Monday Monologues: Sermon on Being Fully Present, August 6, 2018 (podcast)

Stephen W. Hiemstra, www.StephenWHiemstra.net
Stephen W. Hiemstra, 2017

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In today’s podcast, I give a sermon on Being Fully Present. (Originally given in Spanish: Presencia Completa).

To listen, click on the link below.

After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

Monday Monologues: Being Fully Present, August 6, 2018 (podcast)

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/Sabath_2018

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Prayer for a Steady Hand

Target practiceBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

Almighty father,

All glory and honor are yours, Lord,

for you are my fortress

and your presence the hand on my shoulder.

Why do I fear? Why does my grip falter?

I confess that my faith hangs by a thread

for I know that some day my strength will fail

and my only hope is in you.

Thank you for a new day and the opportunity to serve in your name.

In the power of your Holy Spirit,

grant me the strength to be the person that you created me to be

and to be fully present to those around me, each and every day.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Prayer for a Steady Hand

 

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Fully Present

Stephen W. Hiemstra, www.StephenWHiemstra.net
Stephen W. Hiemstra, 2017

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

A sermon presented in Spanish at El Shadai church in Manassas, Virginia, August 2, 2018.

Prelude

Good evening. Thank you for coming.

This evening we begin a study of Christian service. Because we are created in the image of God, we want to do all the things that we see in God. Therefore, just as God is always present in our lives, we need to be fully present in the lives of those around us.

Prayer

Let’s pray.

Merciful God,

We praise you for creating us in your image and loving us as your children. Be especially present with us at this time and in this place. In the power of your Holy Spirit, bless our praise and give us the strength to be fully present in the lives of our families and the other persons around us. In the precious name of Jesus. Amen.

Scripture

The scripture for today comes from the Book of Mark 10:46-52. Hear the word of the Lord:

And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way. (Mark 10:46-52 ESV)

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Introduction

What does it mean to be fully present in someone’s life? (2X)

One answer is to listen actively to the stories of a person, something quite rare in our postmodern, too active, and narcissistic life.

One Saturday, when I was a Chaplain in Providence Hospital in Northeast Washington, there was a lot of noise in the emergency department. There were people in every room and every gurney. The staff was running in every direction and patients were screaming and crying. In the middle of this chaos, there was one man who was especially noisy and bothering the other patients.

As I came to see what was going on, a nurse came and asked him for a urine sample. In the middle of the room, he unzipped his pants and gave her a urine sample on the spot. Immediately afterwards, he returned to his

gurney and began again to cry loudly. He had an athletic build, a hint of a mustache, and was about forty years old. It was obvious that he was drunk.

“Good afternoon,” I said. “I am from pastoral care. Do you have a minute to talk?”

“Sure.”

“How come you are so sad this afternoon?”

“My brother died at the age of forty of alcohol abuse, just like my father.”

“When did your brother die?”

 ¨Five years ago.¨ (2X) ¨So, now you are forty and you think that you also are going to die?¨ I asked speculating.

¨Yes. Today is my birthday.¨

After the revelation of this emotional anniversary, we hugged and began to identify alternatives for dealing with his addiction to alcohol. I remember this visit not only because of all the drama, but because another chaplain before me had could not establish a connection with this patient and failed to have a serious discussion. The connection in this case began when I realized that this patient was experiencing a type of story known as an emotional anniversary.

Today’s scripture

What does it mean to be fully present in someone’s life? (2X)

The story of Jesus and the bind man, Bartimaeus, includes at least two surprising elements.

The first surprise is that Jesus stopped and talked to Bartimaeus.What celebrity stops to talk to a random person? Jesus did. (2X) The first step in being fully present in the life of anyone is to stop and talk to them. Do you talk to the invisible people in this life who no one else notices? (2X)

The second surprise is that Jesus asks Bartimaeus: “What do you want me to do for you?” Note that Jesus does not assume that he knows the answer to this question. He offers Bartimaeus respect as an adult and does not view him through his disability as a blind man. (2X)

Bartimaeus’ answer is also interesting. His request to receive healing from his blindness indicates that he has faith. By contrast, “a man lamb from birth” in Acts 3 asked the Apostles Peter and John only for alms (Acts 3:2-3). I believe that the Bible records Bartimaeus’ name because his faith surprised Peter and the other disciples. For us, Bartimaeus’ request seems perhaps obvious because Jesus and this story are just too familiar.

