Pondertude, Round 2

Continuing the conversation about Pondertude – my term describing times of solitude with God, pondering life together with Him. Time alone with God is not something that seems to come natural for us, which is a bit odd given that we were created to be in relationship with Him. I wonder if maybe we work too hard at this, making times with God far too difficult. I wonder if we should learn to relax a bit more in this endeavor.

As I have mentioned previously, I periodically use the devotional guide A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants. One of the strengths of the guide is the myriad of Readings for Reflection by authors we might not typically stumble onto. A couple weeks ago, one of the readings was written by early 20th century educator, Glenn Clark. I thought it worth sharing in the context of not striving so much, of relaxing as we learn to spend time with God…

It has been my observation that all the great praying people are simple, relaxed people. Mrs. Thomas A. Edison once said to me, “Mr. Edison’s methods are just like yours. He is always perfectly natural and perfectly relaxed. He feels that all his discoveries have come ‘though him,’ that he is but a channel for forces greater than himself.”

Always natural and always relaxed! I do not like to see people work too hard at their prayers. When one strains and labors over their dream they are too often carving ivory and not polishing horn. Don’t cut too deeply, don’t carve too hard, don’t paint the picture too much yourself. Get still awhile and let God paint it through you. Wrote [Mount Rushmore sculptor] Gutzon Borglum, “When I carve a statue, it is very simple. I merely cut away the pieces that don’t belong there and the statue itself presently comes into view. It was there all the time.” (From I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes, Glenn Clark.)

Each week the Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants directs the reader to focus on a single Psalm. This week it has been Psalm 90 written by Moses, containing the relatively familiar statement, “A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by.” Pondering this passage, I wondered how this statement might translate to my life. Geek that I am, I fired up the HP15C calculator app on my phone and discovered something pretty interesting:

If a thousand years are like a day to God and one lives to be 80, then they will end up living 1.92 God hours! A couple hours! What’s more, if one works for 45 years at 50 hours/week, the sum total of all their work (striving?) would be (are you ready for this?) approximately 19 God minutes.

Then why, oh why, do we strive so hard, “carving ivory instead of polishing horn,” turning a natural relationship with God into hard work? Relax and enjoy Him. After all, you only get a couple hours with Him as you walk this earth!

As a Man Thinketh…

In 1903, James Allen wrote the essay As a Man Thinketh based on Proverbs 23:7 which, in the King James Version of the Bible used a century ago, suggests “as a man [and presumably a woman] thinks in his heart, so is he.” Or as N.T. Wright would remind us, we become like that on which we focus. Allen’s essay submits that what we spend our time thinking about has a significant impact on who we become.

This morning as I was contemplating what I might want to post this week, I read a “Reading for Reflection” in the devotional guide I have used over the past 30 years, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants. The reading contained an excerpt from Allen’s essay worthy of sharing…

“And you, too, youthful reader, will realize the Vision (not the idle wish) of your heart, be it base or beautiful, or a mixture of both, for you will always gravitate toward that which you, secretly, most love. Into your hand will be placed the the exact results of your own thoughts; you will receive that which you earn; no more, no less. Whatever your present environment may be, you will fall, remain, or rise in your thoughts, your Vision, your Ideal. You will become as small as your controlling desire; as great as your dominant aspiration… The Vision that you glorify in your mind, the Ideal that you enthrone in your heart – this you will build your life by, this you will become.” (My emphasis)

I have always suspected that what we focus on in our younger years comes out in full force in our last years on earth – crabby people get crabbier; happy people exude a grateful cheerfulness, even as the body deteriorates and life becomes more frustrating and dependent on others. As I grow older, I can’t help but wonder what type of resident I will be in a care center. 😕

Yesterday Barb and I attended the Celebration of Life for our dear friend Pat Feit, who passed away last Thursday. I have known Pat for a dozen years, half of which she had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. Pat exuded grateful cheerfulness, even as she suffered from the debilitating disease. The Pat I knew had an outlook on life that came through the lens of her walk with Jesus. Others confirmed that yesterday. She became like that on which she focused – Jesus. She was Jesus to all those around her to the very end. As James Allen would suggest, Pat became as great as her dominant aspiration (Jesus) – on this she built her life, this she became.

Thanks be to God for models like Pat Feit!