Commitment, Dedication, and Practice

My husband and I have been attending the sports games of our friends’ son since he was in elementary school.  In middle school he made the school basketball team and began to concentrate on that sport.  While I have enjoyed watching him play and cheering him on, I have to confess that I really didn’t think he had the instincts or skill to be much of a force for his team.

But when he got to high school things changed.  He decided he wanted to be a good player and spent last summer in basketball leagues and special camps—learning from coaches and practicing lots.  He now can dunk the ball, blocks are frequent (without fouling!); he runs the court and gets himself where he needs to be.  He scores and rebounds.  His high school team this year was second in their conference, and his contribution was a significant factor in their success.

Committing to something that matters to you and then following through—honoring the need to learn and to practice—makes a difference in what is possible.

Another friend has a gift for caring for individuals and the community.  She has a way of intuitively knowing who needs attention and how and when to give that.  Her care sustains and strengthens those she touches.  She knows of her gift and values the opportunities she has to care.  In the last years she has grown in her awareness of the importance of certain practices that sustain her and allow her to exercise her gift more fully.  She has learned that failure to honor her need for the practices diminishes what she can receive, hear, and give.

Off-and-on-attention to playing basketball or exercising a gift doesn’t give you all that is possible.  It takes dedication and care.  Having an attuned spiritual life also takes that kind of serious commitment and faithful practice.  You can have something regardless, because God is loving, gracious, and merciful.  But there is so much more if you make the commitment and attend to the necessary practice.

Queries:

To what, or to whom, are you dedicated and how is that expressed?

What do you need to do to sustain in you a faithful life?

Prayer:

“Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.  Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long” (Psalm 25: 4-5).

For further reference:

“No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.   You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matthew 6: 24).

“. . . let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross. . .” (Hebrews 12: 1b-2a).

Our Father

There was a period of time when I did not like the Lord’s Prayer (or the Our Father).  I thought it was sexist and presented a theology I didn’t appreciate or believe.  Especially after I learned from Judy Brutz to write in my own words what each part of the prayer meant for me, I was able to open to it more.  And as time has gone on and I have prayed the prayer, new things have come to me.

One thing I have liked about the prayer is its having been prayed for centuries and by people all over the world.  Currently most of the hours of the day it must be being prayed somewhere.  That feels like such a uniting force.  I value the “Our” in the prayer.  This God to whom we pray belongs to all of us—not to only one of us or to only one group of us.  We all belong to God.  And in God we all are in relationship with each other.

Only recently have I appreciated the naming of God as “Father” in this prayer.  To have been fathered is to have been given birth, to bear some of the genetic makeup of that father.  How wonderful to think that as a child of the Father, we bear characteristics of the Father.  As Friends say, “there is that of God in each of us.”  There is a kinship and a commonality that we share with all people.  There is in us that which reflects God’s being if we will let it.  We don’t have to create that nature; it is already present in us.  What joy to grow into that inheritance.

Queries:

How does the Our Father/Lord’s Prayer function in your life?

What helps you feel one with God and all of creation?  How are you called to make real that oneness?

Prayer:

Pray the Lord’s Prayer (the Our Father).  The value of this prayer does not depend on your beliefs or feelings.  To simply repeat it makes a difference, whether you notice that difference or not.  If it helps, put the prayer into words that are meaningful to you at this time.

For further reflection:

“To [his saints] God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

“The Father . . . will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.  This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him.  You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you” (See John 14: 15-17).

[Of the Lord’s Prayer] “what you do not understand, treat with reverence and be patient, and what you do understand, cherish and keep” (St. Augustine: Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany, trans. by Thomas Comerford Lawler, Newman Press, 1952, p. 70).

Time

With the recent return of Daylight Savings Time, my body is all confused about what time it is and what needs to be done, which makes me think about time. My life often seems driven by the clock and the calendar. I think I am somebody if my days are busy and my calendar is full. But the same conditions just as easily can make me feel anxious and overwhelmed.

While I worked a regular job I used to wish for balance in my life, but I never found a way to have that. My time was full of things I was doing, and there wasn’t time to add what I thought would create balance.

I wonder now how it would have been if I had focused on simply receiving the day, and how it would be if I did that now. Our attitude about the day and how we can live in it changes if we realize and remember that each day is a gift from God, even that having both dark and light in a day is God’s creative gift.

Particular spiritual practices can reinforce one’s awareness and gratitude for God’s presence in the day. A traditional morning prayer is, “O Lord, open my lips. And my mouth will proclaim your praise.” Another possibility is the psalmist’s words, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” What would happen if we began the day with a prayer of praise, maybe even shared that experience with someone else? And during the day, before going on to the next thing, we could simply stop and breathe, until we have returned to calm or remembering.

New Testament Greek has different words for time–chronos, which is governed by clocks and calendars, and Kairos, which is set, arranged, ordered by God. Any time of our chronos day may be a Kairos time. At the close of the day, before falling asleep, we can remember and receive the gifts of the day.

Queries:

How would you talk about time as it is experienced in your life? What does being busy mean to you?

How can you be open to receiving the Kairos times in your life?

Prayer:

To start your day, use either of the prayers mentioned above (or your own words) and then name the ordinary, everyday things for which you are grateful.

For further reflection:

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

“I keep the Lord always before me; because God is at my right hand, I shall not be moved” (Psalm 16:8).