Be prepared…

Oftentimes in life it seems that being ready depends on angling or positioning oneself to move ahead, achieve success, gain security and so on. In the quest to do so, it can be easy to become driven and focused on determining the best stance or approach and to work toward that end. However, in the process, life can become unbalanced and the lines between what is good, acceptable, righteous and/or just, and what is not, can become blurred. When that happens, I can lose track of the very thing(s) that led me to begin a particular journey, the desire with which it all began.

Jesus says, “…be prepared.” What does that really mean though?

In my younger years, particularly as an athlete, there were many drills that my teammates and I practiced. The exercises were part of our training aimed to help us to become more skilled, individually and as a team. We were to be prepared, in shape, agile…on our toes…aware and ready to respond to whatever situation may arise on the field or on the court.

Along with all of the training, and of the utmost importance, was for each of us on the team to know our purpose or function. After all, how could any of us be prepared, awake and ready without having a good sense of our individual positions? In addition to a role in a particular position, each of us needed to be mindful and attentive to the fact that we were a team. There was more than each of us and our individual positions, and we all needed to be ready to back each other up, sometimes sliding over temporarily to another position to protect the goal or to defend the perimeter.

In every day life, it can be much the same in that it is important for me to know who I am and what my role is both individually and in a broader sense as a member of a wider community. How can I be ready and faithful without a connection to, or deeper sense of, who I truly am and the role to which I have been, or may be, called?

In sports there was always a sense of protecting or guarding each other, the team and especially our home turf. It all started though, or was rooted in, a strong sense of identity. And, while it was related to team and winning, it was so much more than that, requiring each of us to be flexible, to keep learning, to re-evaluate and reassess. We needed to look within in relation to what was happening on and around the field or court throughout each day, each game, each season and each year. Deep down it was about not letting one’s house be broken into. It was about the faith, commitment and dedication on which each of us is built; something inside of each of us while at the same time bigger than each of us, enabling us to be ready, awake and prepared.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“As it was in the days of Noah,
so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
In those days before the flood,
they were eating and drinking,
marrying and giving in marriage,
up to the day that Noah entered the ark.
They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away.
So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man.
Two men will be out in the field;
one will be taken, and one will be left.
Two women will be grinding at the mill;
one will be taken, and one will be left.
Therefore, stay awake!
For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.
Be sure of this: if the master of the house
had known the hour of night when the thief was coming,
he would have stayed awake
and not let his house be broken into.
So too, you also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
– Matthew 24:37-44
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It’s Never Too Late…

Many years ago, a friend gave me a potted plant cut from one of her growing, flourishing plants. Although I had an appreciation for flowers and plants, I was not a gardener by even the most basic definition of the word. Still though, I was grateful for this gift in a number of ways ranging from the spirit of generosity with which the plant was given to me to the affect its growth had on my growth.

Initially, I placed the plant on the windowsill in my work office and was sure to water it appropriately. However, over the weeks it was not growing as one might expect. One day, toward the end of the workday, I looked at the plant wondering why it was not getting any bigger; it had light and water. I remember thinking for a moment, “maybe I’m not as good at being nurturing as I need to be.” My heart sank at the thought.

Then as I sat there, I looked out the window and had another thought, “It’s okay, you can learn.” I went home that day and continued to think about the plant and the thoughts I had had. The next day, I moved the plant to another spot in the office, I gently cleaned its leaves and I think I even talked to it. I continued to water it and care for it (turning the pot to make sure all of it was getting light and occasionally changing the location of it and wiping its leaves off) and as I did I found myself connecting to it more consciously as a living thing than as an object or obligation.

My plant began to grow and one day my friend stopped by, saw the plant and offered to re-pot it for me as she noticed the pot was getting too small. Despite her being a seasoned gardener, she was so gracious and gentle in the way she offered. I learned because of it.

I often think back to that experience as one that renewed and brought forth new life in many ways. As I think about it today, I find it interesting how it could have gone so differently. The plant could have died. I could have just decided I was not a nurturer in response to the realization of a shortcoming. Most of all, it makes me think about how it’s never too late to be delivered from anything that might be holding us back.

