Wise Whys

Solomon asked God for wisdom.

Stupidly, he failed to ask for it daily.

 

Solomon stopped asking God for wisdom.

Instead he operated on the assumption his wisdom was permanent and complete.

Things did not go well for Solomon after that.

 

The minute we believe we have nothing more to learn is the minute we become a fool.

 

If you want:

  • Wisdom, or
  • Compassion, or
  • Understanding, or
  • Patience, or
  • Any Other Good Thing…

KEEP ASKING.

Daily.

Ask for it daily.

Even if you think you already have it.

 

Because…here’s the thing…

when we quit asking…

when we think we have achieved it…

when we think we have “arrived”…

We are fools.

 

“If I only knew then what I know now…”

Hello.

There are SO MANY THINGS I would do differently.

“If I only knew then what I know now…”

 

I can think of things I have thought, said or done that I now regret thinking, saying or doing.

They make me cringe and wince.

Life experience and self-reflection have changed me.

That’s as it should be.

That is truth.

 

Also truth:

I think, say and do things today that my future self will regret thinking, saying or doing.

 

Therefore, I need to ask God – daily – to help me keep learning and growing.

 

This week I finished the book White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo.

The book reminded me that – every day – I need to be aware of all the ways that “growing up white” in America has molded me and taught me certain expectations/assumptions about the world. Being a “nice person” (or trying to be) does not protect me from unintentionally harming others with those expectations or assumptions.

This is not a “one and done” learning curve.

This is a daily learning curve.

 

This week I also read Luke 11: 1-13.

(It was part of the week’s lectionary.)

In this passage, Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray.

He then encourages them to be persistent in praying.

 

Ask.

Search.

Knock.

 

Prayer is not a “one and done” activity.

Prayer is a daily discipline.

 

KEEP ASKING.

KEEP SEARCHING.

KEEP KNOCKING.

 

“If I only knew now what I will know then…”

 

The Berlin Wall in November 1989 from the West Berlin side. Among the graffiti images are several large question marks.

Berlin Wall, November 1989; Photo by Sarah Lowther Hensley

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Attitude of Prayer, a Story in Four Parts

PART ONE

A few weeks ago there was a call to pray for Donald Trump.

Specifically “that God will give him wisdom in every decision he makes and protect him from his enemies who would like to see him fall.”

I agree we should pray for the president (and all elected officials and leaders.)

Of course we want them to have wisdom in every decision they make.

But I don’t believe this, at its heart, was a call to pray that Trump would be wise. (Trump and his followers have shown no signs of being very interested in wisdom, or facts for that matter.)

At its heart, it was a call for prayer to protect Trump from people who want to stop him from doing what he wants to do.

And what he wants to do – and is doing – is evil.

I believe this with my whole heart and soul.

My faith and conscience call me to speak out against the evil – against Donald Trump and his followers/enablers – against the things they want to do and are doing.

I guess that would make me one of “his enemies who would like to see him fall.”

But what about this call to pray for the president?

Honestly.

In my heart, I don’t want to.

I really, really don’t want to.

What I want is for God to “smite” him and stop his evil.

That has been my prayer.

INTERLUDE

Into my thoughts God whispers the name “Jonah.”

“Jonah”

With that whisper, comes this thought:

Dear Lord! Trump is my Nineveh!

Fish emblem on the back of a car.

PART TWO

God did not call on Jonah to pray for Nineveh.

God called on Jonah to go and tell Nineveh that it was doing evil.

It was when Jonah refused to do it that he ran into…issues.

Jonah eventually did what he was told; he went and proclaimed to Nineveh that God was not happy with them and their time was about up.

INTERLUDE

Trump is my Nineveh.

But I am no Jonah.

Unlike Jonah, I have no hesitation in calling out Trump’s evil.

I can’t wait for his time to be up.

PART THREE

Plot twist.

Nineveh repented.

God offered grace.

Jonah was mad.

INTERLUDE

Jonah did not really expect (or perhaps even want) Nineveh to repent.

Jonah did not really expect (or perhaps even want) God to offer grace.

Nineveh did.

God did.

PART FOUR

Like Jonah, I do not really expect Trump to repent.

Like Jonah, if I am honest with myself, I do not really want God to offer Trump grace.

As noted above, what I really want is for God to “smite” Trump and stop his evil.

Will Trump ever truly repent?

I am not holding my breath.

Could Trump ever truly repent?

Against all odds, Nineveh did.

If Trump does truly repent, will God offer grace?

Of course.

EPILOGUE

And so, unlike Jonah, I will not hesitate to call out the evil.

Hopefully, unlike Jonah, if and when Trump repents and God offers grace, I will rejoice.

