Here’s some advice from Dietrich Bonhoeffer I need to remember. “Often we combat our evil thoughts most effectively if we absolutely refuse to allow them to be expressed in words.” I’d be a lot better person if I followed that advice.
I was listening to an “Ask NT Wright Anything” podcast yesterday, and he mentioned he used only one Bible. In an effort to become really familiar with “the text” he has chosen to use one Bible, and so in that one Bible are all his notes, and that’s the one Bible he uses all the time. A former pastor of mine also had one Bible that he always used. It was falling apart so badly his small group bought him a new Bible. They knew how much he loved his old Bible, so they bought him the exact same kind of Bible that he had–so it was the same Bible, only a new version of it. He didn’t use it; he continued to use the old falling apart Bible.
As a musician, I’ve always wanted to have a relationship with one instrument. I see it a lot with guitar players. Eric Clapton had Blackie, and Eric Johnson has Virginia, Stevie Ray Vaughan had Number 1. Stewart Copeland had his Pearl Jupiter snare that was used on all The Police recordings, and Ringo had his Jazz Festival. I’m not that way. I have a whole bunch of drums, and I use whatever drum fits the music and my mood. A drum I use to record a folk record won’t be the same drum I use to record a funk tune. I pick the drum that’s right for the job. It’s a tool.
I’m the same way with Bible translations. My “study” translation is the New American Standard. My current devotion Bible is the ESV. If I were called to read scripture out loud to a group, I’d probably grab the New Living Bible. It’s a tool, and I pick the right tool for the job.
Still though, I wish I was “a person of one book” (from my Ortberg reading this morning). I wish I was the kind of guy like Mr. Wright or Pastor Jason that had just one Bible. There’s a romance about it. I have one wife, can’t I have just one Bible? 😉
John Ortberg in his book The Life You’ve Always Wanted writes “Psychiatrist David Burns notes that it is not another person’s compliment or approval that makes us feel good; rather it is our belief that there is validity to the compliment.”
As a drummer, I’m complimented somewhat regularly with “You’re a regular Gene Krupa” or “Nice job Buddy Rich” or something like that. John and Jane Q. Public know those two drummers, and so when they want to compliment a drummer, those names come up. Those compliments mean nothing to me. I don’t think my drumming is anything like Gene Krupa’s. He is not an influence in how I play. Buddy Rich? I’ve said before that I’m not a good enough drummer to carry his sweaty towels. He was a MONSTER player, but so far above me with his technique that there’s nothing in me that’s remotely sounding of Buddy.
One night I was playing a gig in Camden. It was a private party, a Christmas party I believe. BIG house. We played upstairs. At one point the host said to me “You sound like Shelly Manne.” Now THAT was a compliment. There was VALIDITY to that compliment. Shelly Manne I HAVE studied. Shelly’s name isn’t going to be dropped randomly like Gene or Buddy or Ringo. Obviously this guy knows a thing or two about Jazz and Jazz drumming , and has the ears to know that there is some Shelly Manne in my playing. There are things I do in my playing because of Shelly. He is an actual influence on my playing. And so, because of the credibility of that compliment, I remember it to this day. And it makes me feel good to know that at one point at least someone appreciated my drumming on a deeper level than say the way my Mom loves my drumming.
Not much spirituality in today’s post; it’s mostly about drumming. But hey, let’s praise Him with resounding cymbals. 🙂
Part of my reading for my spiritual transformation class this week is from Donald Whitney‘s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Chapter 3 is about Bible “intake” for the purpose of godliness. I also had to read about “learning” as a purpose toward godliness.
There are 15 pages about learning as a spiritual discipline. There are about 10 pages of why Bible memorization is important. Then there are 40 pages about the benefits and methods of meditating on God‘s word! He gives 17 different methods (!!!) for meditating on God‘s word.
I think Whitney thinks meditation is pretty important. #understatement
I did appreciate his reclaiming the word “meditation” for Christianity, and not just for some New Age yoga transcendental meditation craziness. He says about Biblical meditation
“The kind of meditation encouraged in the Bible differs from other kinds of meditation in several ways. While some advocate a kind of meditation in which you do your best to empty your mind, Christian meditation involves filling your mind with God and his truth. For some, meditation is an attempt to achieve complete mental passivity, but typical meditation requires constructive mental activity.”
With the COVID 19 virus out there, so many are taking precautions and quarantining. New England Bible College has closed the campus, and requested all professors to make alternate arrangements. My Spiritual Transformation instructor (for whom I’ve been making these recent posts) has advised me to keep up on my weekly readings, to make sure to complete my 10-15 page paper, and to increase the amount of journaling we do. The increased journaling will substitute for class participation. Susan R. and Pastor Q. read here with some regularity. Pastor Q. even sent me a request for fresh postings when I had been silent for four days. Perhaps those two will keep me accountable as well, and encourage me to get stuff up here.
