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“Spiritual Wholeness”

Prov. 4:18 – 5:2

If I were to ask you to draw a circle to represent your life, what would be in the center?  Give it some thought.  Carole Mayhall wrote an article in Christianity Today about “The Secret to Joy”, and she asked several people tat question.  “What would be in the center if you drew a circle to represent your life?”  One friend responded, “My problems.”

A week later, Mayhall was visiting her younger sister who had just been diagnosed with acute leukemia.  Gray and perspiring, her sister was talking with a nurse who had come to see what she could do to assist.  “Oh, I am a bit fearful of the pain and the process of dying – but I’m not afraid of death!” her sister exclaimed.  Afterward, as she was processing it, Mayhall realized that her friend’s heart was occupied with problems while her sister’s heart was occupied with joy. 

My guess is that most of us would like to have the strength of character or the strength of faith to honestly say that the center of our lives is filed with something hopeful, joyful, or faithful.

We want to look at a glass as half-full.  How can we find the joy in living instead of fighting discouragement?  And how can we be a person of faith who celebrates life instead of a person who trudges through the days feeling depleted?

The Gospel of Mark 13: 35-37, as translated in the RSV (Robin’s Standard Version) tells us “No matter whether you are living or dying, you are not supposed to be sleeping”.

Our text from Proverbs 4:18 – 5:2 reads:

Listen, children, to a father’s instruction,
    and be attentive, that you may gain insight,
for I give you good precepts:
    do not forsake my teaching.
When I was a son with my father,
    tender and my mother’s favorite,
he taught me and said to me,
“Let your heart hold fast my words;
    keep my commandments and live.
Get wisdom; get insight: do not forget nor turn away
    from the words of my mouth.
Do not forsake her, and she will keep you;
    love her, and she will guard you.
The beginning of wisdom is this: get wisdom,
    and whatever else you get, get insight.
Prize her highly, and she will exalt you;
    she will honor you if you embrace her.
She will place on your head a fair garland;
    she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.”

Hear, my child, and accept my words,
    that the years of your life may be many.
I have taught you the way of wisdom;
    I have led you in the paths of uprightness.
When you walk, your step will not be hampered,
    and if you run, you will not stumble.
Keep hold of instruction; do not let go;
    guard her, for she is your life.
Do not enter the path of the wicked,
    and do not walk in the way of evildoers.
Avoid it; do not go on it;
    turn away from it and pass on.
For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong;
    they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble.
For they eat the bread of wickedness
    and drink the wine of violence.
But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
    which shines brighter and brighter until full day.
The way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
    they do not know what they stumble over.
My child, be attentive to my words;
    incline your ear to my sayings.
Do not let them escape from your sight;
    keep them within your heart.
For they are life to those who find them
    and healing to all their flesh.
Keep your heart with all vigilance,
    for from it flow the springs of life.
Put away from you crooked speech,
    and put devious talk far from you.
Let your eyes look directly forward
    and your gaze be straight before you.
Keep straight the path of your feet,
    and all your ways will be sure.
Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
    turn your foot away from evil.

Today, I want to share several things with you about spiritual wholeness.  The first is a list from the Dalai Lama of spiritual principles.  The second is a Sioux Indian story about the spirit of God.  The third is a letter from a senior citizen.  The fourth is the insert in your bulletin.

Several years ago, I found some instructions for a spiritually whole life from the Dalai Lama.  Spiritual principles, I believe, are usually universal.  And I thought these ideas offered something to think about for all of us…

  1.  Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
  2. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
  3. Follow the three R’s: respect for self; respect for others; and responsibility for your actions.
  4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
  5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
  6. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship.
  7. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
  8. Spend some time alone every day.
  9. Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.
  10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
  11. Live a good, honorable life.
  12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.
  13. Be gentle with the earth.
  14. Once a year, go some place you’ve never been before.
  15. Judge your successes by what you had to give up in order to achieve them.
  16. Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon!

Are there other spiritual tidbits your parents or grandparents taught you that you would add to the list?

There is a beautiful Sioux Indian story told about how to come to spiritual wholeness.  In it, the Creator gathered all of creation and asked for advice.  God said, “I want to hide something from the humans until they are ready for it.  It is the realization that they create their own reality.”  The eagle said, “Give it to me.  I will take it to the moon.  The will never find it there.”  The Creator replied, “No.  One day they will go to the moon, and they will find it.”

Then the salmon said, “Give it to me.  I will take it to the bottom of the ocean.  I will hide it there.  They will never find it.”  And the Creator said, No, one day they will go to the bottom of the ocean, and they will find it.”

The buffalo said, “Give it to me.”  I will take it to the middle of the Great Plains and bury it there.  They will never find it.”  And the Creator said,  “No.  One day they will cut into the skin of the earth, and they will find it even there.”

Then the bear said, “Give it to me.  I will take it to the mountains, and I will hide it in a cave.  They will never find it.”  And the Creator said,  “No.  One day they will even level the mountains, and they will find it there.” 

The Grandmother Mole spoke up and everyone was quiet because everyone knows that Grandmother Mole, even though she has no physical eyes, sees with spiritual eyes, because she lives in the breast of Mother Earth herself.  Grandmother Mole said, “Put it inside of them”  And the Creator said, “It is done.”

Spiritual wholeness is a choice.  Some of us look at others and wish we could be like those others – they are born with an intuitive sense of God and a spiritual richness.  But it’s only an illusion.  Spirituality is a discipline, a decision, and a choice.  We can choose to look at our world and ourselves through human means or we can choose to develop the eyes and heart of God in the depths of our being.  It is up to us to choose the hard work of seeking God’s mind and God’s heart. 

The handout today is about spiritual health.  I would encourage you to take it home with you and really digest it over a few days.  Consider your spiritual health as you would your physical health.  If there are places in your life where you find discomfort with a spiritual problem and you would like to discuss it, feel free to call me.

Finally, I would like to close with a letter written by an 88-year-old woman.  She wrote to her friend, Bertha.

Dear Bertha,  I’m reading more and dusting less.  I’m sitting in the yard and admiring the view without fussing about the weeds in the garden.  I am spending more time with my family and friends and less time working.  I’m trying to savor life and cherish each moment.

I am not “saving” anything.  We use our good china and crystal for every special event such as losing a pound, getting the sink unstopped, or the first amaryllis blossom.  I wear my good blazer to the grocery.  My theory is, if I look prosperous, I can shell out $28.49 for one small bag of groceries.  I’m not saving my good perfume for special events – but wearing it for clerks in the hardware store and tellers at the bank.  “Someday” and “one of these days” are losing their grip on my vocabulary.

I am not sure what others would have done had they known they would not be here for the tomorrow that we all take for granted.  I think they would have called family members and a few close friends.  They might have called a few former friends to apologize and mend fences for past squabbles.  I’m guessing; I’ll never know.

It is those little things left undone that would make me angry if I knew my hours were limited.  Angry because I had not written certain letters that I intended to write one of these days.  Or made phone calls to people who never get out of the house.  Angry and sorry that I did not tell my husband, children, and parents often enough how much I truly love them.  I am trying very hard not to put off, hold back, or save anything that would add laughter and luster to our lives. 

People say true friends must always hold hands, but true friends don’t need to hold hands because they know the other hand will always be there.  I do not believe in miracles.  I rely on them!  Life may not be the party we hope for, but while we are here, we might as well dance.