then I got annoyed at all the folks bumping me. After the food service it seemed as if everyone had to go to the toilet! I began to suspect they were just circling around in an endless parade. The fight attendants, who were not very friendly in the “friendly skies”, maybe they’d had a hard day too, let them stand in the aisle 10-12 deep. I didn’t think they were supposed to. (Those of us “in the back” are not allowed to use the first class toilet. Don’t get me started…) And, of course, the flight attendants still had to do their thing so they would squeeze by those in line. Those in line had to move somewhere so they moved into me! Brother! (Remember, I told you I believe each airline has a committee that thinks of ways to make travel more unpleasant? Well, they should get a bonus for that trip!)
About 4 hours into the flight, I got the giggles. I was struck by how absurd it all was. There was not a thing I could do about it! And I was reading an excellent historical novel about, of all things, the Turkish genocide of the Armenians. A good treatment of a very grim event that so few know much about.
As we landed I called my wonderful travel agent in Boston and asked why I had been assigned those seats. She apologized and said she had been trying to get us moved away from the toilets and closer to the front but United was just hard to work with – I don’t have status with them as I do with Delta or USAirways. So I reminded her I would be doing the same trip this week and be sure I got a better seat. She said she had already been working on it.
We were the last to get off the plane and dear Anne’s suitcase wheels had a mind of their own. Like the grocery cart with one weird wheel I always manage to find. Well, we really got the giggles over that! People probably thought we were drunk – laughing, stumbling over this obstinate suitcase, unable to get ourselves together…What a sight!
What a flight! (in the back)
I had a few days home to do my laundry, see my grandkids and repack to go back out to San Diego to speak for the crisis pregnancy center in Escondido. Wonderful event. From there I rented a car and drove up to Riverside to stay with my friends, Tony and Angela Ferraro. He is on my Ruth Graham Ministries board as well as being a good friend and trusted advisor. He and Angela are a dynamic couple with big hearts for ministry. His first book, Killing Cows, is due out before Christmas. I’ll let everyone know. Until then I’ll let you guess what it is about!
Then I attended and participated in the Raw Church Unconference at Sandals Church, Riverside. David Vigil, Blaine Bartel, Ed Gungor, Michael Cheshire, Ted and Gayle Haggard, C.J. Chaung and others were there to discuss the restoration process in the Church for leaders who fail. We discussed race and how to gracefully address that as well as same-sex attraction, among other topics. The conference was a safe place to discuss these sensitive, difficult issues. There was good stuff. What I took away was that it all boils down to “relationship” – with God, each other regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation, religion…and that sin is an opportunity to show God’s grace. We are not called to be judges but to love each other.
I am not talking “woo woo” stuff but hard-core love when it hurts. I’ll write more about this later…but I want to tell you about my flight home…
This morning I was up early to catch my return flight from San Diego. (I drove down from Riverside last night, turned the car in, and got a hotel room and some snacks for supper so I would be close to the airport this AM.) Boy! I am thankful I don’t have to drive in California regularly!
I checked in for my flight but it was going to charge me for my checked luggage. So I had to iron that out – because I have the United credit card I don’t have to pay the fee. But I noticed on the seat chart that I was in the very last row back by the toilets. Again! But this time I was by the window. Land-locked! Brother. I asked the agent if there was a better seat. He said only middle seats were left and the plane was full. I was not happy. But I determined to try to make the best of it. I had a good book in hand. My nut mix and a bottle of water. This trip would only be 4 hours.
I keep telling God I want an airplane but He is not impressed!! And I don’t really want one – just the use of one!!!
A nice man was standing in the back and I asked him if he’d help me put my bag up top. He was more than willing and volunteered that he would help me get it down. I settled into my seat. Soon I realized that he was to be sitting in the aisle seat of my row. We commented that these really were the worst seats on a plane but at least we weren’t walking! Or riding a donkey or in a cart – like so many dear missionaries have to do. We both said we hoped no one was going to sit in the middle seat but it was too good to hope for. He happened to place the book he was reading down on the middle seat – it was written by my nephew – Tullian Tchividjian!
I had to comment! Now, if it had been one by my father, I would not have said anything but “Tchividjian” is a far cry from “Graham” and figured he’d never put the pieces together. I told him Tullian was my oldest sister’s son. He actually hadn’t read Tullian’s biography so didn’t even think of the Graham connection. We chatted as the passengers continued to get settled. Soon we realized no one was going to sit in the middle seat! God is good.
This man, Dave, was on his way back from a surfing trip to Hawaii. He is connected with Campus Crusade and is interested in reaching professors on college campuses. He played soccer for Yale, lives in Northern Virginia, was saved in his mid twenties, has a very tender heart for the things of God, 3 kids and happily married to a lovely wife. It was such a thrill to have sweet fellowship all the way across the country. He had great stories – that I can use for my next book as well as some contacts and resources for my ministry. (It didn’t take him long to put my pieces together and seemed blessed by it. He was really cool about it. Didn’t get all excited but seemed to have a deep appreciation and respect for my father.)
When he texted his wife, she said she had heard Anne, read Gigi’s book Weather of the Heart and had ordered In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart! Small world.
As the flight attendants served the snacks you pay for these days she said she would give them to us since we were in the “crappy” seats. She made up for the flight attendants of last week!!
So that’s what happened as I traveled in the back of the plane!
I was in California past week. That trip will provide many stories in the weeks to come! My goodness! What a full but wonderful week it was. (The travel wasn’t so good – but that’s a whole other story!)
