Impure Thoughts

I will try this day to live a simple, sincere, and serene life, repelling promptly every thought of discontent, anxiety, discouragement, impurity, and self-seeking.

Whenever anyone uses the phrase impure thoughts, isn’t it always about sex? But if I define impure as anything that reduces another living being to an object or a means for my own gain or satisfaction, then the scope widens way beyond sex. When I intend to gain at the expense or damage of another, when I think about taking without giving in return, my motives and thoughts are impure.

Even with the best of intentions, I may inflict harm out of my own limitations and ignorance. But when I do so knowingly, the damage I do to others is mirrored in the internal damage I inflict on my own soul. Best not to go that route – in thought, word, or deed…

Enough, and more than enough

I will try this day to live a simple, sincere, and serene life, repelling promptly every thought of discontent, anxiety, discouragement, impurity, and self-seeking.

“It shouldn’t be this hard.” Life may be holy and unique, but it ain’t easy. How can anyone keep from being discouraged at the world’s mess?

When my talent and resources aren’t enough to give help where it’s desperately needed,  and when others who could help don’t, I do my best to remember this:

It’s up to me to do my part, not everyone else’s.

I cannot know what good will come, but I can trust that God will draw good out of every situation. 

No one is beyond redemption.

There are miracles.

This life is enough, and more than enough.

A Morning Resolve:

I will try this day to live a simple, sincere, and serene life, repelling promptly every thought of discontent, anxiety, discouragement, impurity, and self-seeking; cultivating cheerfulness, magnanimity, charity, and the habit of holy silence; exercising economy in expenditure, generosity in giving, carefulness in conversation, diligence in appointed service, fidelity to every trust, and a childlike faith in God.

In particular I will try to be faithful in those habits of prayer, work, study, physical exercise, eating, and sleep, which I believe the Holy Spirit has shown me to be right.

And as I cannot in my own strength do this, nor even with a hope of success attempt it, I look to thee, O Lord God my Father, in Jesus my Savior, and ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

A Morning Resolve, Forward Day by Day, inside front cover; Cincinnati, Ohio: Forward Movement. www.ForwardMovement.org.

Anxiety

I will try this day to live a simple, sincere, and serene life, repelling promptly every thought of discontent, anxiety, discouragement, impurity, and self-seeking.

Anxiety is trusting that something horrible is waiting just around the next corner. It doesn’t rely on current circumstances, and is deaf to the voices of hope and reason. It requires no particular hardship, and is the constant companion of an amazingly diverse group of people. It steals life’s laughter and joy. It is the pandemic that disturbs sleep, churns the stomach, and constricts both heart and lungs. It may not bring death, but it certainly diminishes life.

I think anxiety is a symptom of something much deeper, like the fever and chills that come with the flu. It grows from my deep fear that I might end up someplace where even God cannot find me. I wonder: can I ever be so lost and alone in the universe, that no one can bring me home?

Until I am ready to ask God this question, I’m unable to hear the answer, and anxiety invades my life. Once I give voice to my deep fear, I can hand my anxiety over to God. It will be returned to me, transformed into something just as immune to current circumstances: peace.

The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:5b-7, NRSV)

[For the complete prayer, click A Morning Resolve above.]

 

 

 

Discontent

A Morning Resolve

I will try this day to live a simple, sincere, and serene life, repelling promptly every thought of discontent, anxiety, discouragement, impurity, and self-seeking…

I’m a big believer in taking time to acknowledge the disappointments that life brings instead of pretending they don’t occur or that I don’t care. They do occur, and sometimes I care a great deal. But acknowledgement isn’t the same as letting such things take up permanent residence in my head, heart, or soul. Life’s inevitable imperfections can only lead to discontentment if I invite them to stay instead of showing them the door.

Today, when I notice the imperfections in my home and the inconveniences life brings, I’ll call them by name and give them a nod. Then I’ll thank them for coming and usher them out. With them gone, there’ll be plenty of room to live the simple, sincere, and serene life God offers. I’m content with that.

[Wareham WaterPhotograph by Jared Fredrickson, 2018]

Rock and Pond

I will try this day to live a simple, sincere and serene life…

[A Morning ResolveForward Day by Day, November 2019 – January 2020, inside front cover; Forward Movement: Cincinnati, Ohio. www.ForwardMovement.org]

Chalk Pond, New Durham, New Hampshire:

It’s a sizable rock,  jutting far enough into the water to see the fish and turtles that don’t come right up to the bank. Sitting there most any day, I see the sun dance on the breeze blown water, throwing light in all directions. On clear nights,  the water stills to a mirror; the rock connects the stars in the sky to their reflected images: heaven above and heaven below on full display. In such a time and place, I am serene.