What do we learn from these verses? We need to stop and talk to the invisible people around us and listen carefully to what they say. (2X)

More Discussion

What does it mean to be fully present in someone’s life? (2X)

In my pastoral training to be fully present meant for the most part to listen to someone actively. Look directly into their eyes and let them tell their story. Only ask questions of clarification occasionally.

If these directions seem easy, they are not. The objective of active listen is to understand the emotional content of the story. (2X)

Author, John Savage, recommends to listen especially for the type of story being told. This story within the story reveals the emotional content that is being communicated.

In the story of the patient in the hospital, the story within the story was an anniversary—in his family the men died at the age of forty due to alcoholism. An anniversary is a story connected to a date on the calendar. Perhaps someone important died or had an serious accident on a particular date. In the story of the patient, the date was a birthday. The most famous date at the time of Jesus was the Exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt which they celebrated as Passover each year.

Savage (1996, 95) indicates four other types of stories.

1.    A “I know a man who” story. In this case, the person under discussin is normally the person speaking because the subject matter is too sensitive. In the Bible, we read:

“I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven– whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows.”(2 Cor 12:2)2.

2. A transition story has three parts—the past, the present, and the future. A hospital visit is normally a transition story. University studies are also a transition with three parts.

A transition obvious in the Bible is the story of the Exodus when the people of Israel left the land of Egypt, went into the desert for forty years, and afterwards entered the Promised Land (Bridge 2003, 43). It is interesting that the people of Israel learned to depend on God during their time in the desert.

3.    A story from the past with current meaning. This is the typical story from the Bible, but this type of story gets special mention in the context of the Lord’s Supper where we read:

“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”(Luke 22:19)

4.    A reinvestment story. This is a story like economist becomes pastor. That was then; this is now. In the Bible we see this type of story in the conversion of Paul from a persecutor of the church into an evangelist for Christ.

Finally, after we hear one of the five types of stories being described, the next step is to ask a question to clarify. In my story from the hospital, I asked:

“Okay, now you turned forty years old and think that you are going to die too?” I asked speculating.

The answer to this question will indicate if you have been listening sufficiently well.

Summary

What does it mean to be fully present in someone’s life?

Every one of us can stop and listen more closely to those around us following the example of Jesus with Bartimaeus

Prayer

Let’s pray.

Holy Father,

Thank you for your forgiveness and presence in our daily lives. In the power of your Holy Spirit, give us strength to listen more closely each day to the people around us. In the precious name of Jesus. Amen

Reference

Bridge, William. 2003.  Managing Transitions:  Making the Most of Change.  Cambridge:  Da Capo Press.

Savage, John.  1996.  Listening & Caring Skills:  A Guide for Groups and Leaders.  Nashville:  Abingdon Press.

Also see:

Blackaby Expects Answers to Prayer 

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to connect:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/Sabath_2018

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Petition for Full Presence

Doldrums, Sand Dune in Ocean City, MarylandBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

Almighty, Ever-present Father,

I praise you for you continuing presence in my life.

Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from your love through Jesus Christ (Rom 8:38-39).

But I confess that I have trouble being fully present in the lives of the people around–too often I am tired, I am distracted, I am inattentive to reflect your example.

Thankfully, you are patient with me and speak to me gently when I stray.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, teach me once again what I must do and grant me the strength to follow your footsteps. May your grace shine through me and may I experience the peace that passes all understanding (Phil 4:7).

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Petition for Full Presence

Also see:

Giving Thanks 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/Hebrew_Heart

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Prayer for Presence and to be Present

Route 28, Manassas, Virginia
Route 28, Manassas, Virgina

 

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Heavenly Father,

I praise you for your quiet presence,

sustaining all creation and provisioning it with your love.

