Things continue to go wonderfully well in this sabbatical. Last weekend was a great treat. I was invited to go to the “President’s Retreat” at The Cove, in Ashville, NC. The leader of the praise team asked me to come along as a keyboard player for the worship band. It was a great experience. There are many “fund raising” meetings that are done that focus on the money and offer ministry as a side benefit. This retreat focused on ministry and hardly even mentioned the need for money. It was a fantastic opportunity to feel the pulse of Asbury Seminary and catch a vision for the world-wide influence for Christ they have. It was a true honor to be a part of that.
This week, I have continued working on heart rehab. I am growing stronger by the day. I am doing aerobic exercise 4 or 5 times per week for about an hour each day. I’ve even started doing some work with weights. Look out, Arnold Schwartzenegger! (I really don’t think Arnold has anything to worry about.)
Chapel has been inspiring this week. We’ve had speakers who are presenting “The Christian response to Islam”. It has been a powerful eye-opening experience.
Below are the lyrics to one of the new rewrites of a Charles Wesley hymn, “O For a Thousand Tongues”. The rewrite is called, “If I had a Thousand Tongues”.
If I had a Thousand Tongues
By Wesley Putnam Copyright September 2005
If I had a thousand tongues
I’d use them all to praise the One
Who is my Master and King —
The reason that I sing.
He’s my Savior and my God
Who gives to all His matchless love.
I’ll never be ashamed
Of His holy name.
Give Him praise.
Just the mention of that Name
makes me want to dance and sing.
All my fears and sorrows cease
Exchanged for joy and peace.
I’m forgiven, I am free
Because of what He’s done for me.
Sin has lost its hold.
I’m under His control.
Give Him praise.
Lips once silent now rejoice.
The lame can skip and dance with joy.
The blind can now behold His face.
All come to give Him praise.
A thousand tongues are not enough
To convey this depth of love.
I’ll use the one He gave
To worship all my days.
Give Him praise.
Hello from Felicia!
Our time at The Cove in North Carolina was a deep blessing to me. The setting in the Blue Ridge mountains is of course beautiful. The rooms in the inns are decorated in wonderful folk art and country, which I love. One of the fellows commented, though, that the TV in his room didn’t work, but someone else quickly explained that there ARE no TVs on the premises. 🙂 I hadn’t even noticed.
Wesley & the band had to immediately set up their equipment and practice, so I had a couple of hours on my own to explore the facilities. The bookstore is located downstairs from the meeting room, so I headed there. But the hallways display exhibits from Billy Graham’s ministry from the very beginning to the present, so I took the time to reflect on those as I made my way to the bookstore. It’s only been in the last decade that I’ve given any thought to Ruth Bell Graham. I read one of her books several years ago entitled Prodigals and Those That Love Them. It’s an excellent book that I highly recommend. Since that time, though, her life has intrigued me. Of course, there is a whole section of books authored by the various Grahams in that bookstore, so I pulled one about Ruth from the shelf and made myself comfortable in one of the cozy chairs. Before the weekend was over, I purchased 4 or 5 books by or about Ruth for my own library.
Friday afternoon while the band was again practicing, I decided to walk through the woods to the chapel on the grounds. Ah, the walk through the woods! Every 50 feet or so there is a bench provided for meditation or just rest. It’s a hike!! And across the path from each one is a bronze plaque with a scripture. I paused to read each one, and the scriptures came alive for me. I could imagine someone sitting there with different struggles in his or her life, and that particular Bible verse speaking deeply into his or her soul. Verses I usually just skim over because they are so familiar became the very Word of God to me that day. And I realized that I’ve been living on “stale bread” for many years. I’ve had the attitude that “I know what the Bible says, so I don’t have to read it today.” I recalled a time when a counselor asked me if I could repent of stubborn self-sufficiency, and I did…for that time and situation. But on this particular day in the woods, I realized that same attitude has characterized my unconscious approach to the Bible for many years. And I repented yet again…. Stubborn self-sufficiency.
Over the course of the weekend, we heard inspiring and convicting sermons by members of the administration, enlightening Bible studies by faculty members, and rich, moving testimonies by students of the seminary. Many of these students confessed that they didn’t come to seminary with their faith already perfected. They openly, honestly revealed deeply personal struggles as they wrestled with the God Who called each of them to serve Him. I’ve always known Asbury Seminary was faithful to train men and women for ministry true to the orthodox tenets of the faith, but this weekend I got a much broader, more alive vision of the mission of ATS. They are doing far more than just taking people who have it all together for Christ and filling them with sterile facts or a list of proven techniques for ministry. They are nurturing authentic faith, making disciples.