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A Simple Path

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I have a recurring problem. I find it hard to keep balance in my life. That problem has been greatly exacerbated by my recent appointment as executive director for National Church Ministries while maintaining my responsibilities as superintendent for the Metropolitan District until a new leader can be elected. My life has gone from being hectic to frenetic as I “commute” between New Jersey and Colorado.

Recently, my devotions brought me to the beginning of the Book of Psalms, and I spent the better part of a morning (in an airport) sifting through the riches of Psalm 1. This psalm not only stands at the head of the book but also serves as a fitting introduction to the wisdom literature of the Old Testament.

Psalm 1 contrasts two roads (a theme that Jesus expands in the Sermon on the Mount) and calls us to make a choice between “the way of the righteous” and “the way of the wicked.” The righteous person, it teaches us, is called to meditate day and night upon the “law of the Lord” (v. 2). If we delight in His law and make it the focal point of our lives, we are promised that whatever we do will prosper.

Balance is Everything

That sounds simple enough. So why do I keep losing my balance? You need to understand that I am very accustomed to being off balance. Because of cerebral palsy, I have spent half my life picking myself up from the floor. When I was a child, the neighbors bought me a football helmet and begged my parents to force me to wear it. These friends were afraid that if I split my head open one more time, the consequences would be irreparable.

I am better in maintaining my physical balance these days. I’ve given up attempting to ice skate or roller skate (four concussions), and I rarely ride bicycles anymore (one dislocated shoulder and several bad abrasions). I don’t climb trees (38 stitches). I have even given up basketball (two trips to the emergency room).

But spiritually, I still have balance issues. Maybe it is just the “busyness” of life in the 21st century—too many things to do and not enough time to do them. Maybe it is a “pride of life” issue—relying on natural gifts and talents to try to do God’s work in the power of the flesh. I fall into that pit regularly! Part of it may come from the “Martha” in me that bases my sense of self-worth on what I can get done rather than on who I am in Christ. Our Western culture has wrongly taught us that our value is based upon what we do and how much we can accomplish rather than upon who we are as people. Whatever the causes, I still lose my balance. I still get out of focus, and when that happens, I cannot experience or model the true joy of ministry.

The Heart of the Matter

Most of my devotional reading apart from Scripture focuses on the tried and true bastions of evangelical Christianity. Some of my favorite authors are A. W. Tozer, Oswald Chambers, Andrew Murray and a lesser known but incisive 19th century Anglican, J. C. Ryle. I even read contemporary sages like Max Lucado and Chuck Swindoll. Sometimes, however, I venture outside the ranks of the tried and true “safe” authors. Often, I am delightfully surprised. The best help that I have gotten on my balance issues comes from the writings of the Catholic sister known as Mother Teresa. In The Simple Path I think she captures the heart of the matter of balance keeping:

“The fruit of meditation [on the Scriptures] is Prayer
The fruit of prayer is Faith
The fruit of faith is Love
The fruit of love is Service
The fruit of service is Peace.”

There is an enormous amount of wisdom in that simple formula, and it emphasizes the same point the psalmist makes at the beginning of the great book of wisdom. When we begin by focusing upon the Word of God and then maintain that focus through meditation, it becomes possible not only to pray, but to pray “without ceasing.” Brother Lawrence, another Catholic mystic, called that “practicing the presence of God.”

Even in our hectic lives, when we live in the conscious attitude of prayer, everything else flows naturally (or should I say supernaturally) from that reality. Faith, love, service and peace are the supernatural fruits of a life that is truly balanced in the midst of a chaotic world.

Simple. Not easy, but simple.

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