When I was a small boy my dad insisted I make my bed every morning before heading off to school. While I never truly mastered it, he tried to show me how to make a bed according to military standards as he had served in the 1st Army in WWII. Although I don’t remember his exact words, he said something to me like, “How you start your day sets the tone for the entire day.”
I was thinking about this recently as I was working out at Crossfit in Aspen. On the walls of the gym are a variety of inspirational quotes. One in particular that grabbed my attention says, “How you do anything is how you do everything.” When I first saw these words, I realized that this is what my dad was trying to say to me so long ago. His point, in essence, was, “Robert how you make your bed reflects how you will approach whatever comes before you in the coming day.”
Indeed, how we do anything is how we do everything. My dad wanted me to understand that if I was sloppy in making my bed, I likely be sloppy in doing other things. Although I am imperfect in living out this truth, I have come to learn that how I approach the small things in life affects how I do the big things that come across my plate. I wonder if, in part, this was what Jesus was getting at when he said, “Whoever is faithful in very little is faithful also in much.” How we do anything is how we do everything.
As I think about it, I think this truth applies to most things, not only work, but to play, leisure, time off, and even prayer. And I believe this truth actually can help each of us in caring for ourselves. If, for example, I am focused at work and avoid interruptions to that work, shouldn’t the same apply to time off and the space we create for disconnecting. If I am attentive to details when completing a task, could I not pay this same level of attention to things that bring me joy?
Sometimes I am afraid we put more effort into doing the big things we “have” to do than we put into the little ways we care for ourselves, our relationships, and our time with God. Perhaps the phrase, how we do anything is how we do everything, is an invitation not to learn to work harder, but to pay equal attention to all the areas in life that are not task oriented.
This in fact could mean that how well I can relax is how well I will work, how well I play is how well I will get things done, how well I enjoy is how well I will deal with the opposite feelings, and how well I care for myself is how well I will care for others, and there are countless other examples.
I invite you to join me in pondering, “how we do anything is how we do everything,” and prayerfully to discern what God might be saying to us through these words. My hunch is that for some of us, it could be a game changer, even if we struggle with making our beds to military standards.
If you live in Snowmass Village, you are well aware of it. If you reside largely or sometimes in other spots, you may or may not be aware that the last week or so here has been quite snowy. Snowy and very cold. The yellow Aspen leaves seemed to have been caught off guard by the chilly cloudy weather as the leaves went from bright colors immediately to brown and the ground.
It has been said that winter is snow plow season and summer is orange cone season (referring to the road construction that happens during our short warm time of year). But around the Village in the last week or so, something else has happened relatively rapidly. Snow plow companies have lined countless driveways and parking areas with snow plow sticks which mark where the boundaries are between asphalt and dirt, road and curb, trees and plowable areas. I guess some are expecting a snowy winter as some of the sticks I have seen are over 10 feet tall.
Marking these boundaries is important. Most of us have seen what happens when there are no such boundaries, especially when the snow melts. Plantings are trashed, parking lot spaces are dug up, some homeowners are upset, and often there is just a general mess left to clean up. I think the women and men around here who plow do an amazing job and I realize there is no way they can always stay precisely within the markers. But that said, I can only imagine what would happen if there were no boundary sticks or markers.
While snow plow boundaries are helpful where it snows a lot, there are other boundaries that are essential regardless of where we live. This other kind of boundary is all about knowing where one’s life ends and another begins. All about having a clear picture as to what is on my side of the fence and what is on yours.
Dr. Henry Cloud has written a book, I believe, everyone should read and embrace. The book is entitled “Boundaries” and within it boundaries are defined as “what is me and what is not me.” Boundaries help us take responsibility for those things that are “on my side of the fence” and to let go of those things for which we are not responsible.
When we have clear boundaries we are more resilient in life, get a lot more done, are more effective in those areas for which we are accountable, and live with a greater capacity to be helpful to others. When we don’t have clear boundaries, we end up exhausted, living in a cycle of never being able to do enough, we displace responsibility for our own lives onto others, we experience guilt and low self-esteem, and we can end up feeling like a driveway that has been plowed over.
As we move into the winter months, I invite you to join me in envisioning snow plow markers. To then envision your own life and what your boundaries are. Do you have them and know what they are? Are there some areas in which you need greater boundaries? Are there other areas in which you need to reinforce the boundaries that are already present?
