Whether you turn to the right or to the left,

your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,

“This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21

Rule of Life

I was reading through some old notes last night and came across this little snippet of wisdom from Dallas Willard,

“To drift in this society is very dangerous.”

It reminded me why the ancients used to create and then adhere to a “rule of life,” which was a term used to describe specific practices, or habits, that each person wanted to intentionally include in their days. Some monasteries had specific communal “rules” that each monk followed. Others created their own individual “rules” that were unique to them.

Here is an example from Pope John Paul XXIII. Notice how simple it is:

* Spend 15 minutes in prayer first thing in the morning

* Spend 15 minutes reading spiritual literature

* Before bed, spend a few moments examining my conscience and making a confession to  God; then identify the issues I want to pray    about in the morning

* Set aside time for prayer, study, recreation and sleep

* Make a habit of turning my mind to God in prayer throughout the day

What do you think of this?

Do you have a “rule of life?”

Most of us do, whether it is an intentional one or not is really the question.

Pay attention to your life this week and see where your time and attention are going …

Are you drifting and hoping you will just float to where you want to be?

Or is it time to provide a bit more gentle intentionality to your days and weeks?

Stop Trying ...

We are a competitive culture, aren’t we?

We work really hard.

We strive.

We are creatures of the Protestant work ethic – and most of the outflow is good; we give our best to God, we aim for excellence, we want to be all we can be. You know the drill …

But, when this effort-laden way of life is carried into our faith, things get a bit twisted.

We start to think we can supplement grace. We start to think we SHOULD supplement grace. We start to think we MUST supplement grace.

What a slap in the face to grace.

Bishop Desmond Tutu, the South African priest with the most delightful laugh, brings this mentality to its knees:

“We too often feel that God’s love for us is conditional like our love for others. We have made God in our own image rather than seeing ourselves in God’s image. We have belittled God’s love and turned our lives into an endless attempt to prove our worth. Ours is a culture of achievement, and we carry over these attitudes to our relationship with God. We work ourselves to a frazzle trying to impress everyone including God. We try to earn God’s approval and acceptance. We cannot believe that our relationship with God, our standing before God, has got nothing to do with our performance.”

I wonder what life might look like sometimes if we really, really believed grace was enough …

Wanna’ try?

God is slow

I have been noticing lately that the pace around our church is ... well, picking up!

Last night, after a full day's work, I arrived home out of breath, a bit frantic, wound up, anxious to get to the next day so I could plow my way through my to-do list in the hopes of getting "caught up," whatever that is. It did not feel good, and I had a pretty hard time drifting off to sleep. My mind was full and whirling with thoughts.

And then, in my reading this morning, I was struck by this quote from a 19th century writer named Frederick Faber:

"In the spiritual life God chooses to try our patience first of all by his slowness. He is slow; we are swift and precipitate. It is because we are but for a time, and he has been for eternity ... There is something greatly overawing in the extreme slowness of God. Let it overshadow your souls, but let it not disquiet them. We must wait for God, long, meekly, in the wind and the dark. Wait, and He will come. He never comes to those who do not wait. He does not go their road. When he comes, go with him, but go slowly, fall a little behind; when he quickens his pace, be sure of it, before you quicken yours. But when he slackens, slacken at once: and do not be slow only, but silent, very silent, for he is God."

Well, then.

That puts all my frantic human energy in its place, doesn't it?

If God is slow, perhaps I should just settle down a bit, trust his pace, and like Faber says ... "Do  not be slow only, but silent, very silent, for he is God."

Amen.

 

There is no one but us ...

In the Old Testament, a trio of people are often cited as deserving special protections from God and God’s people … The fatherless, the widow, the orphan. Often, the foreigner is added to this list.

God knew these people were at risk in the society of the Old Testament … at risk to be marginalized, neglected, oppressed, victimized, even killed.

And so God commanded his people to take special care of these particular people in their midst. He gave special commandments, even made special rules that protected them, gave them chances to enter mainstream society again, helped them escape the noose of generational poverty, protected them from oppression and violence.

And these rules spoke to God’s people and said, “I care for this group of people in a special way, and if you follow me, you must care for them, too!”

Who are the marginalized among us today?

Might they not fit into this same descriptive trio (or quartet)? The fatherless, the widow, the orphan, the foreigner.

It matters not your political persuasion, if you are a follower of God, you are to live in such a way that you protect the marginalized, speak up for them, watch out for them, care for them, serve them, give to them, pray for them.

Often, when confronted with the marginalized in our midst, we hope for someone else to help them.

Annie Dillard addresses this common deferral of responsibility:

There is no one but us. There is no one to send, not a clean hand or a pure heart on the face of the earth or in the earth --- only us … unfit, not yet ready, having each of us chosen wrongly, made a false start, yielded to impulse and the tangled comfort of pleasures, and grown exhausted, unable to seek the thread, weak, and uninvolved. But there is no one but us. There has never been.”

There is no one but us.