Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Hummingbird and the Hawk



The rising sun peeks through my hermitage window calling me to come out and play, to put down my beloved books and come read Saint Augustine’s ‘Book of Nature’. So I close my Psalter and journal and lace up my old, beat-up Hoka One One running shoes for a morning jog along the backroads and turnrows of the farming community I call home. At this stage in life my running pace is not much faster than a walk but I’m okay with this since it opens up space for me to enjoy God’s creation as I train my mind and body to be ready to answer ‘yes’ when the Spirit calls me off on another adventure. About a mile into the run I noticed a hawk soaring on the early morning thermals above the ripening cornfields. This sight brings a smile to my face and the memory of a time long ago when the Holy Spirit taught me an important life lesson from another soaring hawk.

I was with one of our first volunteer teams serving in the remote mountain villages of western Honduras. God was just beginning to adumbrate this ministry which, later this week, we named Extreme Missionary Adventures.  We had just hiked over Cerro Las Minas, the highest peak in Honduras, stopping for a water break in a clutch of trees with a priceless view of the verdant valley spread before us. I dropped my backpack, sat against a tall pine, and took in the sight before me as I drained another Nalgene of cool mountain stream water. The sylvan mountainside, the fertile valley of lush cornfields and banana plantations, the sparkling river luminous in the sun, the quaint little town of Belen Gaulcho with its jumble of brightly colored houses and red tile roofs, the ubiquitous white Catholic Church prominent on the town square. And then I noticed a ‘Honduran hawk’ soaring high above the valley. Spellbound, I watched for many long minutes envying his freedom and his view. I half-jokingly asked the Lord, “Why can’t I fly like that and see this view from so high above?” as I daydreamed of parasailing over the valley. The Spirit, seizing the teaching opportunity, quickly responded, “This bird can only soar because he was willing to let go of the security of the tree branch. If you want to soar to the heights I have for you, you too must let go of the things you are holding on to for security.” This lesson has stuck with me over the years helping me find the courage to follow wherever Christ leads, helping me to say ‘yes’ to the many adventures that have made my life so abundant.

These happy thoughts put a little spring in my step so I kick up the pace a notch. At about mile three I notice a hummingbird flitting around some morning glories on the ditch bank. This too brings a smile as I watch her bounce from one flower to the next with hardly a pause.  I love watching hummingbirds but they rarely stay in one place long enough to get a good look. She stays in my mind as I plod on down the road thinking about the difference between the hummingbird and the hawk. I’ve read that hummingbirds use 90% of their energy just seeking more food. That the frantic pace of their existence keeps them just hours from starvation at all times. That they have to go into torpor, a hibernation like state, nightly to conserve energy.

Contrasting this I think of the hawk floating effortlessly on the powerful, invisible winds of God. He appeared calm and graceful circling high above waiting for God to provide his breakfast. Hawks exhibit a monk-like patience in everything that they do. It’s common in our area to see hawks sitting on power lines for hours just watching life go by, patiently observing the world around them, silently waiting for God to provide a meal. He heeds His creator’s instructions better than I, “Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”

If we’re not careful the world can lure us into living hummingbird lives, into frantically expending our lives chasing after more and more, into letting our eyes and our minds flit from smart phone to tablet to computer screen as we drift into torpor. Like the hummingbird many of these things we chase after seem essential to life but, perhaps, if we slowed our pace we would not require as much just to live. Perhaps we would find an unexpected peace and calm if we emulated the hawk’s slower more thoughtful life. Perhaps if we stopped our striving we would find that God revels in supplying our need, that he takes pleasure in our desire to simply sit in his presence, that we might quite possibly accomplish more by doing less.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Leave a Little Room

Let us leave a little room for reflection in our lives, room too for silence.  Let us look within ourselves and see whether there is some delightful hidden place inside where we can be free of noise and argument.  Let us hear the Word of God in stillness and perhaps them we will then come to understand it.
     - Augustine of Hippo

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Force of the Human Being...



The force of the human being is prayer… To pray is to breathe alongside God. To pray is to give your life to God and to dedicate it to him. To pray is to place your trust in God.
     — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Bonhoeffer taught his students that time alone with God in prayer is the very foundation of our life in Christ and our ministry to the world. And he told them, “The Psalter is the greatest school of prayer.”   At a one-day PrayerReach guided, silent prayer retreat you will learn how to breathe alongside God as Bonhoeffer taught. We will explore breath prayers from the Psalter and other Scripture as a way to ‘pray without ceasing’.

Our first retreat will be Saturday, September 19 at the beautiful Biedenharn Garden and Museum in Monroe Louisiana. Go to PrayerReach.org for more information and other dates and cities. While there you can also request a FREE copy of Monty Peregrine’s book PrayerReach – ‘Withnessing’ Among the Unreached.

Friday, August 21, 2015

3MPH God



Our PrayerReach team got a little break in the Southeast Asian monsoon rains about 9 o’clock this morning so we went for a walk through a few nearby villages. As we approached Yaung Myi village we could see quite a commotion going on at the monastery. Tinny music blared from the monastery loudspeakers as a very long line of crimson-robed, barefoot monks processed clockwise around the temple. Brightly dressed village women ladled heaping spoons of rice into their alms bowls while the young men of the village walked along beside the monks carrying large wicker baskets suspended on bamboo poles — two-to-the-basket — reminiscent of the biblical spies bringing the grape clusters back from the Promised Land. The baskets quickly filled with other foodstuffs – cooking oil, seasoning, bottles of soy sauce, and sundry other foodstuffs. Soe, a local primary school teacher, seeing our inquisitiveness explained, “This is the Festival of Waso Celebration. It happens only once a year on the full moon in July. There are over 300 monks living at this monastery.”

Being here in Yaung Myi this morning among all these monks slowly walking around the temple, among all the villagers who walked to the celebration from their homes, and among the men walking away with the collected goods reminds me of Japanese missionary and theologian Kosuke Koyama’s essay Three Mile an Hour God. In this essay Koyama elucidates how when God came to earth in human form he moved along at three miles per hour, the speed of walking. How at this pace Jesus truly saw and interacted with the people around him. How Jesus was never in a rush to ‘convert’ the people he encountered. Koyama contrasts this with how “we live today an efficient and speedy life.” We want results and we want them now so that we can quickly move on to the next thing. Koyama posits, and I agree, that our western need for efficient and speedy results is the main reason western missionaries have been so ineffective in planting sustainable, Christ-centered churches within relational cultures of Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

But Koyama says, “I find God goes ‘slowly’ in his educational process of man.” And as he is closing his essay he adds, “God walks slowly because he is love. If he is not love he would have gone much faster. Love has its speed. It is an inner speed. It is a spiritual speed. It is a different kind of speed from the technological speed to which we are accustomed. It is ‘slow’ yet it is Lord over all other speeds since it is the speed of love.”

The Holy Spirit led our PrayerReach team to walk to Yaung Myi at just the right time to be with all of these monks and villagers as their hearts and minds were turned toward spiritual matters. Our PrayerReach team’s three mile-per-hour pace allowed us to ‘withness’ at the pace of their lives rather than ours.