“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!”

— Luke 11:28

FINDING GOD IN UNUSUAL PEOPLE

While at Drew University getting my Master’s in Divinity, I noticed an unusual woman named Theresa. I had seen her a few times, sitting alone quietly on a bench. Prior to class we students often milled around the school’s front door and shared our weekly stories. Theresa usually sat waiting on the bench. She was a large woman and sat there quietly ignored by her classmates. After noticing this a few times, I went over and introduced myself and asked her how she was doing. She smiled and after a few brief questions about her life, she opened up. She told me she worked at night in a hospital as a chaplain. By day she went to seminary to get her master’s degree. She also ran a successful business cutting coupons that she used to help others save money. There was sitting on that bench an unusual person, leading a wonderful life.

Previously, She had been destitute and without money, shunned by society because she didn’t fit in. She prayed for help, and she felt that God had shown her how to earn a decent living cutting coupons and splitting the savings with her customers. Over time, she developed a sizeable following and began to earn enough money to dress well, feed herself, and pay for school. At night she sat with the dying in a local hospital, guiding them home. Only when asked would she reveal these magnificent experiences of transition.

“Over time my other classmates began to see the richness of this unusual woman.”

Over time my other classmates began to see the richness of this unusual woman. I frequently ran ideas by her, which helped me with practical insights into theology. We all grew to respect her faithfulness and commitment to God. Just before we graduated, a fellow student, who was an extraordinary artist, created a mural of our classmates that he donated to Drew University. It hangs today in Seminary Hall.  At the top of the mural, bathed in light, is this magnificent woman.

“There is a rich person beneath the quiet. Perhaps a blessed person, who can inspire us.”

How many times have we seen that quiet person sitting alone? Why does that person sit alone? What is deep inside him or her that we should know? Perhaps such a person is blessed because he or she knows God. Perhaps that person has a story to tell. In school and in the marketplace we know these people. In each of our lives there is at least one of them. There is a rich person beneath the quiet. Perhaps a blessed person, who can inspire us. Perhaps a person blessed by God. We won’t know unless we ask.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

What is the name of the person we know who sits alone on the bench?

What can we learn?

How can we discover greatness in all that we know?

“Go out and stand on the mountain, before the lord . . . and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence”

— 1 Kings 19: 11–12

IN A QUIET PERSONAL MOMENT, A FORTUNE 500 COMPANY WAS SAVED

A friend of mine, Bob, was in the process of selling an important asset. The sale would be a crucial part of his future and success. Bob was determined to be a good seller. To not hide anything from the buyer and provide the buyer with a product that exceeded their expectations. Bob responded faithfully to all the buyer’s requests and went further than his lawyer or broker expected him to go. But the requests didn’t end. After each obstacle was resolved, another popped up. A meeting was scheduled between all the parties to find a clear path to resolution.

“He prayed for God to give him the wisdom to make the right decisions with his business and to help his wife.”

The day before the meeting Bob’s wife announced that the doctor had found something during her checkup that needed a radiologist’s opinion. The appointment with the radiologist was scheduled at the same time as my friend’s important meeting. His wife told him to go to the meeting and she would be okay. Bob felt besieged. How can I ignore my wife? But how can I secure our future? He prayed throughout the day. He prayed for God to give him the wisdom to make the right decisions with his business and to help his wife.  Then he went to the meeting and his wife went to the radiologist.

During the meeting, there were many questions. Tough questions. My friend answered them all honestly. At one point the broker for the buyer became unrelenting. Bob felt a spirit of resolve fall over him and became quietly serious. Normally Bob’s mannerisms were friendly and engaging, but now he became dead serious and firm. Looking firmly into the eyes of the buyer and without hesitation he stated, firmly and in a quiet tone, “If there is a problem, I will pay to have it resolved. It is what I have done to this point and will continue to do.” He left the meeting wondering about his wife and at the same time about the state of this important sale.

“A wave of joy overcame him. While Bob had waited in silence, God had answered his prayers.”

At home he sat in his favorite chair and waited in silence. A short time passed and he got a call. The broker said, “It is done, you have done everything and had no more to do. The sale is going forward.” Shortly after, his wife called and stated that the radiologist had found nothing serious and she would need some minor medical attention only. My friend rested. A wave of joy overcame him. While Bob had waited in silence, God had answered his prayers. No great bell was rung, no fireworks, just a brief moment and the quiet winds of life had brought his answer. Life was back in balance.

“But then in a moment, a quiet personal moment, we hear God’s voice. We are reminded that God is with us.”

