This week’s eNewsletter Feature
was written by Jim Teague
FPCE director of communications.
I have never been good at living life day by day. Not ever.
Whether it’s looking forward to Christmas while enjoying the hot days of July, or planning a family vacation for next summer, even before we’ve taken the one planned for this fall, I regularly work to have something to look forward to far ahead in the calendar rather than just taking each rotation of the Earth as it comes.
As I’ve shared before, I am also quite adept at cooking up a family-sized batch of future worries. I do this on a regular basis despite my personal experience of God’s goodness, and that worry is a waste of time. My experience is that God is fully capable of keeping the vast majority of those predicted catastrophes from ever coming to reality… and using the few troubles that do come my way for his purposes and his glory. And, yet, I worry with clock-like regularity.
This Sunday, Rev. Amanda Golbek will be preaching from Luke 11:1-13, which includes The Lord’s Prayer (verses 1-4) as well the example of the Good Father who knows enough not to hand out serpents when his children ask for fish or scorpions when they ask for eggs (verses 9-13). Tucked in between those two sections is the suggestion that we often get good things simply because we are persistent in asking, despite not having earned them through our actions or pursuit of personal holiness.
The juxtaposition of The Lord’s Prayer and those examples of good giving (and getting) had always been lost on me — until just now. It can’t be an accident that Jesus followed up his blueprint for effective prayer by reminding his disciples that good things come to us because GOD IS GOOD. It’s not because we get our prayers right, ask with selfless intention, or have planned in advance for just the right time to have a need worthy of praying about.
In The Lord’s Prayer, Jesus sets the example that we are trusting God for what we need today (though some translations’ footnotes indicate verse 3 might also be translated as “give us our bread for tomorrow”). When we consider how the Israelites who wandered the desert for 40 years were instructed to gather only enough manna for that day (except before the Sabbath), we shouldn’t be surprised that God wants us to trust him on a daily basis — for everything.
Easier said than done, for me at least. In many ways, I am far better at distracted living than I am at engaging in positive, Christ-focused thinking as a regular personal practice.
Lately I have worked harder at appreciating the little things, like the kind smile of a cashier, or funny interactions with people on elevators or in line at the pharmacy, or even when a fellow driver shows some unexpected courtesy. Rather than writing it off as just another part of just another day, I’m working to bank those experiences and hold them up against each day’s withering barrage of tragic news and repetitive challenges.
I’ve always tended to walk through life with a smile on my face (with some definite exceptions), but, more often than not, the smile has been a mask meant to help avoid conflict rather than the true reflection of the state of my soul. Personally, I think it is a better tactic than walking around with a sour expression everywhere I go, and it often results in smiles and nods reflected back to me throughout the day. The difference now is that I am consciously collecting those positive reflections and using them to warm my heart.
I don’t look at this as some kind of Pollyanna, power-of-positive-thinking exercise, blindly strolling through life in some sort of shallow self-delusion. Rather, I think of it as gathering bits and pieces of my emotional daily bread where I find them.
In a world where many point to the headlines and conclude that God is either unconcerned or just plain cruel, I am finding that my trust in the goodness and trustworthiness of God is growing, albeit slowly.
I’m looking forward to seeing as many of you as can be there at our service this Sunday, whether in person or online.
FPCE director of communications