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

Stillness ...

“Be still, and know that I am God …”

How rarely we do that; just be still. Just let God be God.

It is so hard.

Because if he is God, then I am definitely not.

And sometimes that is just tough to face.

So, we run and run and run, hoping somehow to prove our worth, to find meaning, to justify our existence.

Is it too much for God to ask that one day a week we “be still?” Is it too much for God to ask that every once in awhile we simply allow him to be God?

This poem from Mary Oliver helps me do these really hard things:

Today

Today I’m flying low and I’m

not saying a word.

I’m letting the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,

the bees in the garden rumbling a bit,

the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.

And so forth.

But I’m taking the day off.

Quiet as a feather.

I hardly move though really I’m traveling

a terrific distance.

Stillness. One of the doors

into the temple.

O, the tongue ...

James writes, “We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.” (James 3:2)

Jesus says, “… for the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Luke 6:45)

I have been pondering these passages of Scripture in light of a couple verbal interchanges I experienced over the last week or so.

Let me explain:

I have been teaching on Sunday mornings at Orchard Hill Church for 15 years. Because of recent retirement and staff changes, I am now one of the senior teachers at our church. I suppose you could even call me a teaching pastor. And don’t forget, I happen to be a woman.

Despite this seniority, I still find people (mainly men) who speak to me in ways that are not meant to be demeaning, but that, in actuality, are demeaning.

One man, on a Sunday morning before I was to teach, approached me and said, “I’ll be in there evaluating you this morning!”

Another man approached me during the week and said - (and I fully believe he hoped this would be complimentary) - “I told our senior leader after your last few teachings …. ‘I think we should keep her!’”

Now listen, I am a joker. I love a little light banter; am unoffended by casual sarcasm. I don’t consider myself overly sensitive. I don't walk around demanding respect or privilege in any way.

But I wonder about these kinds of comments.

I wonder what is underneath them.

I wonder about my own words to others. How careful am I with what I say? Do I ever use my words – intentionally or unintentionally – to “keep people in their place” or to demonstrate power?

And I wonder, in the church, when I feel diminished by words from a brother or a sister, what would be an appropriate response?

Why Judge?

I have often wondered how the church, which was founded on amazing grace, became a place of judgment for people struggling with sin.

Which is really all of us, if you think about it.

 Here is a thought:

I think the church moves toward judgment of those outside our walls because it is much easier to judge others than it is to love, and to submit our own darkness to the transforming ways of God.

And so we judge. Despite what the Scriptures tell us is our main job.

Paul says that love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:10)

He says that the only thing that really counts is faith expressing itself through love. (Galatians 5:6)

The writer of 1 John says:

“We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” (1 John 4:19-21)

Jesus said:

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:35)

(Not to mention his summary of the greatest commandment … love God, love neighbor.)

We, by the nature of who we are as followers of Christ, are first of all called to love.

Here is a little section of 1 Corinthians that I am not sure many of us have even heard before:

“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13)

Far easier to judge than to love…

I think Paul knew that.

I often ponder what might happen if the church became known again as a place of great love and grace, rather than a place that makes hurting, broken people feel worse than ever about themselves.

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?