Old Books

  
I do love old books. I have quite the collection.

True, most of them aren’t in the best of shape and they aren’t probably worth a whole lot, but they have sentimental value for me.

One that I’m looking at right now as I write this is an 1892 Book of Common Prayer that I’ve had for long enough to not be able to remember where I got it or what I paid for it.

I’d love to climb into a time machine and be transported back to 1892, a la H. G. Wells. Since that is not likely to be an option any time soon, I’ll settle for a piece of 1892 in this little prayer book that looks like it’s 123 years old. Like I said, it’s not in the best condition. But it’s mine.

Some old things are good. Old friends and old pets are the best. Just ask my 15-year old feline. Finding old yearbooks and listening to old music can bring back the best memories.

Yeah, I’m old-fashioned. I don’t listen to much current top-40 music or go see the newest movies. I prefer old music and Turner Classic Movies, the channel that shows all the classics.

Maybe, at some point, I’ll find an edition of that 1892 prayer book that’s in better shape than mine is. If that’s the case (and if the price is right), I’ll snatch it right up and add it to my already ridiculous amount of books.

Until then, I’ll handle the one I’ve got with tender love and care. Maybe I should try that with the people who are currently in my life.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to turn off all your smart devices and electronics and go somewhere small and quiet and actually read a book. You know, the one with actual pages that you turn by hand. Those kind.

Try it sometimes.

 

Free Stuff

“Hope of all hopes, dream of our dreams,
    a child is born, sweet-breathed; a son is given to us: a living gift.
And even now, with tiny features and dewy hair, He is great.
    The power of leadership, and the weight of authority, will rest on His shoulders.
His name? His name we’ll know in many ways—
    He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Dear Father everlasting, ever-present never-failing,
Master of Wholeness, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6, The Voice).

I confess. I love free stuff.

I periodically go by the Brentwood Public Library where they have two bookshelves off the front lobby to the right where they put all the books and other media that they can’t for whatever reason take.

I always look for hidden treasures there. Mostly, it’s old VHS tapes and 80’s-era computer manuals and other equally useful items.

Every now and then, I do find something worthwhile. A few months back, I found a 1945 Book of Common Prayer in more or less decent shape. Win.

I also like to look through the bins in front of McKay’s Used Books, Movies, Music, and So Much More Store (which isn’t really the name, but what it should be named).

Again, there’s a reason a lot of these got discarded and left behind. Still, every now and then, I can find some really cool stuff. Like the last time I was there, I found three Christmas CDs that I’ve added to my already astounding and amazing collection.

The best gift of Christmas was also free. It came in the unlikeliest of places– in a stone manger inside of a barn on the outskirts of the little town of Bethlehem. It came wrapped not in a fancy package with ribbons and bows aplenty, but in a worn-out cloth.

That gift was Emmanuel. God downsized into human flesh, infant flesh, born ultimately to be the ultimate sacrifice for you and for me.

The gift wasn’t free to God. It cost Him everything. But the gift is free to you and me. The only problem with a gift– any gift– is that it doesn’t become yours until you take it. So will you?

This Christmas, don’t get so distracted by the gifts under the tree that you miss the best gift in the manger.

The end.

The One Thing

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“Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Christ our Lord. Amen” (from The Book of Common Prayer).

“Purity of heart is to will one thing” (Sören Kierkegaard).

“Blessed are those who are pure in heart—they will see God” (Matthew 5:8).

Martha, Martha, Martha. Bless her heart.

She’s too busy doing things for Jesus to spend time with Jesus.

Sound familiar?

She’s playing the part of the dutiful hostess and making sure all the guests’ glasses are filled and the hors’ d’oeuvres are replenished and the dishes are clean. She’s feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all and decides to vent her frustrations.

What does Jesus do?

Does He scold her for her impertinence? Does He lay into her for interrupting Him and making demands of the Son of God?

Not hardly.

He reminds her of what’s important. Of what really matters.

Mary has chosen to be near Him, to sit at His feet. That’s the only place in the room that matters.

Too often, I can find time for anything and everything but spending time with Jesus. That always ends up sliding down my list of priorities until I find myself at the end of the day with good intentions and no results.

Most of that to-do list can wait. Some of it can be left undone. What cannot be left off or undone is being in a place where Jesus can speak to you. For Jesus’ words are life. They are more vital than bread.

So make it your goal to carve out 15 minutes from your day for quiet contemplation and reflection. Even 5. Make time and space in your life to hear what Jesus wants to say to you.

And the truth is that Jesus doesn’t want to scold you. He doesn’t want to berate you.

He wants to remind you of something you’ve forgotten. He wants to remind you that you are still after all this time the Beloved, the apple of God’s eye. He wants you to know that there is a better life than you have ever known. He wants you to know it’s never too late to come back home.

So that’s your assignment for the week.

 

Translating My Prayers

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I had a friend from Romania who attended Kairos with her new husband of four months. Since he’s not quite as adept at English as she is, she interpreted most of the Kairos service for him. It was a beautiful thing to see.

Then a light bulb went off in my head. That’s what the Holy Spirit does for me when I pray. I don’t mean that God needs an interpreter to understand my Southern dialect of English, but sometimes my prayers don’t even have words. Sometimes all I have are sighs and groans that are too deep for words, raw emotions that I can’t figure out, much less give voice to.

That’s where the Holy Spirit takes over. Even when I’m praying what I think God wants to hear, the Holy Spirit is inside me praying what’s really in my heart and on my mind. Even if that is anger toward God or frustration with how I think he’s guiding me.

Sometimes in prayer, thoughts come unbidden to my mind that I’m afraid to pray. Or at least I’m tempted to spiritualize so that they sound more Christian. Through the Holy Spirit, God sees beyond my Christian-ese and my thees and thous to the real words I can’t (or won’t) pray.

As I’ve said before, I’m so glad God didn’t give me 90% of what I asked for. He may not have caused that certain girl to fall in love with me, but he gave me something much better. He gave me Himself and an overwhelming sense of a more perfect Love that no human could ever give me.

He may not  have given me riches, but He’s helped me to see how richly blessed I am and how much I have to be truly thankful for.

Sometimes, I go to The Book of Common Prayer when I don’t have words of my own. I’ve used The Liturgy of the Hours recently as well. Some of Henri Nouwen’s prayers have felt like they were my own prayers said better than I could ever say them. Sometimes, all I have is “Lord, help” and “Thank you, Lord.” Even my silence before God is a form of prayer for that is often when I can finally hear Him speaking to me.

So if all you fail to get anything else out of all I’ve written, get this. God wants to hear from you. He doesn’t want pretty words or perfect theology or even coherent sentences. He wants you, all of you. Every bit of joy and pain, hurt and triumph, sorrow and happiness. He wants everything that’s on your heart and on your mind.

This comes from one ragamuffin trying to tell all the other ragamuffins out there where to find the best Bread out there. That’s all.