Day 27

Brothers and sisters, if a person is caught doing something wrong, you who are spiritual should restore someone like this with a spirit of gentleness. Watch out for yourselves so you won’t be tempted too. Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are important when they aren’t, they’re fooling themselves. Each person should test their own work and be happy with doing a good job and not compare themselves with others. Each person will have to carry their own load. Galatians 6:1-5 CEB

 

 

This scripture provides us with several personal points of application:

  1. Watch yourself before you wreck yourself. Increase your self-awareness (which is very different from self-absorption).

 

 

  1. Self-awareness is a great antidote to temptation; temptation is a real possibility at every turn – so keep alert! This will include testing your own program, noticing your own habit patterns.

 

 

It’s amazing how hyper-sensitive I am when another person has the same bad habits that I possess. Today, let’s try to focus on our own program, not critiquing anyone else’s!


Day 26

What happens when our spiritual fruit turns up bruised and rotten? How do we make sense of our good intentions getting throttled by our sinful nature?

 

Of course, a loving God has provision for that too!

 

Brothers and sisters, if a person is caught doing something wrong, you who are spiritual should restore someone like this with a spirit of gentleness. Watch out for yourselves so you won’t be tempted too. Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are important when they aren’t, they’re fooling themselves. Each person should test their own work and be happy with doing a good job and not compare themselves with others. Each person will have to carry their own load. Galatians 6:1-5 CEB

 

 

Scott did a two week sermon series on these verses, and I appreciated how he kept reminding us of what was missing in these verses. Five short verses for what is a very large topic – what to do in a community when one of us does something wrong.

 

What can we learn?

 

Restoration is to be carried out with a spirit of gentleness.

 

This morning the news was filled with reports of rioting in Baltimore, MD, as a result of alleged police brutality. Evidently, the community feels like there has been a pattern of this going on, and they want justice. At a minimum, they want to know that their community is a safe place for people who do something wrong as well as all citizens. Some people believe that they’ve had to get loud in order to be heard, because they perceive that no one is listening to their cries of injustice. Others decry the violence and ask for a peaceful solution. In particular, I heard a police official ask for the citizens to respond in peace. And if I’m not mistaken, I think the citizens are asking the police to do the same. However you look at it, it’s a big scary mess.

 

One pastor was quoted as saying something like this, “You cannot get to justice through violence.” What a great statement.

 

That’s why, I suppose, it is incumbent upon us to figure out how to restore gently. Because people are going to mess up. How can we wrestle within our own cultural context with gentle restoration?


Day 25

In the book of Galatians (chapter 5), Paul tells us that our desires are sometimes in conflict with the Spirit and the Spirit is in conflict with our sinful nature. He has a big list of things that are considered sinful. I don’t think this was ever intended to be an exhaustive list, or one that we were to post on our wall as a command to avoid. I suspect what he was saying was more like, here’s a few things that we do that just proves that we have a tendency to live independently of God – and that’s not in keeping with our spiritual nature.

 

He goes on to talk about the fruit of the Spirit in the same chapter – and we understand these to be characteristics that act as a reflection of God in our lives that are observable by others. But just like the former list isn’t exhaustive and does not solve our problems with living independently of God if we can avoid that list of naughty, the latter list isn’t one we can acquire simply through wishing it so. Nor was it intended, I believe, to be exhaustive either.

 

I think what Paul IS saying is that we need to care for one another as best we can, in the way we can, as often as we can. Not because we’re afraid we aren’t going to get to check off our Spiritual fruit list for the day if we don’t treat another with kindness!

 

This caring and kindness is simply who we are made to be – whether we know it or not.

 

When I was trying to learn the rules of SpikeBall (it’s way harder than it sounds), I was so busy focusing on the rules I’d forget to hit the ball! Guidelines and rules can help point us in the right direction, but nothing is as valuable as practice practice practice.

 

So today – practice kindness. See how it goes!


Day 24

In our community we try to stay educated about the latest and greatest advances in the treatment of trauma, addiction, and mental health. We have workshops and bring in speakers.

 

Another commitment we have is to a continual dialogue about life in the Spirit. We try to introduce our community to various perspectives of faith, spirituality, spiritual disciplines, and more. We talk about holiness – why it matters and what it looks like. We are to suggest – because we believe it to be true – that we are not only commanded to “be holy” but given provision for living holy lives. We ferret out and bring up subjects that we think help us improve our conscious contact with God. We talk about spiritual disciplines and try to practice them in all our affairs. And if we forget, inevitably someone will remind us that we need to get back to the next right steps of living. Our quest for deeper self-awareness and more profound God awareness is relentless.

 

Here’s why we are committed to both recovery and faith:

 

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” Galatians 5:16 NIV

 

There’s a connection between our recovery and our spirituality.

 

How are you doing with attending to the both/and of this work?


Day 23

“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Galatians 5:6b NIV

 

 

My grandmother “accidentally” ended up living most of her years on Ruby Street. She never intended to live there – it was just a house she was able to purchase in a hurry while she tried to figure out where she and Papa were going to move next. I am so grateful for that accident. So much loving provision happened as a result of that “mistake.”

 

On the evening before Jimmy’s funeral, Pete and I drove into town and showed up on Ruby Street practically unannounced. It had been years since my last visit, but I knew we’d be welcomed – and we were. After all the greetings and catching up, Dot, Jimmy’s widow, came and sat in the living room with Beth and me. Here’s what she said at one point, “You know anytime I had a problem I would walk next door and sit on the porch with Mrs. Murdock (my grandmother), and she’d listen to everything I needed to say. And things would be better after that. I also knew that whatever I said would never be shared with another soul.”

