March 31

Love is a lot of little stuff that makes for an abundant life

Practice any skill and you will find that your level of performance improves.  This is because the more often your brain repeats an action, the more connections it forms between neurons and the stronger those connections become.  If you practice holding your attention on God, your ability to awaken yourself to awareness of him will become stronger.  Constantly turn your attention to other things, and your awareness of God’s kingdom will diminish.  P.93, Reflections on Breath, by Chuck Smith, Jr.

Love one another, as I have loved you…

One final word of caution and care for this month’s devotional time.  Jesus didn’t call people away from life, but he did challenge us to participate in life from a new viewpoint.  God didn’t berate believers to devote themselves to over-activity and religiosity, but he did call us to love one another.

Sometimes I walk into my den and find Michael and his friends curled up on the sofa, peering at his computer, probably watching a video clip that I would find totally inappropriate.  But what I see is  man/boys who have been hanging out in my den for so long that I once had to make sure I had the electrical outlets child-proofed.  I see love.

Last night I looked over a guest list for a bridal shower for my daughter and engagement party for my son (two weddings, twice the fun!).  I am continually amazed at my inattention to detail and incapacity to keep an updated address book, so the task was frustrating.  But after the responsibility was accomplished, I studied the names.  I saw Meredith as a toddler, playing in the backyard with Kristen, served snacks by Kathleen.  I remembered Meredith patting Sandy’s tummy, bulging with who we came to know as Christine.  I remember Linda brushing sand off Meredith and applying sunscreen on her back on a combined family vacation to Hilton Head.  I remember Meredith, in a fit of frustration with my inadequate mothering ways cry out, “I want to talk to Miss Jean!” I remember all the ways we hold onto both our DNA family and family we are gifted with along life’s way  – sometimes bonded by trauma and loss, other times by small and repetitive acts of kindness.   I see love.

I remembered weekends when Scott and his buds played G.I. Joes and made a video lip syncing “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits.  Or the time he tried to smuggle an Indiana Jones style whip into preschool and no one kicked him out for his hood rat ways.  I remember the time we had to call 911 because his friend Ted tried to swallow a grape whole.  I remember R.A. basketball and Choir trips – all made possible because key adults in our community were willing to chaperone and supervise and coach. I remember skateboarding, bike riding (and all the scrapes and bruises!) and costuming. I see love in all these memories with these lovely people – the small, the sad, the mundane.  So while we are asking God to show us how we’re spending out time, let’s remember that it is in these small moments that God shows up…and so do we.  Could it be that we have become so transfixed by our losses and less thans that we have missed the “re-minding” of all the ways we actually love others?  We love in small ways – maybe celebrate them today!  t

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March 30

Compassionate care

Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to each other, in the same way God forgave you in Christ. Ephesians 4:32 CEB

Yesterday I took a day and asked God to show me where I was missing the mark.  I sat quietly, opened my favorite notebook to a clean page and waited.  Here’s what happened – although I eventually got to some “stuff” that revealed my unkind ways, my compassion deficits and fatigues, my unforgiving heart, and my willingness to forget all the ways God through Christ has loved me – first, I blamed others.

I expressly sat asking for a truth encounter, but my mind kept “re-minding” me of all the people who had been unkind to me.  My brain kept trying to talk me into excuses for why, as a direct result of uncompassionate care by others I had learned how to be hard hearted.  My thoughts turned to all the reasons, some of them quite good, that I shouldn’t HAVE to forgive THAT!  And guess what?  There was truth in many of these thoughts, but it isn’t the whole truth, nor is it as helpful as the truth I came seeking (and eventually received a small dose of).

Remembering Jill Bolte Taylor’s experience with rebuilding her brain, I thanked my thoughts for trying to protect me from feelings of shame, guilt, and self-condemnation. I thanked my brain for reminding me that although I sin, I do not sin alone.  For, as the scriptures teach, we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.  Instead of getting distracted by all this chitter chatter about others, I took a few minutes and specifically prayed for each person whose offenses came to my mind – I prayed for blessings upon them, and God’s grace.  Then I thanked my brain for the opportunity to pray for another, and returned to my original intent – listening to God speak to me about my own sinning ways.

It’s really funny how prayer refuses to be corralled.  I went into prayer with one purpose but left my time with a refreshed spirit – not because I got all my sins confessed but more because I fell in love with some folks I perhaps had forgotten I cared so deeply about.  My left brain had a list of naughty, but my spirit interceded and led me to a place of intercession.  It was quite lovely.

Practice:  Today I pray, Lord, help me to continue to see my enemies, my accusers, my selfish and thoughtless fellow humans through your eyes.  We all have a story.  Lord, when I can step back and realize that all of us have a story, all of us are wounded, it gentles my heart and softens my gaze.  Grant me a heart of compassion – for myself, for those I love, and for those who I find difficult.  Amen.

March 29

Can I handle the truth?

