Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tip of the Rose - Black

Some years ago, my sitting in a city church boardroom candidating as support pastor wasn’t as intimidating to me as it was almost sixteen years earlier, when I sat in the same room, surrounded by another set of individuals, as an interviewee for the role of assistant pastor. The circumstances were entirely different. Since then, I’d served in two senior roles and had staff myself, and this time I was a good acquaintance and peer of the incumbent senior minister, who was eager for my appointment.

Among those deacons on the latter occasion was a black brother who seldom spoke, and seemed rather mysterious. I couldn’t see his eyes, since he wore dark glasses, and when he did speak, he articulated his thoughts with great precision and deliberation. Who is this guy? I wondered. I soon learned that there was nothing sinister about Earl or his shaded eyes. Simply, he had to wear sunglasses for a while to aid his recovery from a medical problem affecting his eyes.

During my time in that role (yes, I did get the appointment), Earl and his wife became a special part of our ministry circle, and were supportive inspirations to my wife and me. He had a unique ability to communicate, and conducted a very stimulating and popular adult Bible class. Let me share with you just one little snippet that somewhat explains Earl and his communicative ability, which so inspired me.

Many years ago, he taught himself to concentrate and maintain focus. He would get alone, and sit facing a vase with a single, red rose. He looked at that rose, focusing not only eyes, but also his attention to its every detail – not for five minutes, or ten, or even thirty minutes, but for two hours at a time.

Presumably, Earl obtained a fresh rose when necessary, for over a period of several months he reduced the field of his mental focus in his mind-training exercise, until at last, his focus wasn’t on the whole rose, or even a single petal – but on the tip of one petal of the rose! This wasn’t just a matter of staring blankly, but an intense examination and consideration of the rose’s every feature.

Two hours of that at a time? Crazy! some may say. Yet, in our bustling, frenetic, always-on-the-go society, in which short attention spans are so often the norm, the discipline and training of the mind is so much a forgotten art, or an art never learned. This man’s speech and ability to say what he intended to say indicates its benefit.

Is Jesus the ‘Rose of Sharon’ to your soul? Yes? To me, too. Let us focus our minds on Him. Narrowing our focus by gazing on His loveliness – His love, His compassion, His grace, and so much more – enlarges our spiritual vision. Taking just the tip of the Rose – one aspect of His person – can occupy us at great length.

Two verses (NIV): Psalm 46:10, Be still, and know that I am God . . .
Hebrews 12:2, Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Emphases added)

A Prayer:
Heavenly Father:
Thank You that as our gaze is focused on Your grace as revealed in Jesus Christ, the Son of Your love, our minds become disciplined and our hearts delighted. May our lives articulate Your grace so that others will come to appreciate and enjoy the fragrance of the Rose of Sharon.


Peter writes a weekly community newpaper column, and is the author of "Parables from the Pond" ("written for children, enjoyed by all ages.")
He can be contacted at raisegaze@execulink.com


Marian said...

Did your friend simply focus on the rose or did he let his thoughts go to the Rose of Sharon? Just wondering? I would find it pretty well impossible to focus on one single object (no matter how beautiful) for two whole hours.

Peter Black said...

Thanks for asking, Marian,
It's 15 years since Earl shared with me this part of his journey (which occurred some years before then), and I don't recall his mentioning the progression of his devotional thought during the months of his self-imposed training in mind discipline.
What was evident, however, was that he loved the Lord dearly, and had a capacity to think before he spoke, and he was characteristically gracious.

Glynis said...

I have a hot flash just thinking of me attempting to focus for two hours on the tip of a rose petal!And thinking before speaking? Now there is another lost art. I could use such instruction. But you mentioned, Psalm 46:10 (My favourite verse)- Be still and know that I am God...how meaningful that came to me last year as I underwent my cancer journey. Thanks for the prod. Peter. I may buy a single rose tomorrow!

Popular Posts