Friday, November 18, 2011

centered

Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?—every, every minute?

                                                              (from the play Our Town by Thornton Wilder)


What a question…a great, great question.  Do they?  Do we?  Do I?  It seems that if I did, it would make a world of difference in the way I went about living that life every day.  It would affect the who and the what and particularly the how of every single minute of every single day.  A few years ago I was sitting with a dear friend at my favorite table in my favorite restaurant and a similar question bubbled to the surface: “Are you living the life you want to live?”  Of course the question was not about winning the lottery or living in a house on the beach, but more about, “In the life and the place you have been given, are you living the quality of life that you really want to live?”  It is a question, not so much of circumstance, but of depth and quality, of priority and investment.  And as we sat with that question and considered it deeply another question followed on its heels…”If not, why not?”  Sometimes we live our lives feeling more like our lives are living us instead.  Feeling like our life and our world is filled with things we really have no choice about; running frantically and busily from one thing to the next, out of control.  I think that’s what Jesus was addressing at Martha’s house (Luke 10).  Martha was distracted.  The word for distracted, I am told, in this context can be more descriptively translated “to drag around.”  Martha was feeling drug around.  She had no choice…after all look at all that “has to be” done.  But Jesus always has a much different perspective, a different way of seeing and of being.   Look at what Jesus has to say to her: “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41).  It is almost as if Jesus is saying, “Martha, dear Martha, you are missing it.  Realize life while you are living it.  See what is truly primary and what is only secondary; what needs to be foreground and what has to be kept in the background; what is important versus what is merely urgent.  Do not center your life on circumstances, or on duty, or need, or reputation, or agenda…center your life on me.  Everything else, including the “to do list,” will take care of itself.  You are worried and upset about many things…why is that?  Come to me, the one needed thing—the best thing.  Be with me, sit at my feet, listen to my words, look into my eyes, and allow the rest of your life to be determined by that.” 

Friday, November 4, 2011

prayer

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them… (Matthew 6:6-7)

I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that there is much more to most things than meets the eye—prayer for instance.  For years I was under the impression that prayer consisted of closing your eyes, bowing your head, and talking to God.  The pictures and images of prayer that I carried around in my heart and mind, quite frankly, left much to be desired.  Prayer was not an activity I was particularly drawn to or excited about.  My guess is that this had much more to do with my definition of prayer than it did with the real practice of prayer.  It wasn’t until much later in life that I began to see that maybe my definition of prayer was far too small and rigid.  Prayer wasn’t so much about performing a duty as it was about building a wonderfully intimate relationship.  Prayer was not simply throwing all the words I can muster at the unseen God, but it—at its very core—has always been about union with the God who lives within us.  I think that’s what Jesus is really getting at in Matthew 6; he is trying to recapture the true meaning and practice of prayer, which is simply being with God.

Don’t stand on street corners, don’t babble on and on; prayer is much more intimate and personal than that.  Instead go into your closet—that space where true intimacy is possible—and shut the door.  Leave everyone and everything else on the outside; I want it to be just me and you.  I want us to be together in a way and a place where I have your undivided attention.  I have so much I want to say to you; so much of me that I want you to know.  And this space and time is the place where that is most possible; the place where I can have the deepest desires of my heart fulfilled, which is just to be with you, my Beloved.  Come inside where things are still and quiet and you can hear every whisper of my loving Spirit deep within your heart and soul.  That’s prayer.


"Here's what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.” (Matthew 6:6 The Message)