My friend, Don Harris, a member of the Sacramento City Council, invited me to speak to his “3rd Thursday” businessmen’s gathering in Sacramento. Not an ordinary businessmen’s meeting – this one meets at a homeless shelter: Safe Haven. What a miraculous place! It was carved out of a block of warehouses owned by a dear Muslim man, Mohammed. I followed him as he walked among the homeless gathered in a park he provides for them – he knew them all by name, their stories, touched them, greeted their children… He provides a place for them to store their belongings, make phone calls, shower, use the computer, job training… So dear. And he was the one who had approached Don about the need for a place for these folks to worship Jesus!
Two years ago the chapel was just a vision – to see the fruition of the vision was a joy! It is a simple but appropriate place where these dear folks can worship. They have a dedicated chaplain, Joe, who came from the streets and has his own story of redemption. It is so encouraging to see what God is doing downtown Sacramento.
Don had suggested I speak on “integrity in the work place”. I am not a businessman – but I do have a small ministry. I talked about John the Baptist. A man of integrity – even when it cost him his life. He’s a great character and illustration of how we are to live in the face of persecution. (I was reminded yesterday that persecution is at our door: If we oppose abortion what happens? If we decide to close our business on Sunday, what happens? If we voice our belief in the 10 Commandments, what are we called?)
From there I went to Lido, CA. in the middle of wine country to speak for the Pregnancy Resource Center. What an important work they do – love the folks who are committed to ensuring life for every baby…but also, reaching out in love to those who choose differently. So honored to be part of their evening. They transformed a high school gym into an elegant ballroom for about 400 guests. Wonderful evening that was smack dab on time!! Love that!
You know, I am really blessed to be part of what God is doing in the corners – and in between – of this country.
We are in a mess. In a pickle. In Washington. Unfortunately it is a dangerous one – our politicians are skating very close to the edge. We are in over our heads and sinking fast.
A storm is brewing. How will we handle it? Does God even care at this point?
I wrote about Jesus sending the crowds away. We need to send all that crowds and complicates our lives away: worries, tensions, demands, fears, guilt, shame…you name it. These things crowd our hearts and can paralyze us.
But what happened after Jesus sent the crowds away? He sent the disciples ahead of Him to the other side of the lake. He needed the alone time to pray. His cousin John had just been beheaded no doubt He was grieving. Jesus wanted to spend time with His Father. The disciples were experienced fishermen – very familiar with The Sea of Galilee. It was an unpredictable sea: “storms result from differences in temperatures between the seacoast and the mountains beyond. The Sea of Galilee lies 680 feet below sea level. It is bounded by hills, especially on the east side where they reach 2000 feet high. These heights are a source of cool, dry air.
In contrast, directly around the sea, the climate is semi-tropical with warm, moist air. The large difference in height between surrounding land and the sea causes large temperature and pressure changes. This results in strong winds dropping to the sea, funneling through the hills.”
One such storm blew up that day. The boat with the disciples was already far from shore and was “buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.” No doubt they were doing all they could to manage this bucking boat. Trying to man the oars, baling water, shouting at each other, frightened. Wondering, “Where is Jesus? We could use another hand here.”
The Bible tells us just before dawn, perhaps the sky was turning pink on the edges, Jesus went out to them, walking on the water. He knew exactly where they were, even if they didn’t. He knew what was going on. They saw this figure coming towards them and were frightened. They thought he was a ghost! On top of being afraid of the storm and worn out from the struggle against the waves, now they were terrified. Have you noticed how when you are tired, things seem much worse?
Jesus immediately speaks to them to calm their fears.
Peter, being Peter, asks the Lord to tell him to come to Him on the water. Sort of an interesting request, don’t you think? I am quite sure I would prefer the safety of the rocking boat. Peter wanted more of the Lord. Jesus tells Peter to “Come” and Peter got out of the boat onto the water and went toward Jesus. He was headed in the right direction. But he took his eyes off Jesus and in his humanness, the wind – loud, like a train roaring by – the the scripture says he “saw” the wind. We can’t see wind – just the results of what it does. Peter saw the waves, the whitecaps, the bobbing boat he just left.) His fear kicked in, he panicked and began to sink. Uh oh!
In those few seconds did he say to himself, “I was so stupid, what was I thinking? Why didn’t I stay in the boat? I could be safe. Now I am going to drown.” He hollers, “Lord save me.” Jesus simply, calmly reached out and caught him. Jesus asks why Peter doubted and why he had so little faith. The fear Peter experienced, the panic, obliterated his faith. It does the same to us, too.
Then I find it interesting that the Bible tells us, “They climbed into the boat.” Both of them. It was then the wind abated. So they climbed into the rocking boat – that is not easy! Can you see the Son of God, God Himself in human form, grabbing the edge of that boat and hauling Himself in – soggy clothes and all. Jesus was with Peter helping him, being there for him. Even in Peter’s fear. Sogginess. Doubts. Panic.
I am sure over the camp fire that night they must have laughed at themselves. And told the story many times over – the other disciples ribbing Peter.
The point is that Jesus is there for us…in our fears, worries, panic but when we give into them they will hinder our faith. Jesus takes note that as we obey Him we are headed in the right direction. He wants to grow, strengthen, our faith. And He will rescue us.
So when the storm comes, don’t panic. Keep your focus on Him. He has it all under control. Use the scripture to “take every thought captive” so we will not be defeated.
A national storm is coming. Where will your focus be?