Tag Archives: humility

Finding Life In The Commas

“The best lives are riddled with ambiguities and lined with shadows. Each of them is a story about grace.”

~Marilyn McEntyre

comma

Life is lived in the commas, among dashes and eclipses, but many of us prefer the period.

We like clear resolution and a definitive end.

  • I am right. She is wrong.
  • They are evil. We are good.
  • You are at fault and need to stop whining, so we can wrap this up and go home.

Wielding periods, we can slam doors, burn bridges, and shake the disgusted dust off our feet. How satisfying to stamp Mystery Solved, Case Complete, Game Over, The End to our drama, our questions, and our doubts.

But the truth unfolds in the commas.

  • In some ways he’s right, but not completely.
  • She may be wrong, but is on the right track.
  • We are all sometimes evil, and we are all capable of great good. The line goes through, not between us.

What are we learning when resolution eludes us? What growth takes place as life’s sentences run on? Commas must be feared if the world has no author. Truth feels slippery, lines quickly blur, we all stumble along, waiting for our worst fears to come true.

Waiting In The Commas

In the season of Advent we wait, and remember the ancient rumors have turned out to be true. There is an author in charge, the perfect end even no unfolds, and we’ve been handed the plot line–not a list of pious opinions, but a person to follow.  Jesus. Our light in the darkness, our guide through the chaos, our power to love when surrounded by hate, he promises to redeem, restore, transform even our most dreadful mistakes (if we let him) into breathtaking beacons of hope.

One day the period will be put to all evil, death, and misery. For now God waits, patiently moving through the good and the bad, wasting nothing, giving up on no-one, desiring that everyone on earth run into his outstretched arms.

But, remember, he uses our arms for the job. He demands that we love others the way we long to be loved, even when our punctuation is out of sync.

It’s not easy.

Flourishing in the commas requires humility (I could be wrong, because there’s more to this than I can see), hope (God is not absent just because I’m tempted to despair) and habit (I will keep my heart open, continue to love, especially the people whom nobody else will love).

1 Corinthians 13, 2 Peter 3:8-10

Where do you see the love of God at work in the commas?

 The quote at the top is from Marilyn McEntyre’s lovely new book, Word by Word, A Daily Spiritual Practice. A perfect stocking stuffer for your favorite reader.

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Be Careful With Your Words, Be Careful With Your Anger

Humility must always be doing its work like a bee making its honey in the hive: without humility all will be lost.” Teresa of Avila

_Bee on flower

Be careful, my child. Gather with care from the wind-borne moment what sustenance you may find.

Keep searching for truth, the sweet amidst the bitter. Be diligent, be sincere, be curious and undaunted.

But be humble. You are only one small laborer in a very large garden. There is so much more than what you see. There is so much less of you than you pretend.

Be careful, my troubled one. Learn to wait, to hover, to rise above the gusty winds of rash and shallow discourse. Tune your ear to listen for reason beneath reaction, for hunger beneath a smug and self-satisfied sigh.

Look deeper. It is not your quick retort, your flush of confusion, your clenched fist, or  your fleeting joy that will sustain you. It is not your solitary or collective understanding that will carry you home.

There is something more substantial beneath your feet, the pulsing life you did not fashion, the steady hum of being not of your own doing. The black-sharpie underline, the emphatic, unfathomable but rock-rooted foundation beneath you–what is it?

Love. Love that never fails, that will not be shaken. God’s glad and unswerving intention that all creation be healed, redeemed, and wondrously restored.

Be careful, then, with your words, for words can’t be unsaid. Be cautious with anger, keep it aimed at its only true target.

Be wary of superior and disdainful certainty. Reject the viral snark, the emotional and simplistic answers of this age. Be humble, be little, refusing to make your viewpoint and half-formed assumptions the interpretive key for all time.

Above all, be stern with your own sin,  your hidden complicity with evil. With joy, receive God’s abundant mercy and forgiveness, and let it spill over and ever upon your neighbor.

Where have you learned to be careful?

Photograph by Melanie Hunt
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Too Small To Fail

Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. ~St. Augustine

bluebird on wirejpg

My best days begin with the reminder to be small.

The setting was a beautiful back yard garden, the occasion, a fundraiser tea. My low-key task of the moment was to help arrange a display of Melanie’s stunning photograph note cards for purchase. I held up the bluebird photo, and we commented on the visual dissonance–a feathered beauty perched on vicious, unyielding wire. The bird seems unconcerned, care-less of the pointed barbs the rest of us rightly avoid.

Because we don’t know how to be small.

Staring at the photo, I notice how generous a space the bluebird enjoys. Plenty of room to gaze at the meadow, to dance in the rain, to spread its wings and soak in the sun. The barbs are present, but powerless.

Small Enough To Fly

Lately, God and I have played ping-pong with my thoughts. I judge someone, and he deftly bounces my similar flaws over the net. I express outrage at maltreatment, and he returns a reminder of my own carelessness toward others. I cry of injustice, and he lays down his paddle with a question, “How do you plan to become more just?”

God is not unkind, but merciful. He is reminding me the barbs only hurt because I’ve gotten too big.

  • When I measure others by the standard of me.
  • When my pride can’t handle the slightest offense.
  • When I long to change everyone else in the world except the one person I can change.

Me.

He’s urging me to be small, so I have room to fly.