Truth-telling is my task – Lord, help me know your truth and let me speak it.

Repenting is Trump’s – Lord, change his heart.

Grace is God’s – Lord, forgive him.

Lord, let us all then rejoice.

That is my prayer.

May it be so.

Yellow diamond highway u-turn sign. In this case the arrow has turned from going down to going up.

Sunrise Sunset

May 2019 was always going to be a momentous month for our family.

We expected a whirlwind of events and emotions.

After all, our son was going to be finishing up high school and graduating.

We expected May 2019 to bring a mixture of joy and nostalgia.

And it did.

But, as I sit at the computer in the final hours of the final day of May 2019, I reflect back on this month in a daze.

The whirlwind was more than we expected.

In the very first hours of the very first day of May 2019, we received word that my husband’s mother was being taken to the hospital.

And before the very first day of May 2019 was half way gone, we experienced the shock of her unexpected death.

We had expected a whirlwind of events and emotions.

But not this event and not these emotions.

In the weeks following her funeral, the whirlwind that we had anticipated came on schedule.

A final band concert, a banquet, preparing graduation regalia, senior recognition, a final parade, graduation, and a party for family and friends.

The expected mixture of joy and nostalgia.

It came.

So, in these final hours of the final day of May 2019, I’m taking a few moments to reflect.

Life always has the potential for whirlwinds…

Whirlwinds of events…

Whirlwinds of emotions.

Sometimes those whirlwinds are anticipated…

Sometimes they sneak up on us.

Always, they give us the opportunity to live in the moment.

This evening I went for my daily walk…

Always a good time to think and reflect.

As I walked, I noticed the sunset.

And in the final hours of this final day of this whirlwind month, a song is making its way through my thoughts – a song from Fiddler on the Roof…

Sunrise Sunset.

Each day the sun rises.

Each day it sets.

And in the early hours and last hours and all the hours in between of each day, we find the events and emotions that create our lives.

Those we anticipate.

Those that surprise us.

And we live in the moment.

Sunrise, sunset, Sunrise, sunset

Swiftly flow the days

Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers

Blossoming even as we gaze

Sunrise, sunset, Sunrise, sunset

Swiftly fly the years

One season following another

Laden with happiness and tears

I wonder what June will bring…

The sun sets behind some trees, with a parking lot arrow in the foreground.

 

 

Nesting

In less than a week

a corner of our back porch

was claimed and transformed.

 

Twigs and mud and grass,

through solid engineering,

morphed into a nest.

 

Oh, what an honor

to be deemed a safe haven

for this small home base.

A robin's nest perches above a porch doorway.

Take Five

I’m taking five.

For Lent.

Specifically…I’m taking five from Facebook.

Screen shot of dictionary entry: Idioms - take five, informal, to take a brief respite.

I considered a complete withdrawal during Lent, but Facebook has become so intertwined with how I communicate with some people (wishing them a Happy Birthday, responding to event invitations, answering messages), a complete withdrawal seemed problematic.

So I chose to take five.

Each day (generally in the morning), I sit down, set a timer for five minutes, and log in.

Screen shot of timer on phone set to five minutes.

Five minutes is not enough time for scrolling.

It has forced me to prioritize how I interact with Facebook.

Five minutes is (almost) just enough time to wish Happy Birthdays (66 of them on my friends list during Lent), answer any messages, and review any notifications.

Additionally, I have not been posting and only rarely commenting.

So the time I am spending on Facebook is spent more in the attitude of “listening” rather than sharing my own thoughts and opinions.

For the first couple of days, I felt jumpy.

At moments when I normally might have “jumped” onto Facebook for a *few minutes* – I had to catch myself and redirect my mental wanderlust.

I set a reminder on my phone for each morning – so I wouldn’t forget.

As the weeks have progressed, it has become easier.

As I write this, we are just past the halfway mark of this year’s Lent.

Here are some reflections so far:

  • I worry that friends will be disappointed if I don’t see and respond to the things they post. For some, that might be true. But for the majority of my Facebook friends, it is highly unlikely they will notice or care whether I am among their “likes” or comments.
  • I worry that I will miss important information. I might. But for really important information, hopefully Facebook is not the only or primary way important information is being shared.
  • I miss sharing links to articles or posts I find interesting. I like doing this and believe there is value in it; but I also am realizing I can perhaps be choosier about what and how many things I share. I am also reminding myself that people are not on the edge of their seat waiting to see what I will post next.

In a nutshell: I need to be more intentional with my time.

When Lent is over and my “take five” journey is complete, I plan to still set a daily time limit.

More than five minutes.

Much less than I spent on Facebook daily in the past.

During Lent we are called – beginning with Ash Wednesday’s reminder that from dust we came and to dust we will return – to realize our time is limited.