Without a doubt, God calls us to live with boundaries. And yes, God calls us to cross our boundaries when another person is in a place of being incapable of caring for themselves, by implementing a new set of boundaries that will enable us to care in a loving way that keeps us whole.
I invite you, once again, to join me in exploring our personal boundaries and where we may need some work putting them in place for any winter season of life ahead.
Life’s simple pleasures. I have several apps on my phone that are space related. One lets me know when certain planets or stars will be visible along with various meteor showers. Another alerts me to significant events happening in space. While yet another sends me a text when the International Space Station (ISS) is overhead.
The ISS is truly an amazing project. In my view, it is nothing but positive. A variety of nations partnered in getting it built and continue to work together on missions across political ideologies. Well over 200 folks from different countries have been on board conducting invaluable research.
The other night I received an alert that the ISS would be brightly visible for nearly 7 minutes. At the right time, I headed outside, looked skyward, and sure enough, the ISS moved in a straight line directly above me. The space station goes around the earth every 90 minutes or so at a speed of roughly 18,000 mph. As I watched the ISS, which is roughly the size of a football field on earth, comments from astronauts over the years who have been in space and looked back toward the earth flooded my mind.
Neil Armstrong once said, “It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant, I felt very small.” And Roger Chaffee stated, “the world itself looks cleaner and so much more beautiful. Maybe we can make it that way – the way God intended it to be – by giving everybody a new perspective from out in space.
The philosopher Frank White came up with a phrase that describes what happens to people when they see the earth and other objects from space. That term, “The Overview Effect.” White defines this effect as “‘a cognitive shift in awareness’ linked to ‘the experience of seeing firsthand the reality that the Earth is in space.’”
With this in mind, as I gazed skyward for a few short moments the other evening, I thought not only of the perspectives that astronauts have had while looking at the Earth from afar, but I wondered what God must think about the Earth he created.
I imagined God feels joy for all that is right and wonderful on this tiny blue dot as there is much to celebrate and for which to be thankful. But I also believe God must feel deep despair that humankind has yet to learn to live in peace. Has yet to embrace the beauty of the earth and the precious nature of every human life. Has yet to live together in unity along with deep humility and reverence toward our Creator. Has yet to live in the way in which God intends for us to live.
If only we as human beings could gain a “space” perspective of ourselves. Perhaps, in part, this is why God came to live among us, to give us at least a glimpse of how things should be on this small object in the universe. What Jesus’ life and teachings offer us, if we pay attention, is as dramatic and perspective altering as what astronauts experience in space. Jesus certainly gave us a glimpse of how things should be. And the good news is that day by day, we each can make a decision to share the glimpse Jesus gave us with others.
We all have perspectives, ways of viewing things, and habits of how we approach the vicissitudes of living. Once in a while, as the ISS moves across the sky, perhaps we each would do well to remember that there is more than one way to see things and that every one of us could use a “space” perspective now and then. When we do so, it is then we might just see things from God’s eyes.
This last Sunday I began a two part series on the Lord’s Prayer. This Sunday I will wrap up and summarize what was covered this last week. There is a word, I believe, that applies to the prayer. That word, radical. The word radical likely raises all kinds of images for us, whether positive or negative. But the word is a great word when it comes to our walk with Jesus.
One definition I found defines radical as “relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something.” With this definition in mind, I would hope we find both our relationship with Jesus and the Lord’s Prayer radical. The more seriously we take both, the more we will find the fundamental nature of who we are dramatically affected.
Speaking of radical, in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus says, “Your Kingdom come.” It is here the prayer begins to get truly radical and upending, especially if we pay attention to what we are really praying and asking for. To get into this, we need a definition of God’s Kingdom.
God’s Kingdom is a place and time when everything is as it should be. It is where and when love, wonder, kindness, compassion, humility, joy, service, selflessness and justice prevail. It is when there is no illness or heartache. It is where relationships are characterized by mercy and forgiveness. Simply put, the Kingdom of God is where and when everything is as God wants it to be.
In essence when we are praying for God’s Kingdom to come, we are praying for heaven on earth. Think of everything that is right in the world. Such things reflect something of what God’s Kingdom looks like. Think of everything that is wrong. That sheds light on the gap between where we are and how God wants things to be.
