Posted March 30, 2020 by Wheaton College Chaplain's Office
Dear Members of the Wheaton College Community,
We invite you to read this newsletter slowly. It takes roughly 5 minutes to read at fast, news-headline-skimming speed. Please consider giving yourself 10 minutes to slow down, be still, and read at a prayerful, meditative pace.
Invitation: Paying Attention to God
Normally the most difficult realities to describe with any depth are those which we experience every day; we know them, but struggle to give them hard edges. Distraction is one such reality. What is distraction?
“Something that prevents someone from giving their attention to something else.”
“The act of distracting or the state of being distracted, mental confusion.”
“The drawing away of the mind from one point or course to another or others, a pulling apart, separating.”
This last definition is quite literal, from Latin distrahere, to draw apart. Living with distraction means we are being pulled into different directions. Into which directions are we being pulled?
In the 1600s the meaning of distraction included “violent mental disturbance, excitement simulating madness” (e.g, in “driven to distraction”). This reminds me of what Blaise Pascal called a strange disorder: “Man's sensitivity to little things and insensitivity to the greatest things are marks of a strange disorder.”
What a strange disorder. You could almost say that with the rise of one pandemic, the coronavirus, we can more clearly see another pandemic which has already swept the globe, and it is the pandemic of what Linda Stone called “continuous partial attention.”
That we would be drawn away from God, from the beauty and glory and majesty and reality of the Triune God of grace – who not only deserves our attention but also attended to us through the incarnation of the Divine Son – and instead, give our undivided attention to anything and everything else.
Before you explore the two spiritual disciplines below, ponder this: We always give our attention to something or to someone. We already have habits that pull our lives in a certain direction. Do your daily habits and rhythms help you pay attention to God? Does the way you live every day pull you towards life with God?
We are writing this newsletter with the awareness that you may not be paying much attention at all. It is not an indictment. It is just a fact. There’s not much in our daily lives that encourages us toward reflection, stillness, solitude or even an awareness of the presence of God. We want to help provide some structure to your daily life that will help develop a rhythm for your life with God.
This is an invitation to you to spend some time every day listening to God and speaking to God. Even this small change can be an important act of resistance to the way of our hard-wired and wireless world.
The focuses for this week are scripture engagement: We hear and respond to God’s word because he is speaking;
and prayer: We spend time with God in prayer because he is listening.
Here are suggested scripture readings for the week of March 30. Before you read the passage, take a moment to be still. Close your eyes and breathe deeply, slowly, until you are relaxed and calm. Read the passage slowly, either silently or aloud. Ask God to speak to you directly.
- Monday: Hebrews 1:1-4
- Tuesday: John 17:6-8
- Wednesday: Psalm 119:89-96
- Thursday: Psalm 116
- Friday: 1 Thessalonians 5:17
- Saturday: Mark 1:35
- Sunday: 1 Samuel 2:1-10
- What does the text say?
- What is God saying to me through the text?
- What do I want to say to God about the text?
- What difference will the text make in my life?
You may want to jot down your thoughts in a journal and also plan to talk about your experience with a friend.
Father in heaven, to whom belong boundless wisdom and deepest compassion, you understand us, our going out and our coming; you know what is in man. But you desire that we understand you. Even as our Master answered not a word to his haughty accusers, thus exposing their fraudulent deceit and revealing his own innocence, so you speak in love and understanding when you speak not a word! For one is speaking when he remains silent in order to show the listener that he is beloved. One is speaking when, as teacher, he listens to the pupil. One is speaking when he demonstrates that profound understanding comes from listening. We may fear that we are lost in the desert of abandonment when we do not hear your voice. But it is only the golden moment of stillness in the intimacy of conversation and communion. When we come imploring, pleading, promising, even threatening, and you greet us with barely a word, you understand us completely, and you speak by answering our needs. Bless, then, the golden moment of silence, for the same paternal love is ours when you are silent as well as when you speak! - Soren Kierkegaard
Give thanks to the Lord for enabling this week’s launch of 900 classes taught remotely. Thank the Lord for faculty in taking on the challenge of re-configuring classes, and for the heroic efforts of AIT staff in coming alongside with training and technology to make it happen. Pray for peace for faculty and students alike as they adjust to the new normal for class time together.
Pray for the Lord’s peace and comfort for those fearing for their loved ones in the face of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Pray for the Lord’s care for international students on campus, in their concern for family and friends at home. Pray for those anxious and concerned for the health of loved ones serving on the frontlines, battling the coronavirus directly.
Pray for strength and peace for those caring for loved ones most susceptible to the virus – for those with compromised health conditions, or for aging parents and grandparents. Pray for others unable to visit their loved ones in senior centers and Convalescent Homes, currently under lock-down.
Community and World
As we go forward in this season of Lent with less distractions than usual, pray that we might devote ourselves more intentionally to time with the Lord and intercessory prayer. With the spread of the Coronavirus to more and more countries, pray for the Lord’s special protection over those most vulnerable in our world. Pray for those living in poverty, unable to maintain 6 feet of separation in crowded homes made of iron sheets, cardboard or clay, without the advantages of sanitation and running water with which to wash their hands.
Pray for adequate equipment to protect health workers and emergency responders working long, physically and emotionally exhausting hours. Pray for those working tirelessly through the food industry – in grocery stores, warehouses and driving trucks in an effort to keep food on the shelves and people fed – and for those in law enforcement. Pray for all who are not able to stay safe at home with their families.
Pray that the Lord will bring new unity to the people of our country and the world through a shared struggle against the Coronavirus. Pray that governments of countries considered enemies might extend ‘olive branches’ to one another in the spirit of shared humanity and respect. Pray for the Lord’s mercy upon the world to eradicate the virus. Even more, pray for the wind of His Spirit to enable the spread of the Gospel, to save the lost from that which can not only kill the body, but kills the soul.
We are excited to launch a virtual space dedicated to prayer! Wheaton Prays is a space where Wheaton students, staff, and faculty can pray for one another by submitting prayer requests and praying for others' requests. From the Portal homepage, look under "Help and Resources," then click on "Wheaton Prays." You can submit anonymously if you choose or just have the Chaplain's Office staff view it. There is incredible power in praying for one another!
We hear and respond to God’s word because he is speaking.
We spend time with God in prayer because he is listening.
- What specific and tangible commitment will you make today to live your life with God?
- How and when have the Scriptures been the voice of God to you? Do you read it daily, weekly, monthly? Do you read randomly, follow a Bible-reading plan, or use some kind of structure?
- Consider making the regular reading of God’s word a daily habit, a daily choice of living life with God.
- What are some of your prayer habits?
- What kind of prayer-life do you long to experience, and what steps can you make this week toward that end?
Upcoming Chapel Services
- Gathering for chapel today, March 30 at 10:40 a.m., where we will reflect on the practices of scripture and prayer. We will also be featuring brand new, yet to be released music from Matt Redman!
- Access chapel broadcast via the regular chapel broadcast page.
- Next online chapel gathering is Monday April 6 at 10:40 a.m.