Screen shot of timer on phone with two seconds left.

We’re reminded we need to live accordingly.

Intentionally.

Every day.

Every minute.

In a nutshell: I need to be more intentional with my time.

Not just on Facebook.

Facebook is only a microcosm/symbol of how we spend time.

With whom do we spend our time? Are we intentional about it?

What do we think, talk, read, and worry about? Are we intentional about it?

What do we want to say to the world? Are we intentional about it?

Perhaps it is a good rule of thumb, if we can’t answer “yes” to those three questions, to pause and regroup.

Take five.

Heart in the Right Place

Valentine’s Day just came and went, and with it the swirl of activity around gifts and cards and plans for showing those we love that we love them.

It’s a beautiful thing… and also a stressful thing.

Author Rachel Held Evans put it this way in a tweet:

Screen shot of a tweet from Rachel Held Evans: V-Day Single: "I am missing out on so much joy." V-Day, Dating: *stresses out over finding the perfect gift* V-Day Married: "We should probably, like, go out or something." V-Day Married w/Kids: "You need how many valentines? For people who can't even read yet? By when?"

This year I ended up throwing my husband a curve ball.

He had made arrangements ahead of time to send me flowers and have them delivered to my office…since Valentine’s Day fell on a workday.

There was just one snag in his well-laid plans.

I was feeling under the weather this week, and ended up working from home on Valentine’s Day.

I am happy to report he was able to intervene and redirect the delivery to our home.

At the end of the day, his flowers were in the right place.

Flowers on a table with scattered papers and a laptop. Delivery slip has crossed out address.

That got me to thinking.

Sometimes, despite planning ahead and thoughtful consideration, our efforts to show our love can land in the wrong place.

Literally, our heart may not be in the right place.

*

And that got me to thinking.

Sometimes, despite studying scripture and faithfully attending worship and being in community and fellowship with others of our faith, our efforts to show GOD’s love can land in the wrong place.

And, friends, while our hearts may not always be in the right place, GOD’s love can never be in the wrong place.

*

Sometimes (like with my husband’s flower delivery plans), we need to keep our eyes and ears open and listen for new information and new direction.

And then we need to take action based on that new information.

God’s love doesn’t change.

But maybe our understanding of God’s love can grow and change.

Maybe the way we try to share it needs to change.

*

As the United Methodist denomination prepares to meet later this week in St. Louis to discuss and vote on matters of human sexuality and the church, I believe we have come to such a time.

I believe the Holy Spirit is saying to us that God’s love is for all.

I believe the Holy Spirit is saying to us that God’s love is unconditional.

I believe the Holy Spirit is saying God’s love doesn’t change, but old interpretations of short passages of scripture will not help get God’s love to its intended destination.

I believe the Holy Spirit is saying it is time.

It is time to welcome and include all.

Fully.

It is time.

I believe.

Fellow United Methodists, I pray our hearts are in the right place.

Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,

 

‘This people honors me with their lips,

    but their hearts are far from me;

in vain do they worship me,

    teaching human precepts as doctrines.’

 

You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”

 

Then he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.’ But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, ‘Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban’ (that is, an offering to God)— then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.”

 

Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”

 

When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. He said to them, “Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”  (Mark 7: 1-23 NRSV)

 

*

**Addendum:

I have read and re-read this passage of scripture. To me it clearly calls out those who put their own human traditions (including human traditional interpretation of scripture) above the commandment of God to love one another as he loves us – unconditionally.

And that got me to thinking.

It’s often pointed out that Jesus never said one single word about sexual orientation or homosexuality.

He talked about many things.

Never that.

And here, in this scripture, he pours out a long list.

A LONG list of things that – if coming from a human heart – can defile it.

Nothing on this list can be directed at homosexuals or any person regarding a different-from-traditional sexual orientation that cannot also be directed at any person of traditional sexual orientation.

It’s not the sexual orientation that is an issue for Jesus.

It’s the heart.

And so, I say again, I pray our hearts are in the right place.

Selah.

Hourglass

First of all, I’m OK.

But there are days, sometimes lengthy stretches of days-in-a-row when I’m not.

The human emotional equivalent of “January”…

So as we give January the send-off for another year, I want to share a poem I wrote recently when I hit one of those lengthy stretches of days-in-a-row.

I’m sharing it because maybe you sometimes feel this way, too, and this will help you know you are not alone.

And it gets better.

A poem is inserted into the figure of an hourglass. The words are: Pooling at the bottom of my eyes evidence that thoughts in my heart pierce my sense of S E L F H O W to continue to live each new day with any hope that the tears can be stopped? Copyright 2019 Sarah Lowther Hensley