Charity

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… [A Morning Resolve, Forward Day by Day]

Charity isn’t a virtue if it means giving the least amount of money possible to maintain the appearance or feeling of moral superiority above those who receive it.

Charity is a vice if writing a check is a way to avoid seeing the poverty of others.

True charity is building half a bridge out of my God-given resources, trusting that the rest will be built out of someone else’s need.

True charity is knowing it’s an honor to cross over from either side, and a blessing to meet friend or stranger in the middle.

 

Great Soul

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.

Magnanimity: Loftiness of spirit enabling one to bear trouble calmly, to disdain meanness or pettiness, and to display a noble generosity. [merriam-webster.com. Merriam Webster’s online dictionary]

The other day, I tested a new product: window markers. Since my drawing abilities are somewhat limited, I drew a simple heart in red. It wasn’t very noticeable through the storm splashed, February filthy window.

Passing my office door a couple of days back, I noticed a new mark on the floor.

Had someone Sharpie’d a heart on my carpet? That’s what I thought, until I looked up.

The unremarkable heart on my window had cast its colorful shape.

Perhaps magnanimity is just the same: standing in God’s light in all our imperfections and in all circumstances, casting a reflection of love so much bigger than ourselves.

[For more on this prayer, click A Morning Resolve above. A Morning Resolve, Forward Day by Day, inside front cover; Cincinnati, Ohio: Forward Movement. www.ForwardMovement.org.]

Cultivating Cheerfulness

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… [A Morning Resolve]

A good person, but not someone you’d want to go out for a beer with.

That’s most of the people I knew during my doctoral years at Princeton Seminary – faculty, administration, and students. There were notable exceptions, maybe 20% of the total population altogether. It isn’t as if the other 80% weren’t interesting, sincere, intelligent, or well-meaning: they were. It’s just that they weren’t particularly fun to be around outside a classroom. They were serious people with serious things to ponder and accomplish, and they had little time or patience for shared laughter and fun. Did I come across the same way?

As there were no classes on cultivating cheerfulness, and very few professors capable of teaching such a class if there had been, maybe a different kind of mentor was needed- someone who was comfortable enough in the non-academic world to help those who weren’t. It’s not just learning the social skills to talk with a wide range of people: it’s seeing in a stranger something of value, even before beginning a conversation. It’s knowing that there’s a whole wide world of fascinating people and ideas to explore, and being grateful for the opportunity to do so with whomever happens to be there at the time.

To lighten someone’s day, and to get a kick out of the world in general – that’s a spiritual gift worth cultivating.

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