17 Jan The Best Laid Plans…
What is that saying about “the best laid plans of mice and men”?????
Last week I wrote about how excited I was to launch our new sermon series on the Seven Deadly Sins and Seven Lively Virtues. Then the weather forecast changed. And changed. And changed again. And instead of being in worship on Sunday preaching about pride and humility like I wanted to be, I was at home, wrapped up in a blanket in front of the fire, watching the snow fall. It was beautiful and peaceful, and after I let go of my disappointment that my plans had gone awry, I settled in to enjoy and appreciate this unexpected gift of a Snow Day.
And what a gift it turned out to be. I spent a good chunk of the day devouring a book by Dr. James Doty entitled Into the Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon’s Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart. Dr. Doty’s story is captivating and compelling. Without self-pity or judgment of his family he tells of his poverty-stricken, neglectful childhood with an alcoholic father and depressed, suicidal mother. His account left me aching for every child who lives with food uncertainty, has experienced multiple evictions, and is more caregiver than cared for.
At the age of twelve Dr. Doty’s life was forever changed by a chance encounter with a woman who was in town visiting her son. For six weeks the woman, whose name was Ruth, spent one hour a day with the young pre-teen, teaching him her “magic” which most folks would recognize as the basics of meditation. The practices of relaxing his body and calming his mind were powerful in and of themselves, tools Jim Doty has used extensively throughout his career whenever he performs neurosurgery. But, even more importantly, Ruth taught this boy the power of belief which he later came to understand actually changes the brain’s circuitry and functioning.
I was struck by many things as I read, but one of the most profound truths that emerged was how every single one of us holds incredible power to impact the life of another human being. Sadly, we are usually unaware of this “super power,” so instead of utilizing it for good and changing the world, it lies dormant. We are so busy with our own lives, with getting from one commitment to the next, taking care of kids or the laundry, building a name and career for ourselves, grabbing “me” time when we can get it, that we don’t notice the little boys or girls that wander across our path. We don’t take time to really look at the person who hands us our dry cleaning or our morning latte. Perhaps joy is in those eyes, perhaps pain, but we’ll never know because we don’t take the time to look, to notice, and to care.
No, not everyone who intersects our path is someone we need to devote several weeks of our life to. But we can see them, make eye contact, and say or do something kind. We can breathe a silent prayer for them or bless their day. As we begin to exercise our spiritual muscles of attentiveness and discernment, we might feel prompted to “pay it forward” in some way, or to ask a question from genuine interest. We might even feel he Spirit leading us to make a detour in our carefully planned day, to sit for a minute, or engage in a conversation, or open up our wallet. Some of us feel immediate resistance to such suggestions, perhaps because we fear losing control of our carefully orchestrated day (or life). Or, perhaps our hearts are not open enough to welcome an “interruption,” even if it is heaven-sent. Still others of us feel burdened to capacity with what is already on our plates. We simply don’t have space or time to care about anything else, we think. These all present “growing edges,” opportunities to stretch and learn and open our lives to the in-breaking of God’s Spirit—which often looks suspiciously like the chance to “love your neighbor (even one we don’t yet know) as yourself.”
Into the Magic Shop came to me as a gift (literally—a Christmas present from a dear friend), but it is proving to be a gift in ways almost too numerous to count. Not the least of these is the reflection it has prompted me to do about my own attentiveness and caring. I’ve been reminded that I have more capacity to influence others than I realize, and with that capacity comes the responsibility to use it wisely, well, and often.
I don’t know if another snow day is on the horizon, but I highly recommend this book to you. It offers a “deep dive” to start 2019.
Yours for the Kingdom,