LeaderWorks was the power engine behind The Gift of Lent program that has made its way around the ACNA. We conceived the idea and, by God’s grace, were able to build the website and get the links set up. Many thanks (almost ALL thanks) to Kolby Kerr for his work.
One of the cornerstones of the project was the daily Morning Prayer. I wanted to have as many people reading Morning Prayer together over the ACNA as possible. For that I turned to Fr. Michael Jarrett with The Trinity Mission. I have interviewed him here. And I asked if we could have some people around the country read through Morning Prayer as ‘guest readers.’ And faster than you can say, “And with your spirit,” I was assigned the services for March 18-24 (this week).
Oh my! I thought it would be a snap to get these recordings done…but it was much harder than I imagined. I would get set up in my home and get ready to record…and the lawn guy would be blowing leaves across the street. I would wait until he was done and then the dogs became antsy. The doorbell that NEVER rings rang three times during one session. I took my gear up to my office and tried to get it going there…but they were framing some wall in the building.
I could not find 30 minutes of quiet.
I finally found some peace at 4:30 in the morning for a few days in a row and I am done. The recording of my scratchy morning voice is up at The Trinity Mission.
But there were two things I learned that I thought might be interesting to share.
God Speaks Out Loud
I loved reading the Psalms out loud. I found that there were wonderful treasures hidden in almost every Psalm. When I read them in public in worship, I am worried about the performance, pacing, and pronunciation. And, when I read them privately in devotions, I read them silently.
But the last few days of recording the psalms both out loud and alone, I discovered how many gems I skip right past. I love the poetry and the symmetry and the balance of praise and prayer.
Who knew there were phrases like this in these psalms?
…you have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling;
I will walk before the LORD
in the land of the living. — Psalm 116:8–9
Wow…there is a three point sermon right there! My soul, my eyes, and my feet!
And read this gem from Psalm 112:
For the righteous will never be moved;
he will be remembered forever.
He is not afraid of bad news;
his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.
His heart is steady; he will not be afraid,
until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.
He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever;
his horn is exalted in honor. — Psalm 112:6-8
The righteous man is steady in emotions (not afraid), conviction (heart is firm), and confidence (looks in triumph on his adversaries). And, by the way, he is also generous!
I am going to read the psalms from now on out loud.
What’s in a Name?
The second thing I learned was somewhat funny. I was assigned the HARDEST, MOST DIFFICULT set of readings I have ever had in my life. I was assigned the mother of all lists; the most impossible words in the bible to pronounce. I read, chapter after chapter, the endless names of the towns and the cities and pasturelands that were allotted to the tribes of Israel:
Try to read this out loud with a microphone in front of you:
And in the lowland, Eshtaol, Zorah, Ashnah, Zanoah, En-gannim, Tappuah, Enam, Jarmuth, Adullam, Socoh, Azekah, Shaaraim, Adithaim, Gederah, Gederothaim: fourteen cities with their villages. Zenan, Hadashah, Migdal-gad, Dilean, Mizpeh, Joktheel, Lachish, Bozkath, Eglon, Cabbon, Lahmam, Chitlish, Gederoth, Beth-dagon, Naamah, and Makkedah: sixteen cities with their villages. Libnah, Ether, Ashan, Iphtah, Ashnah, Nezib, Keilah, Achzib, and Mareshah: nine cities with their villages. Ekron, with its towns and its villages; from Ekron to the sea, all that were by the side of Ashdod, with their villages. Ashdod, its towns and its villages; Gaza, its towns and its villages; to the Brook of Egypt, and the Great Sea with its coastline. And in the hill country, Shamir, Jattir, Socoh, Dannah, Kiriath-sannah (that is, Debir), Anab, Eshtemoh, Anim, Goshen, Holon, and Giloh: eleven cities with their villages. Arab, Dumah, Eshan, Janim, Beth-tappuah, Aphekah, Humtah, Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron), and Zior: nine cities with their villages. —Joshua 15:33–60
And on and on it went!
However, a strange thing happened as I read through this treacherous list while making all kinds of phonetic guesses: I started to see that these were not just random places. These were places where God’s people were living; the same people who came off the desert places where there are no names of town or villages. And what’s more, I have been to some of these places. I actually know where they are.
And 4000 years from now, what will someone think if they have to read the towns around you? Flower Mound, McKinney, Dallas, Royce City, Frisco, Prosper, Denton, Euless, Bedford, Hurst? Huh??
Most anyone reading this blog would be able to do just as well or poorly as I did. It was enough of an ordeal for me, though, that I felt a sense of accomplishment when I hit ‘send’ on these recordings. More than that, my heart has been warmed to be reminded that even after all these years, God’s Word still surprises me, confounds me, humbles me, and takes my breath away.
I hope that the hearing of God’s word—even in my scratchy, early-morning tones—will bless you this week.