“Deliverer” performed by Matt Maher
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pb_DT0MhY0)

I was a drifter, I had nowhere to go
I was hanging by threads of dust and bone
Every angel I knew was singing son come home
But the melody was hard to sing along

Oh God, You’re my deliverer
The One, the One who carries us
Oh God, You’re my deliverer

I was on trial for everything I did
And there’s no way I could make a stand and win
When you realize the verdict is already in
You let go of the brokenness within
Well there’s only One who can ever stand and win

Oh God, You’re my deliverer
The One, the One who carries us
Oh God, You’re my deliverer
The One, the One who carries us

And now I’m like a child at night
Who never has to think of why
We’re free to love and live and die
And there’s no need to justify
The sinner that’s inside of me
Has lost all his control of me

My God, from the flood and from the fire
You brought me out, I am alive
With a faith, just like a child
I’m not afraid, I’m running wild
For everything that will be done
I am yours and you are my

Deliverer
The One, the One who carries us
God, You’re my deliverer
The One, the One who carries us
Oh God, You’re my deliverer
The One, the One who carries us
Oh God, You’re my deliverer
The One, the One who carries us
God, You’re my deliverer

I was hanging by threads of dust and bone

—————————————————————

Matt Maher, Bo Rineheart, Bear Rineheart
© 2015 Sony/ATV Tree Publishing / I Am A Pilgrim Songs (BMI) / Bronco Music (BMI) (Adm. by Bluewater Music) / Holy Smoking Gun Music (BMI) (Adm. by Bluewater Music)

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Mysterious Ways…

Over the course of my lifetime, it strikes me that more and more emphasis seems to be placed upon one word, “winner.” Certainly in the world of sports, keeping score and proclaiming victory makes sense, as it does in various other arenas as well; that is, at least on face value. It is clear that in so many ways society determines success based upon who has won and who has lost.

However, I cannot help but wonder, in a civilized, advanced society, why is so much importance placed on this label? Somewhere along the journey, it seems like this, and other labels, have taken on a life of their own and, over time, have been carried to an extreme. It does not take much effort to see the mantra’s “win at all costs” and “do whatever it takes to win” taking on life and operating in the world. While I am sure this has almost always been the case, given human nature, the extent to which it occurs seems so much greater in today’s world than in years past.

How did we get here? I imagine gradually…subtly. Rather than giving in to fear and feeling deflated or defeated though, there is another question, “What can I do to make it better?”, and there are more choices to make.

As I reflect on the past few months in the United States, I keep asking myself, “Since when is it unacceptable and intolerable to see value in more than one side?”

It seems that when so much is focused on “winning” rather than on operating with openness, honesty and integrity, we all lose. It is only when we focus on genuinely trying to see, and bring out the best in each other, that we truly win.

Oftentimes in life, it can be tempting to think we are losing or that we have lost, when we are actually in the process of gaining. Although we may not be able to put a finger on it, to name it, or see it in any kind of physical sense, the Spirit is waiting to bring good (whether it is wisdom, insight or something else) out of and into all that may seem like defeat. We must allow for hope and possibility that great things can happen to, for and through anybody, at any time.

“When you have no helpers, see your helpers in God. When you have many helpers, see God in all your helpers. When you have nothing but God, see all in God. When you have everything, see God in everything. Under all conditions, stay thy heart only on the Lord.” – Charles Spurgeon

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Remembrance…

Earlier in the week, I was at a gathering where the person speaking asked everyone to close their eyes and think of someone they knew and whom they considered a saint. Next, we were asked what qualities the person had that made us think of them as a saint. Then, we were asked what we might need to do to have more of that quality in ourselves.

I found it to be a particularly interesting exercise. This is mostly because I immediately thought of two people, both of whom are still alive. I found myself thinking, “Oops,” upon realizing that the speaker meant for us to think of people who had passed away. However, my mea culpa ended up being quite fruitful.

I am convinced that it was not a coincidence that the people who came to mind are still alive, not only that, but also that neither of them would consider themselves saintly by a long stretch. The thing is that while none of us is perfect, all of us have qualities that are good and holy…saintly. Some days they may shine more brightly than other days, but the hope is that as we go along they shine more often or with greater steadiness.

Continuing with the meditation, as I sat there I could envision the faces of so many people, both those living and those now deceased that God has placed around me and with me. How awe-inspiring it was. I could not help but think that there are and have been so many good people, not only in my life, but also in the world. There have also been less than kind-hearted people, but still positive things have come from most of those experiences. More than anything, it seems that there are so many examples of goodness, and each time we experience one, we are blessed. It can be easy to forget that.

November is typically a month of thanksgiving and remembrance. With each day, and as the seasons change and the years pass, it is always good to remember and be thankful.