“Humility is perfect quietness of heart. It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door, and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep-sea of calmness, when all around and above is trouble.”
― Andrew Murray

Are you learning to be small?

Photograph by Melanie Hunt
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Today’s Special: Creamed Envy On Boast

Pretty clever title, don’t you think? Love does not envy or boastI have to spice things up a bit because this other blogger I’m fortunate to be meeting amazing writers these days. is getting way more traffic to her blog, which is so unfair since my content has that certain je ne sais quoi few others have. I’m inspired by their quiet humility, I did, after all, win that 7th Grade poetry context and if you wait a moment I’ll show you the trophy which comes across as genuine love, as if they are equally pleased when others succeed as when they do.

What if Jesus were known for his boasting and envy?

“You liked that miracle? Check out my ratings–all 5 star reviews! Tell your friends to hurry–signs and wonders are half-off all week!” “Pilate, do you have any idea what my father does for a living? When’s the last time you turned water into wine?” “Peter, be honest, what does John the Baptist have that I don’t? Why do the crowds love him?”

What if? A major love-fail, the death of our one hope. We didn’t need more of the same, we needed humble love, with not envy, but goodwill to all people as its aim.

Thomas à Kempis on the subject:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Take glory neither in money, if you have some, nor in influential friends, but in God who gives you everything and above all wants to give you himself.

Avoid boasting about the size or beauty of your body, which a little illness can disfigure or destroy.

Have no pride in your native wit and talent; that would displease God who gave you every good thing that you naturally possess.

Reject the thought that you are better than anyone else. If you think such haughty thoughts, God (who knows what is in you) will consider you worst than they.

Pride about our good deeds is pointless. God has his own ideas regarding what is good and he does not always agree with us. If there is something good about you, believe better things of others.

This will keep you humble.

It will not hurt you at all to consider yourself less righteous than others, but it will be disastrous for you to consider yourself better than even one person.

The humble are always at peace; the proud are often envious and angry.

~From The Imitation of Christ

How would an envy-and-boast-free diet change your life?

This is post four of our Lent To Love: A Return to the Source series on 1 Corinthians 13. Join us on the journey to Easter!

Photograph by Melanie Hunt

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Sabbath Quiet: Humble Gratitude

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. ~G.K. Chesterton

gratitude

Gratitude And The Giver

Thank you, God, for everything, the big things and the small,

For every good gift comes from God, the giver of them all.

And so at this time we offer up a prayer to thank you, God for giving us a lot more than our share.

First, thank you for the little things that often come our way, the things we take for granted and don’t mention when we pray,

The unexpected courtesy, the thoughtful, kindly deed, a hand reached out to help us in the time of sudden need.

Then thank you for the miracles we are much too blind to see, and give us new awareness of our many gifts from Thee.

And help us to remember that the key to life and living is to make each prayer a prayer of thanks and each day a day of thanksgiving.

~ Helen Steiner Rice

Accept With Gratitude

Accept with gratitude everything that God allows from within or without, from friend or enemy, in nature or in grace, to remind you of your need for humbling and to help you in it.

Reckon humility to be the mother-virtue, your very first duty before God, the one perpetual safeguard of the soul, and set your heart upon it as the source of all blessing.

The promise is divine and sure: He that humbles himself shall be exalted. See that you do the one thing that God asks, and He will see that He does the one thing He has promised. He will give more grace; He will exalt you in due time.

~Andrew Murray, Humility

Do you notice the relationship between gratitude and humility as you look at your life?

Photograph by MC Hunt
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Hunger For Humility

We shall find that the deepest humility is the secret of the truest happiness, of a joy that nothing can destroy. ~Andrew Murray

humility

On the shelves of my world, humility is often in short supply. Like the endangered Twinkie, a humble view of self gets put out of business, pushed off the market by more popular fare.

Why be humble, when instead I can be right? Why withhold judgment when I can be outraged? Why be self-aware when I can be self-satisfied?

It’s like a catchy tune we can’t stop humming.

Our side is correct, their kind are ruining things. Our way is better, they need to measure up. We own the truth, they are idiots.

No wonder we feel battered and afraid. Our hearts were designed to beat to the serene rhythm of humility, not the frenetic pace of pride.

I know about this first-hand.  I’ve researched  humility enough to wince at the ways it eludes me. One day an understanding friend handed me Andrew Murray’s slim volume, Humility: The Journey Toward Holiness. One of the 15 Books Than Found Me, it’s my favorite of them all.

Murray writes,

Humility is not so much a virtue along with others, but is the root of all, because it alone takes the right attitude before God and allows Him, as God, to do all.

Think about it:

  • Learn to be humble, patience will grow
  • Learn to be humble, kindness will bud
  • Learn to be humble, courage will bloom
  • Learn to be humble, faith will mature
  • Learn to be humble, hope will arise
  • Learn to be humble, love will flourish

But focus on self, end up with self. How much of my angst and anger stem from trying to grow my own goodness?

So, maybe empty shelves are a good place to start. With no plan to stock them, just the willingness to let God fill me with his virtues, where I have none of my own.

Hunger For Humility

Put humility on your wish list, the quality and the book. Nurture it, savor it, treasure all that’s humble and give your frantic heart a rest.

serenity of humility

Have you experienced the serenity of humility?

Image of Store Shelves Credit

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