Keep Silence Before Him

“The LORD is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him.” Habakkuk 2:20 (BCP)

I cannot begin to describe the importance that silence has taken on in my life. My first experience with intentional silence came from solo hiking trips in the Sipsey Wilderness located in the Bankhead National Forest near Haleyville. Although I fail to take regular days off from my hyper activity often enough, Sandra and I have been able to take an annual extended silent retreat each year for the past decade or so. We choose the Abbey of Gethsemani monastery near Bardstown, KY as the location for our retreat.

www.monks.org

We usually try to go in the Spring and if we catch the season at the right time the grounds and surrounding forests are bursting with the new life of blossoms and greenery.

I came across this article from 2012 on an Episcopal monastery in Cambridge. I do not know anything else about this monastery, but the fact that they understand and encourage silence in today’s over stimulated culture is reassuring. When it comes to seeking to better understand and practice the spiritual disciplines, I am able to look past many differences of doctrine and other values.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/14/us/a-refuge-silent-enough-to-hear-gods-whisper.html?_r=0

I am usually able to spend at least a few minutes each morning enjoying the quiet at our church before diving into the business of the day. And since my car radio does not have an antenna I have learned to enjoy the quiet of my drive time. Each of these daily activities has helped to lessen the distraction and noise in my life. May you seriously consider how you can reduce the noise in your life and seek out places and practices that enable you to better hear the voice of the One who alone is able to bring calm and peace into your life.

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A Letter to God

Monday, June 16, 2014

Dear Father,
I want to thank you for the work you have done and continue to do in my life. I can remember that night when you drew me to a prayer rail and I repented of my sins and surrendered my life to you, back in the 3rd grade. I was barely old enough to know what sin was but I knew I wanted your love and forgiveness to wash me clean. It has been a long journey in my eyes but to you it has only been a day or even just a few minutes. In some ways I feel that I have learned so much but in other ways I seem to have made very little progress. You know better than I do.

I am so thankful for my parents and family, my little Pentecostal church family, and for the 20 centuries of men and women whose faith made it possible for me to have the great blessing of meeting you and starting on this path beaten hard by their footsteps.

I have some vivid memories of times when you touched me and I felt your power in every bit of my being. I didn’t always know or understand what you were accomplishing but I always felt revived and renewed and my hope was heightened by those baptisms in the fire of the Spirit. May you once again choose to rain down your love and grace over me until I am totally undone. I have learned how quickly I forget. I forget how strong your love is toward me.

Most of all, Lord, I desire to know You, not just to know more about You. I pray you will continue through your grace to remove the obstacles that hinder me from a closer relationship, from a more certain commitment to trust You in every situation. Stoke the flame of Your love that burns within me so that it may purge all the dross from my being.

I ask these things through your grace and in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. – Ronnie

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My 2nd poem

Hearing Clearly

The gift was received amid much ado
Joy and gladness abound
The contrast was so stark
From out of darkness into the light

The bar was elevated to such a height
So much had changed
So much lighter
Nothing to fear, all is well
Only believe

With the passing of time
Feelings subdued
The road became steep
The pace slowed down
Entangled again

Doubt and worry came in uninvited
Strength was scarcely to be found
Anxiety gave birth to fear
That all was lost

Then the voice of one crying in the wilderness
Amid the din of noise
Faint oracles swelled until
His beckoning was clearly heard

 
Hold on, wait patiently, don’t give up
Your Redeemer lives
And His desire is for your whole heart
He will rescue and deliver
For He delights in you

What is now a flickering ray
He will kindle into a fire
That cannot be quenched
Till it has achieved the goal
Of the upward call of God in Christ in you

Rest in His caring provision and grace
He strengthens the feeble
He feeds the hungry with
Bread of life and gives
Living water to those who thirst

Cease striving and Know
That He is God
And He is Good

 

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What are these stones for? Josh 4:6

Cornerstone Band

There are a growing number of churches today with names like “Desperation Church” and “Ardent Church”. I only had a vague feeling of what ardent means so I looked it up, “enthusiastic or passionate”; “characterized by intense feeling”. Not bad. I like it. And I have always had a bent toward anything or anyone who seemed to be on the fringe of the church, as on the leading edge, avant-garde. I associate the great revivalist of the past with that type of image, Count Nicholas Zinzendorf and the Moravians, Charles and John Wesley, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Finney, Evan Roberts and the Welsh revival, D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday, William Booth, and many more on  up to modern day evangelists. In my personal experience, I believe this bent drew me to the Christian rock and contemporary Christian artist of the 80’s.

