Last week a sudden realization walked through my brain: summer break was over. Now for many that might really seem like an epiphany, but for me it answered the state of mind I found myself dwelling.
Having lived all my life on an academic calendar until I retired from teaching in 2015, my psyche functioned along the year beginning in August, ending in May, and then taking a three-month break.
The last three years of serving as a licensed local pastor on a part time basis should have erased that internal time clock, but last week I realized it had not.
Stepping out of the pulpit as of July 1, I was mentally thinking I would take the break to refresh myself and return to work. But, that is not what my internal time clock understood.
Last week it occurred to me that my ‘summer break’ was over. Three months have passed and my year is not resuming as my brain thinks it should.
This realization has caused me to stop and reflect on why I feel so scattered, so unorganized, so lost—so to speak.
I need to listen more carefully for God to speak to me.
Listening for God is not easy. Our humanness wants to be in control, and all that is going on around us easily distracts us. It interferes.
This pushed me to consider all the different factors that seem to deafen my hearing and I propose that this is a common trait that is interfering with our ability to fulfill God’s greatest commandment as Jesus answered the Pharisees:
35 One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
Consider the setting in which the Pharisees were talking with Jesus. They were the powerful and the ones who thought they knew everything. They were feeling threatened by this newcomer, so by trying to find a flaw in his teachings that would discredit him, they themselves were no longer listening to God.
We do the very same thing. We live being in charge of our world. We live without thinking about the Golden Rule. We live without spending time studying the Bible. We let . . .
There is the problem. We let the world around us step in between God and us. How in the world can we possibly hear God to speak to us personally when we listen to so many other influences?
Just like my personal calendar has long operated on an academic calendar and taking a break from teaching for three-months, I had taken the last three months and refreshed.
Or so I thought.
Last week I realized that my need to refresh really is defined as a need to listen to God.
Listening for/to God is not something that can be done in a pre-packaged time frame, neither is it a singular event. Listening for God is part of the Christian lifestyle. My time to refresh must become a time to realign with the practices that refresh my Christian lifestyle and encourages me to listen for God’s direction in my life.
John Wesley has a method for improving one’s piety or living as a Christian who is listening for God to direct one’s life. The United Methodist Church’s website provides a list of Wesley’s works of piety:
Individual Practices – reading, meditating and studying the scriptures, prayer, fasting, regularly attending worship, healthy living, and sharing our faith with others
Communal Practices – regularly share in the sacraments, Christian conferencing (accountability to one another), and Bible study
[Accessed on October 10 2018 at http://www.umc.org/how-we-serve/the-wesleyan-means-of-grace]
I must confess that I know these Wesley’s works of piety, but I do not always center my life on them. I do fair, but I must do better. We must all do better.
With no need to prepare a sermon each week, reading scripture is easy to put aside—especially on a daily basis. My personal discipline needs improving.
Admittedly I do read, and since July 1, I have already completed thirteen books—eleven novels and two church-related. The choices have been fun, and they do lead me into reflecting on how God can be found even in our literature choices.
Participating in a small group who reads the Common Lectionary is part of my weekly routine, too. But, I keep thinking of how I could study even more with other small groups.
I do try to live healthy especially in terms of food choices and exercise, but I can do better with this too.
Probably the most difficult part of Wesley’s works of piety is fasting. I am not good with this practice.
I have long struggled with dieting and finally realized that fasting can be done differently for instance, eliminating a specific food or an activity for a set time.
Time to rethink fasting as a way to step away from the thingsthat interfere with my focus on living as God asks me to live. I need to think about this, so I can use more time to listen to God.
Prayer is certainly one area that I continue to improve. I have studied prayer. I have come to realize that prayers fill my thoughts when no one is talking to me. Prayer is thinking aloud with God as the listener. Now I need to listen for him.
Maybe you, too, need to improve your prayers. I offer this one that may be helpful, tool:
The world around me is so loud that I cannot hear you speaking to me. Guide me in making better choices so that I can silence all the interference that separates me from you. Thank you for the encouragement of others who knew I needed time to refresh; but as the months slide by, help me to hear your next call. May what I do reflect the work you ask of me now and on into the months and years ahead. –Amen