On Sunday, Harmony Bible Church didn’t have our regular services. (See the COVID 19 junk above.) Pastor Q. produced an online video which was very good, and provided a suitable substitute for the morning worship service. But we didn’t have Sunday School, and that meant I had an extra hour and a half in my schedule. And did I use that for slowness and stillness and reflection? Of course not! I filled that hour right up with class reading. And in that reading I found this quote from Pastor Geoffrey Thomas. I emailed it to a friend. This friend has only been a Christian for a short while, maybe a year. We have seen remarkable growth in her, but she sometimes is frustrated about her knowledge. Most of the folks at Harmony have been Christians for years, and have been coming to Sunday School for a long time. They’ve spent a lot of time in the Word, and know a lot from years of reading and hearing. My friend wants to be at that level NOW, and feels odd that she doesn’t know all these Bible/Christian things that everyone else in the congregation just seems to know. I sent her this quote from the class reading from Sunday. I added some emphasis that I thought appropriate for her.
“Do not expect to master the Bible in a day, or a month, or a year. Rather expect often to be puzzled by its contents. It is not all equally clear. Great men of God often feel like absolute novices when they read the Word. The apostle Peter said that there were some things hard to be understood in the epistles of Paul [2 Peter 3.16). I am glad he wrote those words because I have felt that often. So do not expect always to get an emotional charge or a feeling of quiet peace when you read the Bible. By the grace of God you may expect that to be a frequent experience, but often you will get no emotional response at all.
Let the Word break over your heart and mind again and again as the years go by, and imperceptibly there will come great changes in your attitude and outlook and conduct. You will probably be the last to recognize these. Often you will feel very, very small, because increasingly the God of the Bible will become to you wonderfully great. So go on reading it until you can read no longer, and then you will not need the Bible any more, because when your eyes close for the last time in death, and never again read the Word of God in Scripture you will open them to the Word of God in the flesh, that same Jesus of the Bible whom you have known for so long, standing before you to take you for ever to His eternal home.”
I’ll admit scripture memorization hasn’t been my thing. In Donald Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life he brings up how Jesus was able to stand the temptations of the devil by quoting Scripture. What he didn’t mention though was all the scripture Jesus quoted was from Deuteronomy. Think Deuteronomy is an old boring book of the Old Testament? Apparently there’s enough there to ward of the devil! Maybe you should reconsider reading it?
So much strangeness. Two weeks ago my Spiritual Transformation professor had a family emergency, and couldn’t make class. Last week he was out of town. This week the corona virus has got everything closed down.
I’m having a bit of a struggle internally/spiritually with what should the response of a church (any church really) be in light of what the government and health authorities have asked us to do. “Stay home. Don’t go out. Don’t be around people.” But we’re the church. We’re a community of believers, right? How do we be in community if we can’t be together.
Sure, there are other options. Online sermons. Email. Texts and messages and whatnot. But it’s not the same. And who is this God we get together and talk about each week? Did He say things like “be strong and courageous?” Didn’t he hang out with lepers? Are we doing “super important things” when we get together? If so, how can we toss it aside so easily? Boop. No church this week. No prayer meeting. No Sunday School. Shut it all down because someone might get sick.
Now saying that, I don’t want to minimize those with weakened immunity. Or the aged, or any other at risk group. Those people need to be encouraged to stay home. I get it. But how about smaller groups? How about 10 people at a time get together, sing a hymn, pray, have a devotion, and do church-y stuff–maybe for a smaller number of minutes with a smaller number of people–but still get together in community?
So I’m conflicted. And I will leave this here, a public testimony to not knowing what the right thing to do is. I’ll do know this much–I’m not happy about not being with my church community.
I’ve decided to write my spiritual transformation paper on my experiences with fasting. I’m going to compare/contrast abstaining from food (something I do somewhat regularly) and abstaining from speaking (something I’ve never done). I’m working on a plan for an 8 hour speaking fast, and trying to work some stillness and solitude in at the same time.
While walking the most perfect dog in the world this morning (that dog being Deuteronomy James Reed Batty), I had some thoughts about how this slowing/no speaking fast is going to work. Concerns is a better word.
How am I going to walk this dog without speaking to him? “Come on” is a word frequently used when walking a Labrador. One thought I had about how to not say “Let’s get going, Deut” is to slow down, and let him sniff for as long as he wants, at all the places he wants. That will cause me to be slow, for sure! I wonder how much time I should plan on adding to my walk if I let him take as much time as he wants.
Silence and Solitude is an interesting idea to me, and not a spiritual discipline I’ve participated in before. This morning, I’ve tried to do things a little more quietly, and a little more slowly than normal. And yet, I have a day ahead of me that needs my attention. Here are some quick thoughts I need to come back to.
- Let your yes be yes and your no be no. It’s better to not vow than take a vow and break it.
- When you fast, don’t let anyone else know about it. When you pray, don’t make a big show of it.
- How can one participate in silence when one’s livelihood depends on communication? If I were to all of a sudden go silent, surely people would notice.
Perhaps a modified silence? There are modified fasts. I’m thinking a “only speak if spoken to” day of silence.