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Slow down. Take a deep breath. What’s the hurry? Why wear yourself out? Just what are you after anyway? Jeremiah 2:25 (The Message)

So I signed up for a 21-day meditation course online featuring two esteemed gurus of our culture to whom I refer collectively as “Oprah Chopra.” Got myself all ready to be decompressed, un-stressed and boldly blessed. Stoked and psyched, I was certain I was on my way to Serenity Now!

Cut to: the alternate ending. I made it all the way through… Day One. There was just too much to get done! I couldn’t justify sitting there, actively doing absolutely nothing for twenty-one days in a row. C’mon, people! Only so many hours in a day and oh so many obligations.

Did I mention that the meditation course required a commitment of only fifteen minutes per day?

Maybe it’s because I’m from New Jersey, but by default, my general tendency for most of my life has been to be in a hurry. As I’ve gotten older (and due to health issues) I have slowed down somewhat, but I see it all around me here in my home state. We walk quickly. We talk over each other in conversation. We get in the car, get on the road, and get where we’re going.

Some other cultures have figured out that life should not be on fast-forward, and they’ve slowed things down.

In Spain, businesses shut down in the middle of the afternoon to accommodate the traditional siesta, and although this practice is on the decline as modern, multi-tasking life encroaches, many still swear by that mid-day nap.

The French have made the leisurely meal into an art form. The “slow food” movement has gained a substantial following. Dinner is savored, friendships are nurtured. A glass of wine (or deux) is enjoyed. La vie est belle!

Native cultures speak of finding God in nature, of waiting for his guidance out in the woods or by the river. Time seems slower. Life seems simpler.

Why is it so hard for us to stop and smell the roses? Has it simply become the American way of doing things?

Maybe we should schedule a half hour of repose every day no matter what else is vying for our attention. It will serve to make us more productive and help us to find our center, but more important, it’s a chance to connect with God and be open to His leading. It may become a habit you won’t want to break. 

Perfectly ImperfectRecently our church hired a new organist/choir director.  We were blessed with a number of candidates, three of whom could easily do the job.  Who to pick?

One candidate had more experience and brought sheet music along for the ride.  Another was an excellent teacher, perfect for helping us improve our sound. A third excelled in playing the organ, vastly important given our cobbled together, quirky pipe organ.

Each had strengths, yet none of them was perfect, just like the people God calls to a variety of tasks.  Yes, you heard me.  God regularly calls the imperfect. Moses was a poor public speaker (give the job to my brother). Martha probably had a bit of a temper (make her help me!).  Paul started his career persecuting the Jews.

I think there are several reasons that God calls the imperfect to work for Him.

We are all imperfect.  If he waited for perfection, he’d have to do it all himself and that’s not what he wants. That would be easy.

He uses us so that we can grow in some way. Moses had to learn to lead.  For choir, I had to learn to get up in front of church without having a panic attack.

So often society encourages us to excel and to dominate.  “Be the very best!” Serving in an area in which you are not the best encourages you to be humble.

He wants us to work together.  Have you ever heard an amazing choir?  They sound that good together.  Each singer individually would not be so amazing.  Our gifts grow as they combine.

No, we can’t say yes to everyone who asks us to do something. That just makes our lives crazy and no one needs that.  But when God calls, it is for a reason even if it means overcoming anxiety or a weakness.  He needs willing hands and we need to grow.

Maybe we should think of it as a match made in Heaven.


Watching Religion & Ethics Weekly the other day, I saw a news story about President Obama addressing the United Nations General Assembly.

Some may disagree, but I believe that America is exceptional – in part because we have shown a willingness, through the sacrifice of blood and treasure, to stand up not only for our own narrow self-interest, but for the interests of all.”

Now, I’m grateful to have been born in this country. But at a gathering of all the (reasonable) countries in the world, is it really necessary to say, “We’re still bigger and better than the rest of you!”

It’s the same with world religions. Every one of them seems to think their God is bigger and better than anyone else’s.

When I was a teenager, I was baby-sitting my next-door neighbor’s kids. As she was leaving for the restaurant, one of them asked a very deep question that left her discombobulated.

Mama?” he asked, all wide-eyed innocence. “Who’s more powerful. Jesus or Shiva?”

She had a look on her face that spoke volumes. As in, I don’t want to talk about this to my seven and nine year old kids, but our family is Hindu, so…

Well, I guess… Shiva.”

Why Mama?”

God is a belief, honey. Nothing to do with your real life. Shiva is just the one that we believe in, that’s all. Right, Ruthie?”

I flashed back in my mind – a recent emergency appendectomy had left me “minutes from death” according to my surgeon, so I’d gotten right with God, right quick. I took the altar call at a local church, figuring I had to commit fully to God’s path and never look back.

So when my neighbor asked me to agree with her, I didn’t know how to respond.

God is a belief! Goodness gracious. At the time, I thought that if I said or thought the wrong thing, God would smite me down. I didn’t have a foundation of faith so much as a fixation on fear. If I’d been minutes from death in the hospital and had been given a second chance, clearly I should spend the rest of my life trying to toe the line so that I wouldn’t be denied entry into Heaven.

Luckily, the conversation petered out as the kids turned their attention to Scooby-Doo.

It would take me years before I realized that having faith wasn’t about staving off doom. It’s about living fully and embracing the positive. Light and laughter. Joy, not judgment. A sense of purpose and a sense of community.

We may pray in unique ways and call Him by different names, but, in truth, we all worship the same God. Holding on to hope in a world that dares us to believe is an act of faith in itself. As it turns out, there’s nothing bigger or better than walking the divine path with peace in your heart and hope for the future.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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