Do as I Say

Distressed Writer

James 1:22: Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the saying, “Do as I say, not as I do,” although there’s a fair chance that you might have, and more than once. It’s used by someone who knows they ought to act in a certain way and tells everyone about it, but then ends up not doing what they have advised others to do. If it’s said by someone who is trusted or a leader, it can create confusion in the minds of those who hear it, particularly if they are young. I remember a man in our church when I was growing up quoted the verse about our bodies being the temple of God. As part of that, he told us to avoid colas. More than once, he told us that if we put a bit of meat in a container and then poured some cola over it, the cola would dissolve the meat. I never tired that, but I think I know how it would have turned out. And yet this man smoked in the parking lot between Sunday School and church in plain view of everyone.

I suppose I couldn’t be blamed for being confused, although in this case, I didn’t want to smoke. I did want to know how anyone could say to do something and then not do it. It didn’t make any sense.

As I got older, I understood better that human beings are masses of contradictions, and saying one thing and doing another was to be expected among a number of people. I found myself at times doing that, and the most recent example happened last week.

As a teacher and then as a writer, I told my students and other writers that it was vitally important to write something every day. It didn’t matter what it was or how long it was, but it was simply important to do it without fail.

Last week I finished a novel and decided to give myself a break between novels and wait a month before starting another. I would continue to write using other forms every day, and I did that until last week. I went three days without writing, figuring it wouldn’t affect me much.

I was wrong.

When I sat down again and tried to write, I couldn’t make it happen. I took a break and came back. Still nothing. I took time for lunch and then returned to my desk. Still nothing. Then I resolved I was going to sit at my word processor and not get up except for emergencies or to feed the cat until I had written something.

I was there two hours, and then something started to come, slowly at first, but then more and more rapidly. I felt I was where I wanted to be, although it took some doing. If I had written every day, I wouldn’t have had a problem continuing. That day I learned all too well the same lesson I had been teaching for years, and I wouldn’t make that mistake again.

Jesus understood the importance of making our words and our actions fit. He reserved his harshest criticism for the Pharisees, who claimed to be righteous and holy examples and were anything but. He also understood the importance of spiritual disciplines—prayer, Bible study, worship, fellowship, service and all the rest—and he told us to do them daily, as we are going about our business. Just as writing every day makes me a better writer, so does spiritual discipline helps us grow in Christlikeness. Praise God for the disciplines that enrich our lives and help us grow to be more like Jesus our Lord, our teacher, our Savior and our King. Amen.


Pealing the Hour

Grandfather Clock

Matthew 24:36: “About that day (of Jesus’ return )or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

 I don’t know if you’ve ever owned or been around a grandfather clock that chimes the hour. We’ve had one for a long time. It’s a beautiful instrument, with a cherry case and a cool dial that shows the phases of the moon. I’m not sure what to do with a knowledge of the moon’s phases, but it’s there if I need it. I stopped wearing a watch a while back, but found I can tell the hour from the chimes, which I can hear all over the house. (The clock can chime on the quarter hour as well, but we only use the hourly chime. There’s such a thing as too much chiming.)

When we first brought the clock into the house and I heard it chime for the first time, I was impressed by the full, rich sound. I thought the chimes would be metal tubes about an inch and a half in diameter and three or four feet long at most. When I looked into the back of the clock, I was surprised to find that the chimes were not tubes, but rather metal rods the diameter of a pencil, and eighteen inches long.. When struck, they reverberated in the hollow body of the clock, which amplified and reinforced the sound. I realized then that even if the clock maker wanted to use tubes, there wouldn’t have been room. It’s all a matter of reverberation, echoes and overtones.

I was thinking that we as Christians are like the rods in our clock. By ourselves, we aren’t much, but if God is present in our lives, we can call on the power of God to accomplish God’s will and do great things. Our good deeds and loving attitude can ring out like chimes, letting the world know that God is great and God is love. Thanks be to God for multiplying our efforts and allowing us to ring out the Good News wherever we are and wherever we may go. Amen.

Losing the Lockers

High School Lockers

Look quickly–these may be gone soon!

Matthew 28:20: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

I don’t know if you’ve heard about what has happened to lockers in high schools across the country. They have not been lost, as my title might suggest. Rather, they’re being ignored. High school students are not stopping by their lockers to get what they need for their next class. Instead, they are carrying backpacks filled with everything they will need the entire school day. The Post article I read about this said they look like Sherpas overburdened with supplies on their back, toiling across snow fields or, in this case, up and down the halls at schools.

While some students say that it’s difficult to go by their lockers and get to class on time since some schools are so large, but some of the overburdened students are paying the price with back problems. They’re also missing the opportunity to see other students between classes, share gossip, put notes into the locker vents, ask someone to prom, check each other out and fight one other. Believe me, I know about that. And I wonder what effect not being able to spend a little time talking to each other at their lockers will have on students and schools. That remains to be seen.

Students take everything with them because what they need to do their work has become smaller. Imagine trying to stuff an ENIAC computer into a backpack. You couldn’t, because it filled a large room. A smart phone is, of course, much, much smaller and can do everything an ENIAC could. It has 1300 times the computing power of the earlier machine.

As I was thinking of students making their nomadic way around high schools, carrying everything with them, I thought of Abraham before God called him to go to the land of Canaan. The tribes that became the children of Israel were nomads, staying for a while in one place, and then moving on, joining their animals in carrying everything they owned and everything they needed.

When the call came to go to the Promised Land, they were accomplished in knowing how to take everything they owned. They had plenty of practice, after all. So God chose them to make the move and become the nation of Israel. Abraham and his family responded in faith, and that is the point of all this. They knew they could move, but they also learned that God was always with them through any change that came their way. God does not change—God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, throughout eternity.  This same promise that Abraham and his people believed is one we can count on as well. Praise God for God’s faithfulness, steadfastness and for leading us through all the days of our lives and throughout eternity. Amen.