Sunday, March 16, 2014

Finding Patience in Hectic Places.

Have patience, therefore, brothers and sisters, till the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer awaits the precious fruit of the earth, having patience for it until it receive [the] early and [the] latter rain.  -- James 5:7 (Darby)
Got patience?  My experience has shown me that impatience is my default setting.  We live in an impatient world with instant everything.  Who has to wait for anything?  Yet, I'm sitting here at my desk listening to CNN with one ear hearing about day 10 of the lost Flight 370.  Those families know impatience.  Like the produce that ripens on its own schedule in our garden, these kinds of things that are out of OUR control bring us impatience.  I wonder if the farther we've gotten from agricultural lifestyles the worse is our impatience?  Modern, urbanized folks are addicted to fast and instant, and waiting makes us nuts.

One aspect of patience involves time.  Kairos is a Greek word that is found a fair number of times in scripture -- 86 times.  It refers to time that is suitable, or the right moment.  It is often used to refer to God's time.  The apples will be ripe when the time is right.  God spoke when it was time.

The other aspect of patience is suffering.  An older word often that was used in place of patience was "long-suffering."  There is an element of patience that implies a degree of suffering, or at the very least a holding back of oneself or one's expectations or hopes.  So, James is saying, "Hold yourself back for the right time."  The right time will be in God's good discretion and will be the best outcome.  Be still and know God.

That is easier said than done.  One method of helping yourself find patience is through mindful breathing.  Sit yourself down in a comfortable place.  Begin by noticing your breath.  Think of your favorite name or image for God, and every time you breathe in say or think that to yourself.  As you breathe out release your worries and busy self-chatter.  Imagine your image/name for God filling you a little fuller with each breath inward and your own "stuff" growing smaller with each breath outward, until you are just sitting quietly with God -- outside, inside, above, below, and all around you.  This is your patient space.  Repeat this to yourself numerous times: "This is what patience feels like."  By doing this you are teaching your brain how to find this space once again when you need it again.  At those times, you may be able to simple say to yourself: "Remember what patience feels like," and you will immediately move in that direction.  This is good spiritual training in practice!

Ever patient, loving God grant us the space and generous time to find ourselves basking in your tranquil presence.  Give us patience to face this day.  Amen.  

Monday, March 10, 2014

Share Your Good Fruit

Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So you’ll recognize them by their fruit. -Matthew 7:19-20 (HCSB)
Harsh sounding passages of scripture might often cause us to pass them by for passages more soothing to our spirit-hungry ears. Frequently however, we can meditate on a hard scripture until Holy Light shows it only to be a shadow side to those good passages we suck up so readily.  It could be likened to feasting only on cookies, when a kale/spinach salad would be better for us.  Such was my experience with these verses, actually beginning at verse 7:17 with this talk of bad trees and good trees.

I can't really find a way to interpret this passage as anything but a pretty condemnatory, guilt or worry-raising passage written from a superior one (good tree) talking down to the riff-raff (bad trees.)  It is also difficult to make it anything but an analogy about people.  Are you a good tree or a bad tree?  Matthew says, "You'll know by the fruit you bear."  What fruit are you bearing?

Galatians 5:22 lists nine fruit of the Spirit that we might ought to be displaying: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control.  The way Paul puts it in Galatians, those nine character traits are not separate but just one kind of fruit.  Meaning, we don't pick and choose which of them we want or do have, but they all occupy a place within our Christian character.  If this fruit is visible, says Matthew, we are good stock and won't face the fiery furnace.

Two realizations arise from this knowledge.  FIrst, how is your Christian character with those nine attributes?  I'd offer the suggestion that you write each one down and weigh carefully how much you feel that attribute in your heart.  If you don't feel it, where is it in there?  Because, my second realization is that these nine attributes are given to you when you check yourself into Hotel Christian.  You took on your new life with Christ and part of the grace-filled room service you got handed on the silver platter was this fruit.  So, if you are right with Christ those nine elements are in you somewhere.  Why would you not be aware of them?  The world, and all the people around you, need more of that fruit being harvested.  If you look and look inside yourself and just can't locate any of this fruit, then perhaps your heart isn't as right with Jesus' heart as you might like to claim, and THAT should get your undivided attention ASAP.

Help us Dear God to share all our good fruit with you and our neighbor.  Through Christ we pray.  Amen.


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Worry Is Where Your Treasure Is

Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.  --Matthew 6:21

My father was a great worrier.  When asked about why he worried and fretted about so much his pat answer was, "Worry is a form of prayer."  Well, thanks be to his dear resting soul I learned from him how to worry, and for most of my life I have carried the same self-serving excuse.  At 58 years old, however, I have arrived at a place where I am sick of worrying about everything and sick of how it makes me feel insecure at all hours of the night especially.  We live inside our mindsets, another word being our paradigms.  If you live thinking worry is well and good and even noble, you will struggle to accept worry as anything but well, good and noble.  "It's just what I do."  When you start to open the door a crack and allow yourself permission to question the legitimacy of some of your paradigms, God can put a foot in that door and reshape your thinking.  Such is what has happened with me and worry.

No more do I believe worry is a form of prayer.  Here is what worry is: it is a sign of where your treasure is.  When I am worried, my heart is with whomever, or whatever I treasure.  Worry takes me to them/it and causes me to lose hours of sleep dwelling on, basically, what I will lose if something happens to them/it.  That treasure is not where my heart should primarily be!  In fact, if my heart is where my REAL treasure is, then I won't likely be worrying about all those things of this life.  Treasure based in this world's currency: romance, money, property, physical health, food, bills, beauty, etc. "where moth and rust destroy" cannot ever give you the peace and tranquility that trusting God will bring.  For worry-warts I realize I am really pushing their envelopes because we're attached to our worries.  In some perverted unhealthy twist of logic we think we're protecting our loved ones or being responsible for all the possible calamity in the world.  But all the calamity, danger, and loss we imagine in that early pre-dawn light rarely (if ever) happens and worse, it is the antithesis -- that is the OPPPOSITE, of loving God.  Worry is a slap across God's face for all the support, love, benevolence, hope, charity, and providence you've been shown.  So, don't slap God.  Don't worry.  Nestle yourself right down in the hollow of God's hand and try to discern the beating of God's heart, and breathe with it.

Journal Questions:
1.  It is widely believed that worry is something we learn from our parents.  Is that true of your experience?

2.  To what degree are your prayers "worry-based?"

3.  Do you practice any kind of "trusting God" forms of prayer?  If you'd like to share them here, please feel free!

God, we whole-heartedly put our complete trust in you, for we do affirm that our hearts are your heart and your heart is ours.  Through the name of Christ.  Amen.