Choose This Day

We were at dinner with another couple, about this time last year, who have been friends for a long time but had recently resurfaced in our lives on a more regular basis.  She said this was actually a thing, that there have been studies about friendships changing every seven years…or having a seven year life span?  It was something about seven years and change and actually seemed to ring true as we thought back even as limited as our time of marriage and how our friends have changed.  The notion was also discussed in a piece on NPR that studied more about how fundamentally we change on a successive basis, that what we are deeply into today we may not be so into in ten years or might even find embarrassing.  That, in some aspects, also truly describes our evolution in the social/spiritual/emotional sense.  And then I remembered my little sister on her last day of being six years old declaring, “Tomorrow my molecules will be changing!  Every seven years, you’re molecules change.”  Though the process is a bit more gradual than the anniversary of one’s birth on every seventh year, the concept is correct.

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  Matt. 6:28-34

Change makes me worry.  What does…What will…How will…Where will…Who do…I just terribly want definition.  I would surely be drawn to a record label over street performing because the former would have parameters and structure and a plan while the latter seems to lack everything other than a pure love of the craft.  Its also difficult to find responsible advocates of “don’t worry Maaaaan.  Eat, drink and be merry…”

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.  Joshua 24:15

I had an inspiring meeting last week with a successful local businessman who told us that one of his mantras is that “I will not fail today.”  Aside from the impossibility of that for me spiritually, I liked the singular focus of its commitment.  We’re not worrying about tomorrow or yesterday or next week or even the whole project, just today.  Just today, choose whom you will serve.  “Just for today” begin the resolutions from AA, NA and the others.

I mess up friendships needing to “handle them” yesterday and tomorrow.  I lose focus distracted by the whole month and the many years.  Every journey begins with a single step, right?  This is the day that the Lord has made…do not worry about tomorrow.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them.  And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  Matt. 18:1-4

When my children wake up in the morning, they will not have a single thought about the next day, only the moment in front of them.  Sit down Martha, out of the kitchen, at Jesus’ feet, today.  Tomorrow will worry about itself.

Spit Out of the Fish

Identity and involvement are two curious shadows that as such, I can’t wrap my arms around or pin down or in any way seem to manage.  Ambiguity and nuance are beautiful, powerful, and typically where truth resides, and yet leave me so powerless.  Am I this or that?  Should I do more or less?  Do I follow this inclination or reject it entirely?  Is this desire from God or the lusts of my flesh?  Should I be more honest and raw or more admirable and correct?

Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!  Psalm 46:10

I seem to forget this profound premise of the Gospel, a central theme of the person and work of Jesus:  it is not about me and God WILL be exalted among the nations and in the earth through both my beauty and blunders, in the midst of both my grumbling and gratefulness, despite both my selfishness and selflessness.  I am not the point of my creation.  I am not the goal of my sanctification.  I am not breathing today, thinking today, feeling today, working today or being unproductive today for my reputation or reward or for fear of reprimand.  Whether I am fleeing to Tarshish or proclaiming Scripture while being stoned to death, neither are less true in their telling of the person and work of Jesus than the other.

My inability, my lack of discipline, my grumpiness, and my poor time management communicate as much about the truth of God’s perfections in contrast as they do about my need for Him and His work in me that I can’t fake.  When I am productive, gentle in speech and generous in love or service, these provide mere samples of His Person and work, never satisfying in their completeness but directing us to the Source of Satisfaction.

Truly my soul finds rest in God;
    my salvation comes from him.
 Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.  Psalm 61:1-2

It is Good News that God is on His throne, with a peaceful countenance and gentle smile, loving generously while upholding justice, no matter what my house looks like or what I’ve accomplished in the day or how I’ve used my words, talents and time today.

Am I advocating licentiousness and laziness?  I am advocating God at the center, above and before all things, the beginning and end of all moments and all of creation.  I think He can handle it from there.

Earnings

There is something about “the moral of the story is…” that is just so magnetic.  I want to follow morals and I really like rules.  AND I am always certain and anxious that I am breaking one that I somehow wasn’t attending to properly.  When a police car is behind me I’m sure they see me and are about to turn on their blue lights. I am hyper aware of my wickedness and rebellious heart and live, without always recognizing it, as one who is perpetually guilty.  It makes sense, then, that I am equally atuned to the flaws of others, the errors and violations, the guilt to be identified all make up that double edged sword of justice…lots of slicing going on from my heart.

By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him;  for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.  Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 1 John 3:19-21

Of course my heart condemns me, constantly, and not because I am so humble or “too hard on myself” but because the opposite is true…I am offensively arrogant to believe that by my own rule following I can avoid condemnation!  “If I can be all tucked in and washed and combed, no fault will be found!” Oh how little I really understand about the heights of righteousness required of me, that I think I can attain them or that I fear being found out for falling short.  OF COURSE I fall short!  But how do I persuade my heart that my confidence is not in my purity but in His?  This is not new information, nor is it a startling new theological discovery.

