In 2013 I attended a small spiritual formation conference in Santa Barbara California. At that gathering of about 300 I heard John Ortberg repeat a story he had written about his book; The Life You’ve Always Wanted.
Not long after moving to Chicago, I called a wise friend to ask for some spiritual direction. I described the pace at which things tend to move in my current setting. I told him about the rhythms of our family life and about the present condition of my heart, as best I could discern it. What did I need to do, I asked him, to be spiritually healthy?
“You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life,” he said at last. Another long pause.
“OK, I’ve written that one down,” I told him, a little impatiently. “That’s a good one. Now what else is there?” I had many things to do, and this was a long distance conversation, so I was anxious to cram as many units of spiritual wisdom into the least amount of time possible.
Another long pause.
“There is nothing else,” he said. “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”
By the way, as the story was being retold, I learned that Dallas Willard, who also spoke at that Santa Barbara gathering, was the “wise friend” who had advised Ortberg to be “ruthless” with any hurry he found in his life. Willard died a little more than 2 months later at the age of 78.
Why do older men and women consistently tell younger men and women to slow down? What do they want to pass on?
Why do we all need to be connected to wise, loving mentors?
What had Dallas Willard observed during his time of life and ministry that led him to give such a stern warning?
What is the difference between being extremely busy and being hurried?
What is there about hurry that deserves an immediate and “ruthless” response?
A dear friend asked me to suggest some Spiritual Formation reading material — good options to use during our “Shelter in Place” indoor time. I happen to know that she is well on her way through the first entry.
Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, Richard J. Foster Amazon Link
Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey into Meditative Prayer, Richard J. Foster Amazon Link
Some time ago I read the story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The author, commissioned by the National Geographic Society, used the journals of Lewis and Clark as a guide. He simply repeated the trip, following their footsteps, up the same rivers and over the same mountains. The most fascinating part of the whole story for me was that Lewis and Clark, and several others who traveled with them, kept highly detailed journals of their trip. For them, crossing the continent was important, but remembering the crossing was crucial.
Remembering has always been important to God’s people. Crossing the Red Sea or the Jordan River was half the story. Remembering what God did there was the rest of the story.
We can hear it in Joshua’s words … (4:4-7, 22-24)
So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” … tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”
Did you notice who the stones were for?
1st – (v. 6) For the Twelve Men who carried the stones. Joshua says the stones will “serve as a sign among you.”
2nd – (v. 6) For the Children. Joshua says, “In the future, when your children ask you, what do these stones mean? Tell them”
3rd – (v. 7) For the People. Joshua says, “These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
4th – (v. 24) For Everyone — Can see the circle widening? Joshua explains, “He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand the Lord is powerful.”
Four groups. Four messages. This pile of stones rehearses the story for all these groups of people.
In the same way, our Red Sea, our Jordan River, our baptism is half the story. Remembering what God did there is the rest of the story.
Communion is our pile of stones. It’s where we rehearse the story. It’s why we do it every week.
Dear Lord — When my choice is between complaint or gratitude, feeling entitled or feeling thankful, help me to remember that all that I have and all that I am is a gift from you. Remind me that living in resentment not only hurts me, but also everyone I love.
God, I want my life to run on the inexhaustible fuel of thanksgiving.
I am forever grateful that you have been faithful to me — Lord, for your Amazing Grace.
Not long ago I ran across 3 questions offered as “Speaking Filters.” As I thought about the value of using them it became very clear that they would require that I use the “slow down and think before you talk” discipline as well. And that discipline, on its own merit, is also a great speaking filter.
Here are 3 questions to ask yourself before you speak to someone:
Does this need to be said?
Does this need to be said by me?
Does this need to be said by me … now?
With enough practice, it will only take a few seconds to go through these questions. It is even easier if you are in a group, where speaking time is shared … and it may be more important to use these filters in that setting. Some people speak too quickly. They might be hurt or angry, or they may simply talk too much and the words just come out … with few or no filters.
So think through these Speaking Filters for a minute.
Does this need to be said? Sometimes what is going through my mind needs to stay there … in my mind. Bringing it out, saying it out loud might just add fuel to a fire that is already burning out of control. Besides, I may not be bringing anything new to the conversation. Like the definition of “nagging” I heard as a young man. An elderly and very godly woman put it this way — “nagging is reminding someone of something they have not forgotten.” So — Does this need to be said? Perhaps not.
Does this need to be said by me? Perhaps it does need to said … but by someone else. By a neutral party, someone calmer, someone who will not take a side, someone with nothing to gain or lose. Whoever does the talking, it might be that I should be out of the picture. Me, my baggage and my preconceptions might should be somewhere else.
Does this need to be said by me … now? It could be that another time would work better for everyone involved. Cool down. Clear the mind. Take a deep breath. Count to 10 … or count to several days. However we understand it, now might not be a good time to talk. So wait.
Of course, there may be occasions when the answer to all 3 questions is “Yes — this needs to be said … by me … now.” Navigating these 3 filters might bring me to this conclusion even when what needs to be said will not be comfortable to say or hear. These are the moments in which I will most need both the heart and the words of Jesus.
3 filters when talking …
These questions can help me to speak with confidence or to remain silent with compassionate control. Both can be successful outcomes.