Now we see a reflection in a mirror; then we will see face-to-face. Now I know partially, but then I will know completely in the same way that I have been completely known. 1 Corinthians 13:12

In the gospel of John, chapter nine, there’s a story about a blind guy who Jesus healed.  This dude had no idea what had happened to him.  Interviewed by church leaders intent on accusing Jesus of being a sinner because he violated the Sabbath when he performed a miracle, this man replies to their questions, “Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”  John 9:25

Later in the chapter, Jesus goes looking for this newly sighted man and he too asks him a question, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

He answered, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?”

Jesus responded, “You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.”

Then the man exclaimed, “Lord, I believe.’ And he worshiped Him.”  John 9:35-38

Practice:  This is a tough one…but remember, “We can do hard things.”  Can we find some time this week to sit and meditate on our “believing” and our “behaving”?  I know a follower who is treating her spouse very poorly at the moment.  She is at the very same time leading a bible study on a biblical perspective on marriage.  This kind of thing happens to me all the time.  I leave many weekend worship experiences far more convicted by my words than anyone else probably is – I cannot seem to consistently practice what I preach.  Trusting God means I trust him with all of me, not just the good parts.  I am going to take some time, trusting God with all of me.  I’m going to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to me where I’m not “matching up”.  I’m going to pray for mercy and grace in my time of need – because I’m fairly confident I will not like what my ears hear and eyes see about those less than lovely parts of me.  Just try.  And if we can, let’s be gentle with each other as a community, just in case others are praying this same prayer – we all might need a little lovin’ as we humbly see ourselves more objectively, warts and all.

March 28

Paying attention to my fragility

O God, come to my assistance; O LORD make haste to help me.  Psalm 70:1

One of the blessings of aging is the inevitable loss of certitude.

For my birthday, Pete gave me a subscription to Sirius radio.  I really like it.  One of the things I enjoy is talk radio.  It seems to me that a lot of folks who talk on the radio must not be very old – because they seem so certain of their position.  Recently I heard a person talk about how addiction was nothing more than a lack of self-control, and it turns out, he had friends who were heroin addicts who one just decided to quit – and they did!!  I’ve also heard stories along these lines, and who would I be to suggest that this doesn’t happen?  What do I know?  But I am pretty sure that it is a very small sample with which to hang a theory of recovery on and march it out for radio listeners to absorb.

In one of my support group meetings, I listened as a woman berated another mother for her poor handling of her child’s “situation.”  Who is she to judge, I thought?  Then I realized, I’m judging the judger!!  Who am I to judge her?

Recently I gently chided one of my adult children…for something they didn’t even do!!  If I hadn’t been so…certain, I might have begun my conversation with questions rather than directions.  Fortunately, my children are gracious and experienced.  They are used to my hearing deficit and often accommodate me when I misunderstand.  I appreciate this about my children, but I am keenly and humbly aware that my clogged ears and myopic vision often frustrate or hurt others.

Practice:  Today I pray, God, come to my assistance, make haste to help me.  My vision is cloudy, my ears filled with cotton.  O how I long to know you, see you, hear your voice comforting, guiding, teaching, and…dare I say it?….gently rebuking me when absolutely necessary (and please, handle me with kid gloves for I am weak and fragile and prone to breaking).  Amen.

March 27

Repentance

Read a sobering reminder of the nature of forgetfulness…

Instead, you’ve set yourself up against the Lord of heaven! The equipment of God’s house was brought to you; and you, your princes, your consorts, and your secondary wives drank wine out of it, all the while praising the gods of silver, gold, bronze, iron, wood, and stone—gods who can’t see, hear, or know anything. But you didn’t glorify the true God who holds your very breath in his hand and who owns every road you take.  Daniel 5:23

Practice:  God who holds your very breath in his hand and who owns every road you take….

May we each remember this as we breathe, as we walk.  May our ears hear, and our eyes see, that the Lord is good to us.  May we respond in humble surrender to this God who not only sees and hears himself, but provides us with the capacity to do so as well.

March 26

For not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.  Luke 12:15

Practice:  Take some time today and write a letter to yourself, giving yourself time to think about what you think you need in order to experience an abundant life.  Consider carefully.  Notice if you find yourself making a list that sounds more like a regurgitation of the last 20 commercials you watched, begging you to need this thing or that new gadget.  Sit quietly with yourself, asking yourself what you really value, what really enriches your daily experience.  Maybe ask God to provide you with sharper ears and eyes to see abundance differently than ever before.

March 25

“The problem with not noticing is not simply:  that we are missing out on beauty, that we pass up free pleasures and moments of joy, that we lose an opportunity to enrich our soul, that the mystery of the sacred gradually fades from our hearts and minds but that we fail to take advantage of the many moments in our daily lives in which God wishes to awaken us, connect with us, and show us a better way to live.  In not noticing, we forfeit many of God’s most wonderful gifts.”  Reflections on Breath, by Chuck Smith, Sr., p. 30.

16 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. 18 He chose to give us birth by his true word, and here is the result: we are like the first crop from the harvest of everything he created. James 1:16-18 CEB

Practice:  Today, notice stuff.  Tonight, take a few minutes and write a note to yourself and a prayer of gratitude to God for the beauty, the pleasure, the moments of joy, the moments when you were awake today!