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Posts Tagged ‘reading Scripture’

Recently, while taking part in a Christmas carol service, I found myself sitting straight and tall in my seat and automatically taking a deep breath before singing each line. After all, I did not want to gasp for air halfway through—and definitely not halfway through a word as I sometimes hear singers doing on TV and elsewhere. I also tried to sing all the words clearly, even though I was certainly not giving any solo performance. But then I laughed at myself. You see, suddenly I realised that, without any conscious effort on my part, I had slipped back into singing exactly as I had learnt to do over sixty years ago! It all felt so natural—and so wonderfully fulfilling too.

During my middle school years, I belonged to two different choirs. The first was the Queensland Junior Conservatorium Choir which I joined after a nervous audition with the rather scary Director there at the time. In that choir, we learnt so much about the basics of good singing and about performing two-part songs well. The second was the Brisbane Junior Eisteddfod Choir where I ended up in the second soprano section as we sang three-part madrigals, sacred anthems, folksongs and all sorts of other beautiful music. In this choir, I learnt to keep my eyes on the conductor at all times, to listen to the other singers around me and to commit our whole repertoire to memory. We practised long and hard and in a very disciplined way, yet it was all so enjoyable, especially when we staged our own concerts and competed at eisteddfods.

These were the same skills then that popped up all over again, even in a humble little carol service. And I was glad. Perhaps you have experienced something similar in another context—perhaps you may have discovered to your great surprise that you still know how to ride a bike or swim or knit or sew, things you put a lot of effort into learning when very young. What a joy to find you still remember the basics, even if you might be a little rusty on the actual execution of your hard-won skills at this stage!

On the other hand, like me, you may also have other less joyful skills you acquired early on and have honed over the years so that they are second nature now. For me, I suspect they may be things like easily becoming defensive, too readily judging others, finding it difficult to apologise, not caring enough about others—the list goes on. Instead of celebrating these skills and continually resurrecting them, I need to let them disappear forever. And to do that, the best way I have found is to listen to what God says, both in Scripture and directly through the Spirit.

Perhaps you were blessed to learn to do this early on in your life so that it is second nature for you now. Yet this is a lifelong lesson we all need to keep learning, isn’t it? So, in 2023, let’s do exactly this— then faithfully put into practice everything we hear and learn.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22

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P1040079I shocked someone last week by telling them I am usually reading three or four books at any given time.

‘Doesn’t that spoil the whole experience?’ this person asked. ‘And don’t you get mixed up?’

All I can say is it works for me. You see, it all depends on what I feel like reading. If my brain is alert, I will choose a ‘meatier’ non-fiction book such as the one I have just finished—The Discerning Heart by Wilkie and Noreen Au. I loved the many wise insights it contained about the ways God guides us.

If I am a little less alert, I might want to read something that will still give me food for thought but is slightly less ‘meaty’. At the moment, that book for me is Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P Freeman—one I have picked up and put down many times, probably because, although easy to read, it still packs quite a punch!

Then, when I am too tired for non-fiction, it’s time for a novel. Currently, I’m reading Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown, which deals with the spiritual journeys of four women at a retreat centre. But sometimes a novel like this that contains much food for thought is not what I need. So I turn to something lighter, which at the moment is an Ellis Peters mediaeval ‘whodunnit’ featuring Brother Cadfael!

Yet, at the risk of sound trite and obvious, nothing beats my worn, old Bible for me. Whatever my mood and however tired I am, there is always some treasure waiting there in its pages. Today I read Matthew 9, where Jesus goes to see a ruler’s sick daughter in her home. For me, there was something so uplifting and encouraging about the calm, authoritative way Jesus acted here:

When Jesus entered the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd. He said “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. (9:23-25)

Despite the mocking of the grieving, noisy crowd, Jesus went ahead and brought that girl back to life. If Jesus can do that, I found myself thinking, surely he can deal with the relatively small concerns in my life with the same power and love and authority, as I look to him. And surely I too can minister with more of that same power and authority as I rely on God’s Spirit at work in and through me. One little passage of Scripture—yet it contained, for me, both great comfort and strong empowerment.

Yes, I confess I am an incorrigible bookworm. I have enjoyed and learnt much from reading a wide variety of books over the years. And many of their authors, no doubt inspired by the Spirit, have ministered to me deeply. I know too there are many more books out there for me to explore—I keep a ‘wish list’ of those I would like to own one day. On top of that, I even write my own! But that tattered, old Bible of mine still wins hands down. And somehow I think it always will.

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