Several writers have noted, including John Ortberg, that when we pray for God’s Kingdom, we are saying we are ready to be fully committed followers of Jesus and all that entails. That we are asking God’s Kingdom to infuse and replace our own kingdoms. That we are willing to give up our way of doing things for God’s.
Such things have compelled me to ask myself questions as, “What are my kingdoms in my own life? Where do I put myself in the place of being king? What might God say about my kingdoms and how I rule things in comparison to how God would want things done?”
I have also asked myself, “To what degree when I pray ‘your Kingdom come’ do I really mean it? Do I really want God’s Kingdom to arrive knowing the many changes I’d have to make to live into God’s Kingdom? Am I willing to upend things to align my own kingdoms with God’s?”
Or, as Paul writes in a letter from one version of the Bible, “Are we willing to fit every thought, emotion and impulse into a life shaped by Christ?” Is this humanly impossible, yes. But it is what we are asking for and striving for when we say, “Your Kingdom come.” And the writer NT Wright states, when we pray for God’s Kingdom, “we must of course be prepared to live this way.”
The point of all of this is not to make us feel inadequate, less than, guilty and bad. Rather the point is to highlight the radical nature of what we are asking God to do in our lives, which is to bring God’s Kingdom into our lives, to accept the resultant changes God seeks to make, and to embrace a life characterized and infused by God’s love. I believe when it is all said and done, when we pray, “Thy Kingdom Come,” while we may discover we must let go of many things, in the end, we will find the amazing life God has in mind for each of us.
Four short words. Four extraordinary words. Spoken together, these four words when referring to God’s will, are likely the most potent, upending, life altering, radical, and transforming utterances that can enter our consciousness and cross our lips, especially when said with intent and commitment.
During Jesus’ well known Sermon on the Mount, Jesus simply said, “Pray then in this way.” What followed were the words we now refer to as the Lord’s Prayer. This coming week I begin a two part series on this prayer, a prayer many know well that is often committed to memory. That said, the Lord’s Prayer is a prayer, at least in my own faith journey, whose power and profound life altering meaning I have not always embraced or acted upon.
Take, for example, the phrase “Your will be done.” On any given day I know I don’t always consult God before making decisions or acting upon information. I sometimes try and run my own life as if my life is ultimately self-directed and for my benefit. Frank Sinatra’s song, “My Way,” contains lyrics that are not foreign to my life experience.
While I am a fan of Frank Sinatra’s music, the lyrics in this song wonderfully express how so many of us go awry in life. In “My Way” Frank sings, “I’ve lived a life that’s full. I’ve traveled each and every highway. But more, much more that this, I did it my way.”
I understand the nostalgic wonder of this tune. I embrace and encourage individual competency, being able to function independently, and doing things well, but if taken to heart, these lyrics express what has often been amiss in my life and walk with Jesus. “My way” at its core does not reflect what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
That said, I believe that when we pray the words to God, “Your will be done,” we open up new horizons in life, new meaning, and a far deeper sense of purpose, along with higher degrees of faithfulness. If and when we pray to God “Your will be done,” if we mean it, if we are patient, if we create space, if we let go of presumptions and preconceptions, God’s will often becomes clear. I also continue to discover, not infrequently, that God’s will counters what we might have done or said in response to something without consulting God.
I am working on incorporating a new phrase in my life. That phrase, “God, what will serve me the most, so that I can serve you the best.” In other words, “God, what is it I need to do, listen to, receive, reject, decline, embrace, be receptive to, or take on that will help me align my will with your will so that I may serve you more fully. What will serve me in order to serve you. What is your will for me so that I may act upon your will with regard to whatever it is that is before me right now.”
Again, the words “God, your will be done” are not only profound but life altering. None of what I am writing about is easy or can be done with either consistency or perfection. This is what is means to be human beings, human beings that desperately need God.
None of what I am writing about is meant to be a criticism of any of us. Rather, I believe, God invites us to work day in and day out on turning to God’s will, because in the end, the more we do so, the more we will not only discover the life God has in mind for each of us, but also the limitless, boundless and overwhelming love of God.
So my prayer is that we can journey together seeking God’s will not only in our individual lives, but in the life of Snowmass Chapel. Such a journey is such an extraordinary blessing.