But if I make the shift from being serene to living a serene life, where I am in this shifts from rock to pond. Pond life grows and changes constantly, and remains mostly unseen by those on the outside. Its surface is moved by whatever the day brings, and that movement plays with and scatters whatever light comes its way. When the day’s activity falls into night’s calm, the pond becomes a living reflection of the starlit heavens – active and alive inside, serene enough to be a small starlit heaven on the outside.

Lord, help me make of this day something that fosters life in its activity and reflects your light in its stillness. Help me live this day a serene life. Amen.

chalk_newdurham

 

Sincere

I will try this day to live a simple, sincere, and serene life…

[A Morning Resolve, Forward Day by Day, November 2019 – January 2020, inside cover]

Merriam Webster’s definition of Sincere

A. Free of dissimulation: Honest

B. Free from adulteration: Pure

C. Marked by genuineness: True

[www.merriam-webster.com]

I will be who I am, fully and completely. I won’t offer a false version of myself to others. I will be faithful to the world and those around me, as best I can. 

When others share their true selves with me, I’ll do my best to be worthy of their sacred gift.

[For the full prayer, click A Morning Resolve above.]

Simple

I will try this day to live a simple, sincere, and serene life…

Simple and easy aren’t interchangeable. It’s simple enough to learn a basic crochet stitch, but not easy to crochet an afghan. It’s easy enough to memorize the Jesus Prayer [Lord, Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me (a sinner)], but letting go of all other thoughts and feelings to pray it isn’t so simple an act.

Simple and simplistic aren’t the same. Simple is when what is beside the point or tangential is removed, revealing something’s true nature. Simplistic is when something’s true nature is interpreted as less or fundamentally different from what it is.

So what am I praying when I say I will try this day to live a simple life?

  1. I’m asking God to help me avoid the simplistic version of reality that makes God and others objects in a world of my own making. Instead, I will recognize that I am an infinitely small and infinitely beloved creature in God’s holy creation – and so is everyone else.
  2. I’m praying for the strength to do today’s sacred tasks without complaint or resentment, and the wisdom to recognize and leave undone everything else.

Isn’t that more than enough?

[Forward Day by Day, A Morning Resolve; front inside cover, November, 2019-January, 2020; Cincinnati, Ohio: Forward Movement; www.ForwardMovement.org. For the full prayer, click A Morning Resolve above.]

I will try this day

On the inside cover of Forward Day by Day, you can find a prayer called A Morning Resolve. This being the month of resolutions, broken and unbroken, I thought it a fitting time to dive in and take a closer look. It’s a longish prayer, with words that address heart, mind, and spirit. Word by word, line by line, let’s take a good look. The place to start: the first five words.

I will try this day

There are infinite possibilities in this God-given world, but there are no repeats. If I do not seek God this very day, I live a lesser version of life than what is offered. Will I choose to live into today’s unique and holy offerings? Will I try? Will you?

[For the full prayer, click A Morning Resolve above.]

Nothing in Particular…

My older son headed back to college this morning; my younger has returned to his usual high school schedule. For the first time in over a month, the family routine has returned to its usual configuration. A look over the recent holiday vacation brings to mind: nothing in particular.

We ate the usual meals at their usual times, with conversation spanning a wide range of unimportant topics. There were trips to buy clothes and groceries, and walks around Wareham – solitary, in pairs, and with all four of us. Sorry, Carcassonne, and Risk were set up on the carpet, and jigsaw puzzles took shape on the coffee table. Chores got done and each of us got bored every so often. None of it was remarkable or memorable.

It takes some unstructured, nothing-in-particular time for me to regain the awareness of the mystery that is every person; focus on particular talents and accomplishments can bring a blindness to this sacred truth. For whatever reason, sometimes it’s hardest to see God in those who share my address and name. Looking over a game board, the dinner table, and jigsaw pieces, I caught more than just a passing glimpse.

Blind spot spotted

I like to cook, and I spend a lot of time trying new recipes from Bon AppetitKing Arthur Flour, and my favorite cookbooks. I can work around food allergies and preferences, usually with no more than a minor adjustment here and there. But a weekend guest shined a light on something I hadn’t seen before: I don’t know how to create a good vegan meal, and I don’t have the ingredients necessary to do so. Almost everything I make requires dairy products, eggs, or some form of animal product. Cookies, muffins, rolls – none vegan. Outside of a couple of soups, my basic baguette recipe, granola and hummus, I could offer no more than a cup of coffee, a few nuts and a pbj. Vegetarian I can do: vegan, I can’t.

My vegan guest wasn’t around for any meals except a quick bite of breakfast before heading up to Boston – granola, toast, and coffee covered those. Still, I’m grateful for the awareness of my inability to offer vegans the same hospitality I can offer non-vegans. I’ll enjoy finding a few more recipes, or learning about how to adapt the ones I already know and love. I’m also grateful for the awareness of my dependence on animal products – those that don’t require loss of life and those that do. It brings with it the chance to live life with greater intention and thanks.

 

Moving into God’s presence through words