Aside

Yea, the LORD will give what is good
Ps 85: 12

“This is for your own good.” How often is that said to us or do we say it to others? What is good for us isn’t always what we like. You don’t get much argument when someone comments that the best food is bad for you. I started going to gym. I don’t like it at all. But it’s doing me good. I can feel it, I’m more agile. A good life is in fact a disciplined life, not a free-for-all. The “bad” things are good for an occasional treat, and we enjoy them all the more for practising discipline rather than self-indulgence. Thus it shouldn’t be a surprise when we don’t always like the good things from God: the set-back that makes us stronger and teaches us wisdom, the illness that teaches us compassion, the absence of friends that makes us appreciate them all the more when they return.
God, nudge me to value the lessons that life’s ups and downs teach me, rather than moaning when my turn at tough times lands on my doorstep.

Advertisements

Aside

Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples,
“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat;
so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.
They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger.
He who is greatest among you shall be your servant;
whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Matt 23: 1-4, 11-12

We (I?) usually read this passage as an admonition of those who are our leaders, in church, government, work. And that’s certainly true. But we also need to be aware of the expectations we place on others in the smaller spheres of our lives: family, friends, peers at work. To be unreasonable in our expectations places a heavy burden on others and can strain relationships, even to breaking point.
Sometimes, people with high expectations do perform to a high level themselves. But we need to observe: are they endowed with exceptional skills in some area, are they over-burdening themselves, are they happy and healthy working at such a level? It would be better to encourage them to take a step back, rather than trying to emulate their feats.
God grant us the grace to be reasonable in our expectations, of others and of ourselves. Help us to get the balance somewhere close to right in our lives.

Aside

A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
Ezek 36: 26

I put my hand up: I need a new heart.
God grace me with a new spirit and a new heart, that I might live a more authentic and faithful life.

Aside

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.
After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place;
and to them he said, `You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went.
Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same.
And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing; and he said to them, `Why do you stand here idle all day?’
They said to him, `Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, `You go into the vineyard too.’
And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, `Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’
And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius.
Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius.
And on receiving it they grumbled at the householder,
saying, `These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’
But he replied to one of them, `Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius?
Take what belongs to you, and go; I choose to give to this last as I give to you.
Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’
So the last will be first, and the first last.”
Matt 20: 1-16

This story is usually quoted to show that God’s generosity is quite different to ours. It goes way beyond what we would do or expect. That’s true.
But I winder if there’s something we miss in looking at the story through that particular prism. The labourers called at the eleventh hour had been standing there all day. No one had hired them until the last moment. Whose fault is that? As Milton said: “They also serve who only stand and wait.” Sometimes we will need to spring into action. Other times, we’re not needed. It is the being ready to spring into action that matters. We should remember this and defend the unemployed when certain sectors of society criticse them for laziness.
When we appear to be unwanted, may we wait with patient anticipation, prepared to do what is needed when our time comes.

Aside

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”
But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, …
every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.
But many that are first will be last, and the last first.
Matt 19: 24-26, 28-30
 
Of course! Why didn’t I think of it yesterday?! “As ye sew, so shall ye reap.” Whatever we give, we get back so many times over. But isn’t that what we find in this life, without waiting for the next? You volunteer your time for a cause and find you get so much out of it, it’s not a sacrifice at all. It’s like you’re the one who benefits. This is God at work.
Remember, remember … all things are possible with God.

Aside

Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.
Matt 19: 21-22

We’re all doomed if this is literally true, so what does it mean? Should we divest ourselves of everything that we don’t need? Should we be detached from our possessions? Is it enough to be “poor in spirit”? As I sit at my desk in my comfortable home, planning a not inexpensive holiday, where does it leave me? Sorrowful?
God, open my eyes to the needs of the poor. Show me what I need to do, how I should live, given the circumstances of my life, but knowing that those circumstances could change at any minute.

Aside

I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the afflicted hear and be glad.
Ps 34: 1-2

Of these verses, Margaret Silf reflects:
All seeking after and striving for peace in our world begins
  in the most unpeaceful place we know: out own hearts.
When we tune in to the heartbeat of God, then our words
  will be truthful and our actions pure. Only then will the
       world begin to move closer to God’s peace.

How true that reflection is. Whenever I am agitated, through anger, depression, fear, frustration, hurt, rejection, then my heart is dark, my thoughts negative, my words and actions less than kind, not to put too fine a point on it.
Lord, teach me to step outside the negatives of life, treating the superfluous with disdain, learning the lessons of only the negatives that are relevant to me, looking for the silver lining in the cloud. Grant me patience and kindness in my times of trouble, and if needs be, the ability to keep my mouth shut if only my negativity will emerge otherwise.