Clean Windows

I sit at my desk and gaze out the window at burnished gold and flaming orange leaves heralding autumn. It occurs to me how much I love clean windows! Earlier this morning I looked out through the accumulation of dirt and smudges on the glass and those same leaves looked dull, joyless. So I gathered up my cleaning supplies and got busy. Now, observed through my clean window, the world looks freshly washed.

Clean-WindowsI do love clean windows…but I hate washing them! I procrastinate and complain about this despised chore, no matter how delighted I am with the end result. I can’t afford to pay someone to wash my windows for me, so I’m stuck with doing it myself. Our windows are old, the kind that tilt in, and it requires strong hands to compress the frame in order to release the sash. Sometimes a window frame has become stiff with age and I struggle to get the sash free. When it suddenly pops out, there’s this little “pop” of relief within me…now I can get on with the washing.  Depending on the season, the sash may be stuck, not willing to budge no matter how much I push, pull, huff and puff. Those are the days when I’m so grateful for the help of my husband’s strong hands and arms. It’s good to have help when the work is hard!

Like looking through clean windows, I love seeing the heart of God clearly. Somehow the world seems freshly washed–and me along with it–when I observe the world around me with his heart. But, just like washing windows, seeing God’s heart clearly requires time and energy…and there are days when I just don’t want to invest in Bible study and prayer, no matter how delighted I will be with the end result. In a different sense, I can’t afford to pay someone to do that work for me (paying the preacher to preach the sermon doesn’t count!) This is work I must do myself.

Inevitably, there are days when the framework of my mind has become stiff with age, resistant to the pressure of  change. There are seasons when I feel the window of my soul has swollen shut with the cares of life and world, and it just won’t budge. In those times, it takes a strong hand to break those places free…tilting the sash of my soul inward so that God can penetrate my heart and mind. In those times I am grateful for the Spirit’s gift of a listening friend who encourages me until I feel the “pop”, or the one more learned than me who has generously written down the wisdom gleaned from their own study and prayer. Again, it’s good to have help when the work is hard!

When my view of life and world is dull and joyless, I know that I’m not seeing God’s heart clearly. I’ve allowed the dirt and smudges of procrastination and complaining to accumulate on the window of my soul. I realize that it’s time to gather up my cleaning supplies–prayer, Scripture, a good friend, the wisdom of a commentary–and get busy. The end result is like looking at the brilliant fall leaves through freshly washed windows…delightful!

How’s the view through your windows?

Avoiding Bible-study Gluttony

I was talking with a friend today who said that she is really enjoying digging into the scriptures these days, after years of allowing volunteering and other such good works to be her excuse in avoiding a regular pattern of Bible study. I certainly understand what she is saying, but as I’ve thought more about our conversation, I think she’s more the exception than the rule. Here’s what I’m getting at…

Take a look at your church calendar. How many opportunities are there for folks to “get into the word?” How many Sunday school classes, Wednesday night classes, home Bible studies, small group Bible studies, women’s Bible studies, men’s Bible studies… well, you get the idea. Seriously, count them and see how many.

Now, how many opportunities are on that calendar for folks to live out what they are learning in those Bible studies? Perhaps more to the point, how many folks are actually taking advantage of those opportunities or creating others? How many are feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and those in prison? If you are a ministry leader, How often are you begging for volunteers?

The balance between study and service

Several years ago, our kids bought their dad one of those home gym things–you know what I mean… they look like an instrument of torture and take up half a room. Anyway, David put the thing together and read the instructions for using it. He also got a subscription to a men’s health magazine and learned about exercise and better nutrition. He could tell you which exercises worked which muscle groups and whether you needed to focus on increasing reps or adding more weight. But here’s the catch… if he had never actually climbed on the gym-thing and used it, all that knowledge would have done absolutely nothing to make him more physically fit. He would just continue to gain weight, get stiff, and have no stamina.

Likewise, a steady diet of Bible study with no practical application runs the risk of producing Bible study gluttons who are puffed up with their knowledge but have no stamina when it comes to service. Endless Bible study with no practical application is a fast track to legalism. (Remember the Pharisees of Jesus’ day?) Not to mention getting bogged down in a mire of unrealistic idealism… (Unrealistic this side of heaven, anyway!) Rightly understood, discipleship requires combining Bible study with pragmatism–feet on the ground, doing the work we are created to do and all the while reflecting on God’s word as we are living it out.

Interestingly, as we use those “calories” (truths we’ve gleaned from our Bible study) through exercising (serving in the ministry God has prepared for us to do), we find we are strengthened in our faith. We also find that we work up a healthy thirst for Living Water and hunger for the Bread of Life. Our spirits need more “fuel” so that we can continue doing the good works we were created to do.

Do the kingdom a favor… help those you lead and serve avoid Bible-study gluttony by finding balance through service!