How many times have we all worried about life? We go to pray and we are still tested. We hear no answer from God and we wonder where God is. But then in a moment, a quiet personal moment, we hear God’s voice. We are reminded that God is with us. God talks to us sometimes in sheer silence, when we are open and ready to hear. Not necessarily with loud clanging or grandiose fireworks, but in a deeply personal way that restores our faith. In this moment we know God has passed by like a cool summer breeze. Emmanuel, God is with us.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

What moments of our lives have we heard the sheer silence of God?

How does God let us know that it is him who has answered?

In reflection, how do we think back on those events?

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God”

– Matthew 5:8

QUIETING OUR HEARTS

Saint Augustine, one of the church’s early leaders, said, “Our hearts are unquiet until they rest in God.” A powerful statement from a man who in the first half of his life engaged in much debauchery. He was a great lawyer and orator in his early life. His fame was so widespread that he was recruited to go to Rome to teach aspiring students about oratory, reading, and philosophy. During this period of his life he was in constant pursuit of the “truth,” while engaging in a life of sin. Encouraged by his mother, he met Bishop Ambrose in Milan. Through these meetings Augustine discovered that he was on the wrong path to truth. In a garden in Milan he heard a child’s voice that he felt was the voice of Jesus, and knelt to accept Jesus as the truth. From this point he became a bishop, and he went on to become a key figure in firmly establishing the church.

“Jesus asks us to not give in to our personal power, but to our hearts and the existing human desire to do good.”

Today’s verse is one of the Beatitudes delivered to us by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus tells us in this verse to have a pure heart. A heart led to do good. One that avoids the temptation to give in to our fears, desires, and schemes. A heart that reaches outward to our neighbor. A heart that has faith in God. A heart that endures momentary losses and looks to the future. A heart of hope. Jesus asks us to not give in to our personal power, but to our hearts and the existing human desire to do good.

A friend of mine named Donna talks about this state of being as it relates to her business. After a difficult period early in her life that involved alcoholism and challenging times with her parents, Donna found Jesus. She took her savings and bought a building, and broke it up into small offices to start an “office share” business. Competing against bigger companies, she has over time built a successful business that includes numerous other buildings and many customers. She let go of her fears and thrived. At the various crossroads of this amazing story of revival, she focused on two things. The first was to make ethical decisions;the second, to listen for God’s direction. She tells me that over time at each of these crossroads, the decisions got easier and her business grew.

“If our hearts are God-centered and faithful, we will survive and more likely thrive.”

Jesus asks us to trust our heart and follow its direction. There are times when our hearts appear wrong or we are beset with worry. If our hearts are God-centered and faithful, we will survive and more likely thrive. Decisions that are made with the wrong intentions, however, will nag us in the future. Sleeping and our overall sense of being improves when we act with a pure heart. The momentary losses that sometimes stand in our way will disappear over time. Our hearts will become quiet and not restless.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Do we incorporate God in our decision making?

Do we fret over decisions we have made?

Can we make hard choices?

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.”

– Matthew 4:23

A LIFE-AFFIRMING ELIXIR

We sometimes spend too much time in our inner castles. Many times in my counseling work, I will confront despair. A client will say, “Why don’t they want me?” or “I had a bad week.” When I probe why people feel this way, I often detect that they have spent most of the week by themselves, reflecting or doing self-analysis. It is hard to be alone, and sometimes we are alone even when we are with people. My clients will confess that they didn’t get much done on their “to do” list, which drove them further into themselves, over analyzing and being overly self-critical.

Jesus would sometimes go off to silent places to pray and meditate. Away from everyone. However, he preferred to be among the people. His ministry was dining with other people, walking to distant towns, curing the sick, or helping an individual with insight. It is moments like these moments that remind us most of Jesus. His ministry was an outward expression to others.

“When we walk among people, we receive an elixir.”

When we walk among people, we receive an elixir. An affirmation of ourselves. When we look someone in the eye and ask “How is your day?” we are affirming that person. An inner moment of joy occurs that tells the person he or she is good and worthy. When we ask and then listen, we hear stories about life. We get to know other people. They can share their dreams and worries with us. They are affirmed because we listened. For a moment they have a voice. We gave them a voice. And the sense of our own joy increases also. Our outward interest in other people provides us energy for our own tasks. When we are with others and listen, we receive.

“God wants us among the people, and we are created to interact with one another.”

People like people who like people. I often say this in my sessions. At first it may appear to be self-serving. But if we are sincere about it, we can create a mutual bond. When Jesus walked among humankind, he knew his mission. To heal, and proclaim the good news, but also simply to be with humankind. Our inner castles are good places to rest and pray, but we can only stay for a while. God wants us among the people, and we are created to interact with one another. Through outward expressions we find healing. Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. HartmanAre we sincere when we say good morning?

Do we ask or do we state?

What is the value of questions?