Thursday, February 12, 2015

The River's Edge

"As soon as the soles of the feet of the priests... shall rest in the waters...the waters...shall be cut off. (Joshua 3:13)"
     The people were not to wait in their camps until the way was opened, they were to walk by faith.  They were to break camp, pack up their goods, form in line to march, and move down to the very banks before the river would be opened.  If they had come down to the edge of the river and then had stopped for the stream to divide before they stepped into it, they would have waited in vain.  They must take one step into the water before the river would be cut off." (From Evening Thoughts) *

A few weeks ago, I wrote about feeling compelled to offer a community faith discussion group at a local coffee shop.  Well, advertisements are in several community papers, and about sixty flyers are posted around local walking paths, bus stops, and apartment complexes for my PEERS Bible Study -- "A non-affiliated, non-traditional Bible Study open to anyone interested in reading, thinking, and talking about the Bible, and listening to all that comes, in a small, diverse community."  PEERS, by the way, stands for People Encouraging and Enlightening Religious Studies.  I'm hoping it will be a way for people, who perhaps don't necessarily belong to a faith community, but who want to read the Bible, to have the support of similarly-interested people.  I'm also hoping it will be a way for people to see the many connections there are between their lives and the lives and faith of these ancient people, and to grow in their faith.  But I'm also a little worried.  The Bible study starts this Sunday, and I don't know if anyone is coming.

You know, I thought I had a lot of faith.  My faith is, I think, one of the gifts God wants me to share with other people.  But recently, I discovered that I still have a ways to go in this department.  You see, I have this great fear that no one will come to my Bible study, that I will be sitting at a table, with a stack of Bibles and a plate of scones, drinking a pot of coffee by myself, for an hour and a half, come this Sunday afternoon.

I've tried my best to prevent this scenario from playing out.  I advertised, like I mentioned.  But as February 15 approached, I began to worry that no one would see my advertisements.  So, I decided to post flyers around the community.  Sixty seemed like a good number.  And I prayed that whoever would like such a study would find the information.  But as I ran around the community last Monday, with flyers and tape in hand, I began to worry some more.  Based upon previous experience with adult faith formation classes at my church, and the percentage of people who participated in said classes out of the number who attended church, I calculated that I would need to notify 400-plus people, to attract the maximum eight people I'd like to participate!  In a panic, I decided to print more flyers and go out again the next day.  But my printer stopped working.

So, I had to stop and think, and take a moment to just breathe.  And I opened my devotionals and read in one:  "Lay aside this ardor of the mind, which exhausts your body and leads you to commit errors.  Accustom yourself gradually to carry prayer into all your daily occupations....  Do everything without excitement, by the spirit of grace.  As soon as you perceive your natural impetuosity gliding in, retire quietly within, where is the kingdom of God.  Listen to the leadings of grace, then say and do nothing but what the Holy Spirit shall put in your heart.  ...with less effort you will accomplish more good."**  And in the other, I read, "There are seasons when to be still demands immeasurably higher strength that to act."***

And I was reminded of another time when I did something similar.  Several years ago, I felt called to bring various churches together in a community Christmas caroling event.  Then, too, as the date approached, I started to worry that no one would participate, and ran around from church to church, trying to get a definite count on how many people would come.  Until, that is, the Catholic priest said to me, "Calm down.  What will be, will be."  At the time, in my head, I was thinking, "But, but...."

But, you know what?  That event was successful.  Oh ye of little faith.

Why do I think I can control the outcome of my efforts?   I cannot.  All I can do is listen to and follow God's promptings, as they come, one by one, even though I don't know what's around the corner, or even what's in front of me.  It's a lot like walking in the dark.  Or, for the Israelites led by Joshua, like crossing the Jordan river, as the quote above describes. Despite great obstacles, they walked forward by faith alone.  One step at a time. 

Can I do that?

I will certainly try.

Come this Sunday, I will be sitting at a table at the Crossroads Coffeehouse, with a stack of Bibles and a plate of scones, welcoming whomever comes.

May the Peace
which passes understanding
be with you 


* quoted from "Streams in the Desert," by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman, for Feb. 11
** quoted from "Daily Strength for Daily Needs," selected by Mary Wilder Tileston, for Feb. 10
*** quoted from "Streams in the Desert," for Feb. 10.

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