Though darkness cover us and we fear the death that is ever-near,

you cover us with the blood of Christ, your hedge of everlasting protection.

Cover my sin–the times that my judgment lapses,

and I cannot even admit my transgressions to myself.

Thankfully, you do not share my weaknesses and we can rejoice in your goodness,

even when we are alone and walk in the dark night of the soul.

In the power of your Holy Spirit,

grant us the strength to model your presence to those around us,

the grace to model your goodness,

and the peace that passes all understanding.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen

Prayer for Presence and to be Present

Also see:

Giving Thanks 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2jaUhI7

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Giving Thanks

Photograph of Clouds by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Photo by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Giving Thanks

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Almighty Father,

We praise you for your compassionate presence, your redeeming love, and your boundless blessings.

For we are often absent when we are needed, unloving in our relationships, and grasping when we should be generous.

Forgive our sin; overlook our iniquities; redeems us from our own trespasses.

Thank you for hearing our confession, forgiving our wrongs, and healing our wounds.

In the power of your Holy Spirit,

save us from ourselves; teach us to order our lives on your word; restore our sense of right and wrong,

that we might survive the storms of this life.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Also see:

Prayer for Healing, Comfort, and Deliverance 

Prayer for Shalom 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2wVZtbb

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Prayer for the Memory Impaired

Dad_SWH_SRAH_2012bBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

Almighty father,

We praise you for the company that you bring—

make your presence especially obvious in lonely evenings and busy mornings,

in hymns of praise and silent moments,

in the dark recesses of our minds and in light moments of joy.

We confess that we do not always remember; be our memory.

We confess that we are not always happy; be our joy.

We thank you for the hedge of protection that you offer us—

keep us safe from simple falls,

keep us safe from those that prey on older people,

surround us with people that care.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, be our light and our song and our joy—

be our salvation when days draw short.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Prayer for the Memory Impaired

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January Prayer

Winter Trees by Sharron Beg (www.threadpaintersart.blogspot.com)
Winter Trees by Sharron Beg (www.threadpaintersart.blogspot.com)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Eternal Father, Prince of Peace, Spirit of Truth:

We give thanks for a month of new possibilities, not looking back, not fearing the future, but focused on the present.

Be especially present, eternally present, in our lives here and now.

May we participate in your shalom, the peace that passes all understanding, and share it with those around us.

In our sense of peace, give us the serenity to examine our thoughts, our emotions, and our responses,

that they may reflect your presence, honor it, and extend it each and every hour of each and every day.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, may your truth guide our path and lead us closer to you.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

January Prayer

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Ford Attends to the Inward Journey

ford_review_09242016Leighton Ford. 2008.  The Attentive Life: Discerning God’s Presence in All Things. Downers Grove: IVP Books.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

This morning as I washed a coffee mug and looked out the kitchen window I saw a leaf twirling like a top above the fence in my back yard. Now, I guessed that it was suspended by a spider’s web, but I was curious how that might come to be. Of what interest to a spider was a dried up old leaf? I quickly finished washing the mug and hurried out to the backyard to take a look. Sure enough, above the leaf was a spider’s web—the spider had spun its web among many leaves in that branch. Only this one leaf, however, was dried up and had fallen there below to hang in the wind and grab my attention, like a small burning bush in a busy day.

In his book, The Attentive Life, Leighton Ford writes:

“This God creates, playfully, purposefully—out of nothing—space and stars, sun and moon, light and darkness, dandelions and donkeys, whales and kingfishers, and a handsome couple. And then he doesn’t get bored: he sees everything that he has made and takes delight in it.” (29)

In what do you take delight? In this book, Ford invites us into his own attempt to slow down and begin paying more attention, writing:

“My work has largely focused on evangelism—‘making friends for God,’…but a change has taken place…now is a time to pay more attention to my own heart, to deepen my own friendship with God and to walk with others who want to do the same.” (10)

So Ford invites us into his own journey, structured along the “Divine Hours”, a contemplative journey linking the hours of the day to the seasons of life.

