What's Tony Thinking

Lost in North Dakota and other notes


Lost in North Dakota. You gotta love church, really you do. Yesterday a guy asked for prayers for his cousin who had “lost her husband in North Dakota.” The guy next to me leans over and says, with complete sincerity, “It’s a really big state.”

Suffer. Second church note. I’m preaching this coming Sunday at the Joseph (Oregon) United Methodist Church. So, yesterday in church I am leafing through the Methodist hymnal to pick some hymns. I saw a hymn I’ve always liked, “If You But Suffer God to Guide You,” which I knew as “If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee.” Light bulb moment. I got, for the first time, the odd word “suffer.”

It’s the key word, which had kind of never made sense to me until now. I thought it was just weird or arcahic, kind of a King James-y thing.. I’d thought, how about “Seek,” as in “If You But Seek God to Guide You.” But suddenly “suffer” made sense. There’s a kind of suffering involved, a relinquishment in yielding to God’s guidance . . . Rather than, “Thanks, God, appreciate your concern; but I got this; I’ll do it my way.” “If Thou But Suffer God To Guide Thee.” Letting God be God. It can be tough.

Family Prayers. Third church note. This week we have nine family members here, five of them between ages 5 and 12. When it came time for “Prayers of the People” at church yesterday, which is sort of like announcements but with a lot more emphasis on health problems, there are two categories.

“Concerns,” after which we say “God, hear our prayers,” and “Joys,” after which we say, “God hear our praise.” I thought about saying we had ten friends here last week and a bunch of family this week. Joy/ Praise! Ain’t it great . . . but maybe also Concern/ Prayers” As in, “Pray for us, we got a bunch of family coming.” Family gatherings, well, let’s just say, prayer may be needed.

Summer/ winter reading. Some of you appreciate my book recommendations. When our friends group was here last week everyone was asked what books they had read this year and would recommend. Here is an edited version, of the one’s that most intrigued me.

  • Truman – David McCullough
  • To Serve Them All My Days – R F Delderfield
  • My Stroke of Insight – Jill Bolte Taylor
  • Life After Life – Kate Atkinson
  • The Best Minds – A Story About Friendship, Madness, and the Tragedy of Good Intentions 1947: When Now Begins – Elisabeth Asbrink
  • Solito – Javier Zamorr
  • The Man in the Corduroy Suit – James Wolff
  • 1947: When Now Begins – Elisabeth Asbrink
  • Lessons – Ian McEwan
  • Watergate: A New History – Garrett M Graff

Walking on Water. As mentioned, I’m preaching this coming Sunday. The text is Matthew 14: 22 – 33, Jesus walking on water. Here’s a question, maybe the question. Is Peter, who asks Jesus to call him to walk to him over the water, a hero full of derring-do pushing the limits of possibility — or an impulsive fool, who doesn’t get that he is creature not creator?

It’s a matter of anthropology. That is, whether you have a high or a low anthropology. High anthropology — we should and can all be like Peter, stepping out of the boat, taking great risks; low anthropology — we are fools who think we can walk on water, bestride chaos on our own. I started ministry as a “high anthropology” guy. Now, fifty years later, I’m more of “low A” fellow. What about you?

Have a great week!




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