 

Then we reminisced about all the appointments, weddings, and grocery store runs the Harwards made for my grandmother in her declining years. Never a great driver, the thought of her driving that boat of a vehicle around Durham sent all of us into a state of anxiety. But our family, though far away, had little to fear because we knew that she was well cared for by the family next door.

 

I’m sure they didn’t love perfectly or even adequately on some days – and I imagine that this is exactly how the occupants of Ruby Street felt while they were living life day to day. I can remember the challenges of using a shared party phone line by several families. I recall the years when someone would get sick, lose a job, or break the peace by acting weird or not keeping their lawn tidy. Beth and Scott remember how my grandfather used to yell at their dog when he thought they weren’t listening! (I can still hear that gruff voice too.)

 

But at the end of the day, and as this era winds to a close, all that remains is this abiding love for one another. That’s pretty good.

 

I wonder if you wish you could live like this. Guess what? You can! In fact, I see people living like this in my community every day. I returned home from the funeral and found two offices painted by hands I never saw. I left my kitchen in a big mess, but when I came home someone had cleaned it for me.

 

Small kindnesses add up to abiding love. Could you add to the supply today?


Day 22

In Peter Scazzero’s book, “The Emotionally Healthy Church”, he writes about a story that l’ll try to retell without butchering it. There once was a cracked pot, used by a water carrier in India. He had two pots, one of them perfectly formed. He would lift a pole across his back and tote the pots on each end. For two years these pots helped him tote water. The perfect pot was very proud of his water holding prowess, but the cracked pot was ashamed of his imperfection. One day the cracked pot couldn’t take it anymore, so he apologized to the master for this inadequacy.

 

The water carrier smiled and urged the cracked pot to notice the beautiful flowers that grew along the path from the well to the master’s house. The carrier was able to assure the leaky cistern that because of his uniquely cracked ways, the carrier took this flaw and used it to water plants that he had planted along the path. Turns out that all the lovely flowers used to decorate the master’s home were the result of this one cracked pot.

 

The problem I have with this story is imagining the perfect pot. I’ve never seen one, have you?

 

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

 

 

I pray that today we can lighten the load of expectation a bit and consider a richer, more realistic way to live.

 

I doubt that Jimmy Harward ever gave much thought to what it might mean to a little girl visiting her grandparents to have him always greet her with a warm welcome and a steady gaze of love. The time he pitched a tent for us to sleep out in – did he know he was making what was for me a lasting memory of true joy? What about the year he was painting his house (too slow for his wife’s taste, but the man did have a fulltime job!!) and left the ladder leaning against the roof? What was his experience when he realized that his son and my brother used it to climb onto the roof and hide behind the chimney every night during flashlight tag? What was it like when Beth and I complained bitterly about the trickery, practically accusing Jimmy of colluding with the enemy? Still and all, this memory leaves all participants smiling to this day – and I think perhaps his wife has forgiven him for putting the children in harm’s way…and maybe how long it took to get that task accomplished. J

 

Oh the things we worry about. In honor of a great man, can we today practice gazing warmly at others? Maybe take the time to give a child your full attention? These small next right steps can mean the world to a lonely person of any age.


Day 21

Last night Pete and I came to Durham so that we could attend the funeral of Jimmy Harward. Jimmy lived a long and full life – 90 years if you round a little. He and his wife Dorothy lived in the same house for 65 years. They have three adult children, three grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. If you want a mental image of him, imagine a Normal Rockwell painting of a tall string bean of a man with glasses and a pipe, a warm smile, and twinkling eyes. I would think twinkling eyes aren’t really a thing – but he had them, so I know they’re real.

 

I’ve never not known him, as his daughter Beth and I are a few weeks apart in age – yes, she is younger – and our first picture together was taken while we lay on a blanket in the backyard kicking our chubby little feet in the air.

 

While my family acted like rolling stones gathering no moss, this family was sinking their roots deep into the community. And the lovely thing about them is that each summer when I came to visit my grandparents who lived next door – they just scooped me up and folded me into the family.

 

I’ve always appreciated and known that I was a lucky duck to have time with them, but what I realized in the middle of the night in the hotel, waiting to attend Jimmy’s funeral the next day, was that they were God’s answer to my prayer for roots.

Once this thought came to me in the middle of the night – unbidden but welcomed – I got up and cracked open my computer. I did some research on roots, and it was there that I found words for my answered prayer. It turns out that there is this thing called a taproot. (Am I the only one who didn’t know this?) A taproot is a straight root that grows vertically downward from which subsidiary rootlets develop. Ruby Street was the soil in which my taproot grew. At Jimmy’s funeral his son Scott spoke of his father’s humility, grace, loyalty to country and family, humor, harmonica playing antics, total lack of concern for material possessions, 90 year membership in the SAME CHURCH and more. Every single word was true. I know because I am in many ways the product of having known that people like this exist, and I wanted to be like them some day – God willing. I am still a work in process, but I know this: without this man’s influence, I’m not sure I would have even known that this way of loving was possible.

 

Maybe you’re like me, and life hasn’t always made sense to you. Or maybe you’ve sometimes wished for parts of your life to be different. I just want to encourage you today to look a little deeper. Sometimes God answers our prayers so creatively that we’ll miss the opportunity for gratitude if we aren’t alert.

 

Don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good gift, every perfect gift, comes from above. These gifts come down from the Father, the creator of the heavenly lights, in whose character there is no change at all. James 1:16-17 CEB


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