For those unfamiliar, the Divine Hours are prayers undertaken roughly every three hours, 24 hours a day, following prescriptions first articulated in the 12th century by Saint Benedict and followed to this day in monasteries around the world. The traditional names of these prayer times are: the Vigils (also Martins), Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline (21).[1] After an introduction and a chapter describing attentiveness, Ford write 8 chapters following the Divine Hours, followed by an epilog.

Chapter 2 is most revealing of Ford’s character as a writer and willingness to share. He describes the Virgils, the prayers at 3 a.m. as—“The Birthing Hour: Time before Time” (50)—and starts his discussion by sharing his experience at Mepkin Abbey, a Trappist Monastery in Moncks Corner, South Carolina.[2] Like the unborn child, the Trappist monk is silent, not by necessity, but by an oath of silence. Like an unborn child is vulnerable—especially in a society so prone to abortion, Ford shares his experience of learning at the age of 12 that he was adopted—“chosen in love”, according to his adoptive mother (54). In the pre-dawn darkness, the Virgils remind us of own vulnerability and of God attentiveness to us in spite of our weakness in the dark, in an unborn state or even a state of sleeplessness.

Ford employs this sleep motif to expand into a spiritual metaphor—how are  sleep deprived workers to pay attention to God? The sleep deprived are modern zombies, unaware of themselves, unable to love either neighbor or God. Sympathetic to the sleep deprivation of young seminarians, Ford invites retreat participants, not to long lectures, but to take long naps (6). Having experienced this gift of rest first hand at a retreat with the Pierce Fellowship at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (GCTS), I member feeling shocked and amazed to receive this unexpected gift of rest.

Ford’s influence extends directly into my seminary experience in other ways. Not knowing who he was until a bit later, for example, Ford and I shared lunch a couple years back at a GCTS pig roast in Charlotte, North Carolina, where I was a student at the time. More generally, Ford heads his own ministry, Leighton Ford Ministries,[3] which “seeks to help young leaders worldwide to lead more like Jesus”. He is best known as Billy Graham’s brother-in-law, but he is an evangelist in his own right.

I am not sure how I learned about this book or why I purchased the copy that I bought sat on my book shelf for several months. But knowing Leighton Ford’s reputation, his book, The Attentive Life, started calling my name. When I finally found time to read it, I was not disappointed. If you are inclined to explore the contemplative life, this is the book for you. If not, step out in faith and try it—you will not be disappointed.

[1] Interestingly, Ford notes that “Benedict’s Rule” was written, not for clergy, but for lay people (21).

[2] http://mepkinabbey.org/wordpress.

[3] leightonfordministries.org

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Prayer for Attentiveness

October table setting of praise and thanksBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

Eternal Father,

The days pass quickly like leaves turning color before their time.

Where did the summer go? I am not ready for fall; I am not ready for cooler breezes and shorter days.

Lord, help me to be attentive to the times and seasons, to lift my head from my computer screen,

to listen for the sirens warning me that I am neither alone, nor as good as I might imagine in my dreams.

What was it that I missed while I struggled in spring and summer days to learn all my lessons and to earn enough to support a family?

Lord, help me to be attentive to the slower pace, the changing roles, the weeds that need to be pulled, the fruit in need of picking in the garden that I have so carelessly planted and left for others to tend.

Why is it quieter now when all I remember is commotion and running and shouting? Is it not enough to rest my soul, to draw nearer to you, and to not fear empty hours?

Lord, help me to be attentive to the things and the people and the feelings that for so long seemed only nice to know.

Lord, help me to see your face, to feel your presence, to know your Spirit, and to become more like your Son. In Jesus precious name, Amen

Reference

Leighton Ford. 2008. The Attentive Life:  Discerning God’s Presence in All Things. Downers Grove:  IVP Books.

Prayer for Attentiveness

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