Prayer Nuggets from Bill Marty

January 1, 2019

In my imagination, the Little Drummer Boy arrives at the manger scene with the Wise Men.

Our finest gifts we bring
Pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the king
Pa rum pum pum pum

But we, like the Little Drummer Boy,

…have no gift to bring
Pa rum pum pum pum
That’s fit to give our king
Pa rum pum pum pum

Inspired by a friend’s question, I’ve been thinking about what I would bring to the Christ child at the manger scene? I love music, but I don’t play, or really even sing. It’s not as if the Word of God, who spoke the universe into being, needs any thing I can bring. Unless. Unless the thing I bring is my creation, me using the talents with which He endowed me, before he knit me, fearfully and wonderfully, in my mother’s womb. So, what is the talent that makes me me? What do I do when I am being most naturally myself?

I’m an engineer. It’s who I am, how I think, my vocation. I figure out how to make new things. So, what would I make that is simple, beautiful, maybe even musical? I think I would make a music box. I would design visible works because I love that sort of thing. And it would play Frank Mills’ Music Box Dancer. That’s what I would bring.

Then he smiled at me
Pa rum pum pum pum

Want a little joy in your Epiphany? Go to YouTube and play the Pentatonix version of Little Drummer Boy. Then find the Music Box Dancer video with the ballerinas.

What would you bring? [Thanks to Teresa Lombardi for the inspiring question.] Drop a note with your answer to Bill Marty, bill@prayernuggets.org. Thanks!

November 7, 2018

I’m coming to the end of my year of Bible reading, following the Bible in One Year app by the Alpha folks. In the course of my Bible reading, I found Proverbs to be a strange book. It seems to me that the proverbs in Proverbs fall into two categories, obvious and useless. Now that thought worries me. Another way to say it is, there are proverbs I understand and proverbs I don’t. While browsing in an Amazon book store recently, I found a book titled God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Book of Proverbs, by Timothy and Kathy Keller. Timothy Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, and author of several widely read books on faith. I’m hoping to learn the wisdom of Proverbs from a wise teacher.

As students often are, I’m impatient to get to the ‘answer’. So, while I plan to work my way through Keller’s book over the next year, I turned first to the last day’s devotion in Keller’s book, figuring I would find his ultimate wisdom nugget there. Here’s the money paragraph, written as a prayer:

“Lord, I have learned that wisdom is only a by-product of wanting something more than wisdom — to see God! Aim at knowing you, and you get wisdom thrown in. Aim just at wisdom — in order to be successful — and you get neither. At last I see it. It took me long enough. I praise you for your patience with me. Amen.”

Or, in the words of one of our hymns, Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be given unto you, Allelu, Alleluia.

If you have a prayer nugget you’d like to share, email Bill Marty, bill@takenroad.com. Thanks!

October 31, 2018

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“How many of you remember the King Dome? Do you remember when it opened in 1976? In May of 1976, an event drew the largest attendance ever for an event in the Kingdome, and I was there. It wasn’t a sporting event, or a rock concert. It was a church service. It was a Billy Graham crusade. I believe Billy Graham is the real deal. By that, I mean that he’s a real man of God. (I just wish he was Catholic.) At that crusade, he told this story about the early days of his ministry. In the first five years, his ministry struggled. Billy Graham was a true believer, and a great orator. He could speak powerfully to large audiences. But somehow, people just weren’t buying it, and his ministry was struggling. So one day, he was in a small town in Kansas, staying in a cheap motel. He needed to mail a letter so he went looking for the post office. He walked up and down the streets, looking for the post office, but not finding it. Finally, he stopped a young boy on a bicycle and asked him where to find the post office. The boy told him. Then Billy Graham said, ‘Son, I’m a preacher, and I’m holding a crusade this evening. I’ve got a big tent on the edge of town. I hope you will come to my crusade and bring your whole family. Will you do that?’ And the boy asked, ‘What’s a crusade?’ So, Billy Graham told the boy, ‘I’m going to preach the Gospel, and tell everyone how to get to heaven.’ The boy thought about this for a bit, and said, ‘No, we won’t be there.’ ‘Why not?’ ‘Mister, how’re you gonna find heaven? You can’t even find the post office.’ ”

Billy Graham thought about that conversation, and he said it changed his life. He realized he’d been telling people to follow Billy Graham to get to heaven, and that was missing the point. It’s not about Billy Graham. It’s about Jesus Christ. From then on, all his preaching was about Jesus Christ, not Billy Graham. And his ministry started to grow.

It’s the same in the Catholic church. The Catholic church isn’t about priests. It’s not about bishops. It’s not even about the Pope (“a job I’ve applied for every time it’s been open”). It’s about Jesus Christ. The church is flawed, and it’s full of sinners. Sinners like you and like me. We’re all broken. And there are some priests guilty of more than just personal failures. Actual evil. Criminals. But it’s not about them. It’s about Jesus Christ. Stay in the church, like I did, for Jesus.
~~~
The church can use our prayers right now. If you have prayer nuggets you’d like to share with the parish, email Bill Marty, bill@takenroad.com. Thanks!

P.S. “Hey, Father!” is the title of Fr. Doug’s book, published in 2001. The subtitle is “32 Stories from a Doorman in the House of God.”