Especially to those groups who never made it into the big leagues and were playing in coffee houses and any other venue that was open to them. And to those artists whose music and message had a prophetic edge like a group called Servant and, of course, Keith Green.

As I have grown older, however, I have come to realize that along with passion and fervency, there is also a great need for consistency and stability. Revivals come and go, and oh how I hope to see another great outpouring in my lifetime, but the presence of the Lord is with us day by day, week by week, and season by season. And one thing that the liturgy and sacraments do well is to teach us how God works through ordinary things in ordinary ways for ordinary people during ordinary times.

So we need to have some markers down, some memorials to go spend some time beside, that remind us of those life-changing events, when the power of God or His providence moved in our lives in epic ways. We need to celebrate those who went before us and whose prayers have helped shape our lives. And we need to enter into our daily and weekly acts of worship, the liturgy, which has been hammered out by the church through the anvil of time and repetition, in order to remember He is with us each step of the journey and to experience His presence anew. Now that I find myself in the role of a pastor, I am so thankful that I do not feel the pressure or responsibility to somehow try to move my congregation, through an emotional appeal, to experience some spiritual epiphany each time we come together to worship. I trust that the Holy Spirit will speak to us what we need to hear as we worship through the word and the sacraments.

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49 weeks from now . . .

Fr Ronnie Christmas Eve

49 Weeks from Now . . .

“John Calvin, once again, remarked, ‘For as the surest source of destruction to men is to obey themselves, so the only haven of safety is to have no other will, no other wisdom, than to follow the Lord wherever he leads. Let this, then, be the first step, to abandon ourselves, and devote the whole energy of our minds to the service of God.’ With these words he simply restated the basic point of view of Christ’s people through the ages.”

Willard, Dallas (2011-12-21). Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the 
Character of Christ with Bonus Content (Designed for Influence) (p. 63). 
Navpress. Kindle Edition.

I have come to see that one of the greatest pitfalls for some within the Charismatic movement is the emphasis we place on “being led by the Spirit”, which in most cases is more like, “being led by my feelings”. My feelings are all over the place these days. I guess it has always been like that for me, although I usually do a pretty good job of keeping them hidden.

Steady, reliable, consistent, those are adjectives people use to describe me. Oh my, if they only knew. Sandra knows, more than anyone else. “To have no other will than to follow the Lord wherever He leads.” That really is my desire. Now to develop the discipline to apply that ‘rule’ in my day to day life, in my financial decisions, and in my choices and commitments, that is another thing altogether because it forces me to relinquish the delusion that I am somehow in control.

I am seeing more and more the wisdom and stability that come from the classic spiritual disciplines. I remember Bishop Chuck sharing one time that back when the year 1999 was coming to a close, someone asked him what he would do if the Y2K catastrophe was as bad as some feared it would be. His reply was something like, “I’m not sure but I do know I will start with Morning Prayer.”

When Jeremy was 8 years old, I quit my job and loaded up the family and moved to Dallas so I could attend Christ for the Nations. I wanted to devote myself to study and prayer and was seeking God as to the future direction He was calling us to. Upon graduation, Sandra and I felt certain that we were to return to our hometown and work alongside a pastor and congregation who had a heart to preach the gospel and to reach out to those who were suffering. Sandra has always not only been willing to follow me but has also done everything within her power to encourage and support me. I would not have been able to press on without her beside me. We did not dream that I would end up a bi-vocational priest and pastor, but are confident that this is the Lord’s doing.

We haven’t always got it right, but we have never given up. We continue to strive to seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness. Now that Jeremy and Kandy have chosen to devote themselves to taking the gospel to the unreached tribes of PNG, we pray for them to experience even more of His faithfulness as they follow the Lord wherever He leads them.

I plan to post some additional comments over the next year as Sandra and I work our way through this experience in hopes that it may encourage some others who are considering God’s call upon their life for full-time service, or if your children decide they are called to serve in foreign lands.

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50 weeks from now . . .

fire 

I have a burning desire to  . . ..

 

How would you fill out the rest of that statement?

 

I have been pondering that concept for several days. In fact, I wrote a poem along that line this week. Yep, a poem. The first one ever for me to write that wasn’t under compulsion for an English class.

 

Actually the poem is not so much about a specific desire but just the fact that every man and woman is created with a deep desire to do or experience something significant.

 

Here it is :

 

Light My Fire

 

There was once a lyricist who composed

eighty verses to his song

And I wonder what it was

he could not say?

