Intensive Time with Christ
This is my last night at the Desert House of Prayer outside of Tucson. I have greatly enjoyed the 8½ weeks of my sabbatical so far, and the intensive time I have been able to spend with Christ in prayer and in digging into the Scriptures and in personal reflection and in reading good books.
I read something today in Mark Buchanan’s book, The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath, that gives perspective to the value of this intensive time with Christ. In this paragraph he writes particularly to people whose calling is to proclaim the message of Christ to others: “All our authority is derived. Either God gives us words, or we are only giving opinions. Either God vouches for us, or our credentials are forged. If anyone ever stops to listen to you or me, this had better be solidly in place: Our speaking comes out of our listening. What we say comes out of what we hear. We have to be people who listen, day and night, to God.” (p. 178)
Wow! What he is telling me is that this time of my sabbatical has not just been a kind gift from my church to let me get away for a while, but a necessity of my life and ministry if I seek to share the love and the truths of Christ with them!
This reminds me of something E Stanley Jones wrote, quoted by Larry Crabb in his book, The PAPA Prayer: “The first thing in prayer is to get God. If you get Him, everything else follows. Allow God to get at you, to invade you, to take possession of you. He then pours His very prayers through you. They are His prayers—God-inspired, and hence, God answered. Prayer’s like the fastening of the cup to the wounded side of a pine tree to allow the resin to pour into it. You are now nestling up into the side of God—the wounded side, if you will—and you allow His grace to fill you up. You are taking in the very life of God.”
I have greatly appreciated these past 8½ weeks of allowing God to get at me and of “nestling up into the side of God.”
The next three and a half weeks of my sabbatical will not be spent in Christian retreat centers with reserved times of centering prayer and worship and such. The remaining weeks will include time spend hiking into the Grand Canyon with my older son, taking care of my granddaughter for a weekend while her parents get away a month before their next baby arrives, time with my wife at Lake Tahoe, time hiking up Half Dome with a friend (my younger son had to back out of this trip), and time in Oakland with my parents. Then I will be back to the daily challenges of ministry. But the real challenge and the great necessity for me in the remaining weeks of my sabbatical and in all the years of ministry still ahead for me will be to make sure that I continue to set aside meaningful and sufficient time to listen to Christ and to nestle up to the side of God. My life and my ministry depend upon it.
Please pray for me to do this…and, if you know me personally, keep reminding me to do this.