Pat on the Back

pat-on-backBe careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-4)

It’s difficult to walk the line of being an example for others without calling attention to yourself. We want to encourage and challenge others, but we need to do so humbly. And that’s difficult in today’s social media-saturated culture. There are so many voices screaming for everyone’s attention.

But maybe that’s not all that different from the past. Sure, the method of delivery, speed, and availability might be different, but the inundation of voices have probably been challenging in different ways through the years.

And no matter the specific challenges, humility will always be in style. Well, perhaps not in style, but a good goal to have.

What Will We Do?

111426e35a244c302cd35da9b23de562I will praise You with a sincere heart when I learn Your righteous judgments. I will keep Your statutes; never abandon me...I will meditate on Your precepts and think about Your ways. I will delight in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word. (Psalm 119:7-8,15-16)

What we do in the present is not our only concern. What we commit to doing and becoming on an ongoing basis is paramount. It’s important to claim today what we plan and hope for tomorrow. What we give attention, we give intention. What we focus on today flows into tomorrow. What we plan for tomorrow ebbs into today.

I will praise God.

I will keep and delight in His statutes.

I will meditate on His precepts.

I will think about His ways.

I will not forget God’s Word.

We Miss Out

maxresdefaultFor God speaks time and again, but a person may not notice it. (Job 33:14)

We miss out because we’re not attentive to the right things at the right times. We get distracted. Perhaps we haven’t really gotten focused yet at all, at least, not on the right things. We think we know best. We think we know what to expect, including from God. We over-think and over-control, or we over-doubt and over-disconnect. We don’t want to be disappointed, so we try to structure our lives the way we think will keep us the safest…or the most successful or acknowledged or whatever is a priority to us.

All the while, we miss out on God’s encouragement, teaching, admonishment, and truth, because we don’t notice Him. We’re not attentive enough. We don’t know Him well enough.

But we can.

The Achievement of Living in Light

Happy are the people who know the joyful shout; Yahweh, they walk in the light of Your presence. (Psalm 89:15)

Then Jesus spoke to them again: “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Jesus answered, “The light will be with you only a little longer. Walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you. The one who walks in darkness doesn’t know where he’s going. While you have the light, believe in the light so that you may become sons of light.” Jesus said this, then went away and hid from them. (John 12:35-36)

But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)

static1.squarespace.comWalking in the light doesn’t mean we get it all right, that we always have the answers, or that the light shines on us. Living in the light isn’t the same as living in the limelight. Not that the two can’t cross paths from time to time, but it’s not our focus. That’s difficult to digest in an age where reality tv invites otherwise obscure people into widespread recognition. Or when we are evaluated by the number of social media contacts we have. Or when we think our names need to be attached to everything we do in order to build a brand and make an impact…all in the name of Jesus, of course.

In God’s economy, achievement is often anonymous and may not even seem like achievement except to God. Remember, according to Him,

So the last will be first, and the first last. (Matthew 20:16)

Whoever tries to make his life secure will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. (Luke 17:33)

Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor. (Proverbs 3:34)

Prayer Flares

“Hey, God, I need some help here!”

“Please, God, if you do this, I promise…”

“I can’t do this on my own. Help me get all this done!”

God wants to hear from us no matter what is going on in our lives, but we need to pay attention to the patterns of communication we set. We lead such busy lives that we don’t always think we have the time we need to foster the prayer lives we truly want. But we reach out to God when we’re overwhelmed and desperate. We need His help to accomplish and manage all that we’ve scheduled and determined, especially when anything extra tries to squeeze its way in as an interruption.

Often, we send up prayer flares–calls for help–but we want help in accomplishing what we want, not paying attention much to what God wants for and from us. We send up prayer flares not to change our pace but to maintain it. It’s more about our pace and priorities than God’s.

Prayer flares aren’t bad. But God doesn’t just want us calling out to Him in emergency situations, especially when we’re not really asking Him to rescue and provide for us in His way. We want Him to meet us where we are but we’re not as willing to go where He then wants to take us. We want His assistance in living our lives instead of wanting to live the lives He purposes for us.

Slow Down!

I got to study group and was hesitant to really engage. I kept thinking about skipping out to focus on other things that were on my mind. I didn’t think the benefits of staying were worth what I’d be missing. But I needed to slow down before making a decision. Life isn’t about pushing forward. It would have been okay for me to leave, but only for the right reasons. God challenged me to slow down enough to listen to how He was guiding, and as I settled down, I settled in.

I realized I was just where I needed to be. My priorities for the morning slid into place.

An hour went by. I engaged in challenging, encouraging discussion then sat down with friends to dig deeper while listening to the next message. I was lost in thought when I felt my phone vibrate. It was someone I couldn’t ignore or didn’t want to ignore. Yet I felt the pull of two directions. I had started off distracted, willing to step away, and found myself so engaged that I didn’t want to be distracted.

That’s what often happens when we slow down. We engage at a level that firmly holds us in place, helping us take each step forward with deliberation. Distractions become interruptions. Some interruptions need our attention and are worth the cost of stepping away and into. Others are not. But only when we slow down enough to listen and settle into His presence can we be sensitive to the best choices and response.

Whatever You Have, It’s More Than Someone Else Has

It’s the time to be merry, yet many struggle with pain, depression, anxiety, and family conflict this time of the year.

It’s time for worship, yet we let worship of the wrong things crowd out the right ones.

It’s time to give, yet in the rush to give, we don’t always give in the best ways.

Look around. There is someone in need around you. It might be a need for material things, someone who can’t give gifts to their children and maybe doesn’t even have contact with their family. It might be a need for other essentials, a space heater, warm blanket, or weatherization tools to keep the cold out of their house. Perhaps it’s a need for a house, or at least, a place to stay. Warm socks, gloves, help with medication, shoes, car repairs, and the list goes one.

Or perhaps the need is emotional. You can’t fix a situation, but you can listen. You can walk through this season with someone. You can share a smile and cheer an overwhelmed parent or a frustrated customer service worker.

Giving isn’t something we do just to check a box on our list of things that are right to do this time of the year. It’s not a part of our Christmas list. It’s really not about this time of the year anyway. It’s about generosity and justice. It’s about keeping our hearts and eyes open to needs.

Set aside your plans for the next few days and replace them with a willingness to see and help someone else. Make it a chronic commitment.