 

There is a fire in each us

Given for our good

A spark of desire

that cannot be quenched

 

It fuels the quest

we daily embark on

Seeking the tinder

 to turn the ember into flame

 

So choose with care

What tinder you add

For there is danger

A threat of harm

When wayward trophies we collect

 

For what you thought was gold

will soon become

The fuel for flame

beyond control

Wild fire that destroys

Burning bridges and so much more

 

There is a fire tender

Who you can trust

In whose hands the glowing ember

Will burst forth

Into passion for good

And not for evil

 

For though the darkness

Is ever present

There is a Light

From a consuming fire

That warms your heart

And illuminates the path forward

 

Restless, distracted, or bored

Until the flame is glowing strong

Then all will turn to see

What drives the one in whom

The fire has been ignited

 

          By Ronnie Sanders  Dec 11, 2012

 

Inspired by:

“There are fires for warming, and fires to comfort men.

 In Your comfort I’ve been sleeping. Give me burning zeal again!”

Holy Fire, by Morgan Cryar – 1984

 

Anyone who has spent any time around Jeremy and Kandy for the past few years can bear witness that there is a fire burning strong in their soul. A fire that was kindled by the fire tender that created them, redeemed them, and has directed them to spend the rest of their life telling His story.

 

And that is a good thing. Praise be to God from whom all blessings flow!

 

I plan to post some additional comments over the next year as Sandra and I work our way through this experience in hopes that it may encourage some others who are considering God’s call upon their life, or if your children decide they are called to serve in foreign lands.

 

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51 weeks from now . . .

51 weeks from now . . .

Sam 2 yr old B

Sam when we were getting to know each other.

Sam was our first grandchild. We are proud of the way he has responded to the call his parents have accepted for their family. He will turn 17 the January after they arrive in PNG. He has already visited Haiti, Mexico, a country in North Africa (where missionaries are not allowed and converts to Christianity face severe persecution and possible death), and PNG on short term mission trips. He goes running and cycling with Jeremy and loves to play soccer. Sam is also learning to play the guitar.

Today is December 6th. 33 years ago today, my Dad, Barney Lee Sanders, was driving an 18 wheeler and was involved in an accident and died at the scene. I was 23 years old and Jeremy was 2 ½ yrs old at the time. Nicole was 2 months away from entering into this world. I have always wondered how different our lives would have been if Barney had not died that day. He loved Jeremy and would get down on the floor and play with him the entire time we were visiting their home. And he was so excited about having a granddaughter since there was only me and my brother and he was an only child. Nicole would have been the first baby girl for him to make a fuss over. I know his sudden and unexpected death has affected my life in many ways, probably more in my later years, maybe contributing to my willingness to take more risks than I would have otherwise, and to strive toward being fully alive. And I would hope, an awareness that each day that we are given is a gift to be treasured.

John 12:24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (ESV)

During an email exchange with Jeremy, regarding Jeremy and Kandy’s announcement of their plans for departure from the U.S. next December [to go live in Papua New Guinea to support the effort to take the Gospel to the unreached tribes living in the remote regions of the island], Jeremy said, “As we seek to identify with Christ, it is only when a seed falls into the ground and dies that there will be fruit. There isn’t a separate calling for those who go and those who are at home. It’s not a special calling for those who go. It’s just a separate function. We are all called to fall into the ground and die for the sake of the harvest. I say this to acknowledge that your part in our story is just as hard and painful. Our families will have to die a death every day as we are separated by thousands of miles. It will be hard, and yet at the end by the power of the Spirit in us, we will all say it was no sacrifice at all.”

http://toeverytribeblog.com/2012/11/interview-with-to-every-tribe-trainee-we-dont-see-ourselves-as-exceptionally-brave-or-courageous/

David Sitton, who is the founder of To Every Tribe Ministries and leader of the Center for Pioneer Church Planting, often says in regards to possible martyrdom, “Jesus is worth it.”

These things we know in our head. There are times when I can fully embrace these plans and feel a deep and abiding peace about it all. And then there are still times when the very thought of seeing my only son and his family move to a somewhat primitive culture so far away from us threatens to tear my heart into pieces.

My prayer today is, “Father of every good and perfect gift, fill us with your peace and give us the grace we need to trust you more. Prepare Jeremy and Kandy for the challenges that lie before them and empower them to make disciples that will in turn be faithful to preach the Gospel. Provide for their every need. Fill our hearts with compassion and love for those who have never heard of your unconditional love and the salvation your love has provided for all who believe.”

The Lord is always at work to challenge us and provide us opportunities to embrace the cry of John the Baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30. May it be so in our lives this week, Lord.

I plan to post some additional comments over the next year as Sandra and I work our way through this experience in hopes that it may encourage some others who are considering God’s call upon their life, or if your children decide they are called to serve in foreign lands.

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