And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.  Gen. 15:6

My righteousness is not going to be found in my time management, my documented accomplishments at the end of each day, the admiration of myself from the eyes of others, the condition of my house, the clothes on my body, the words spoken to my children, the time volunteered in my community, the favors done for others, the money budgeted in our accounts but only in my belief that HIS perfections cover me.

Why do I continue to live as one earning favor?  Why do I feel so guilty and angry each time I clearly deserve a citation for laziness, lack or loss of self-control, self absorption, grumpiness, discontent, poor stewardship and wasted time?

Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
    O God of my salvation,
    and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
 O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
    you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.  Psalm 51:14-17

Harried But Sadly, Not Harry

I believe my problem is that I always envisioned myself a type of Harry Potter with God as my Dumbledore.  Call it delusions of grandeur, but I imagined my life had some special purpose, that I had some particular battle to fight in the grander war against Darkness which biblically has ultimately been won by God Himself.  Like Harry, my role wasn’t about any intrinsic value in myself and all victories would come from power outside of myself, usually with reliance on others.  But nonetheless, that special partnership between student and Master was mine with God.

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
    vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
What does man gain by all the toil
    at which he toils under the sun?
A generation goes, and a generation comes,
    but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
    and hastens to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
    and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
    and on its circuits the wind returns.
 All streams run to the sea,
    but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
    there they flow again.
All things are full of weariness;
    a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
    nor the ear filled with hearing.

 What has been is what will be,
    and what has been done is what will be done,
    and there is nothing new under the sun.  Eccl. 1:2-9

“All things are full of weariness…and there is nothing new under the sun.”  What pursuits have meaning or are worth the toil?  The poor will apparently always be with us.  Instead of racism getting any better (and by better I mean less, diffused, eliminated) it seems just to get firmer, more solidified, stronger and more impenetrable.  Unlike Harry, there is no concrete sense of progress being made, no Horcruxes seem to be destroyed, we’re not getting any closer to Voldermort and his death eaters are just multiplying.  And perhaps Dumbledore is on a mission, but I haven’t seen him in ages.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,  heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good,  treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,  having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.  For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions,  always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 2 Tim. 3:1-7

Well great.  Encouraging.

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.  Eccl. 12:13

So it comes down to “work as unto the Lord”, the beginning and end of all things, the only just judge and the redeemer and sustainer of all life.  I am not to work for what is visible but what is invisible.  Blah, I’ll be honest, I’m too American.  I’m too postmodern.  I’m probably that “weak willed woman” the Bible was talking about, so easily rerouted.  Plus, its just not fun to keep pushing against walls and conflict and disagreement over things that aren’t universally considered important, necessary or significant.  Oh where is my Dumbledore?

 And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.  And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.   Is. 30:20-21

Beginning to Sink

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out,“Lord, save me.”  Matt. 14:28-30

It is not difficult for me to jump out of the boat and believe I can run across the water with my focus on Jesus.  When the call is made to “pick up your cross” and follow Jesus into the darkest places, the leprosy colonies and to the places most readily rejected by the mainstream of society, my heart beats fast and I can’t tie my running shoes quickly enough.  But once I’m out the door, out of the boat, the waves obscure my view of Jesus and the mist gets in my eyes, the shark fins and seaweed gather nearer and my balance is off and my head feels swimmy and I think, “What the hell is the point of this anyway!?”

It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick.  The poor will have good news preached to them.  Give what you have to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven!  Become less that He may become more.  Jesus came not be served but to serve.  The God of creation is on the side of justice!  Jump out of the boat!

Do not show up in a neighborhood as if you are the doctor and those already there are the perpetually sick!  Who are you to be so arrogant?  It is so typical of white people to assume the position of power, to come in and take over, to tell others what they need rather than listening and waiting and learning.  Christian, don’t assume you’re bringing God to the neighborhood because He is probably already there working long before you arrived and will be long after you depart.  Those kids you stayed up with into the wee hours of the morning, advocating for with the police, caring for with car rides and childcare, they were just using you because you’re too nice.  They don’t want your friendship.  When has their Mama ever called just to hang out?  She only ever reaches out when she wants something from you.  Your forcing something that nobody wants and nobody has asked for here.  Sinking sinking sinking.

The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
    when he delights in his way;
though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
    for the Lord upholds his hand.  Psalm 37:23-24

I’m glad to see that falling and being cast headlong are not the same.  Near drowning is not drowning, so I’ve got that going for me.

Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.  Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’  Matt. 25:32-40

It is Jesus who has clothed me in Him, covered the shame of nakedness, fed me His bread of life.  He has set me free from the prison of sin and death and called me His child though for a while I was not.  When in a desert, dehydrated and in agony from thirst, the discovery a fountain of fresh water is not to be kept secret.  And so I suppose when in a boat, the discovery of that God Man is the only place where Life is to be found…where else would I go but out onto that ocean and to Him?