Habits of Life

People are creatures of habit.  For better or for worse, much of what we do falls into patterns and routines that repeat over and over again.  And the more we repeat them, the harder they are to stop.  Samuel Johnson, the famous 18th century British author, said that the chains of habit are generally too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.  How true!

Many of our habits are easily observed.  We wake up and go to sleep at regular hours.  We eat.  We work.  We play.  It is easy to forget, though, that just as many habits lie beneath the surface.  The things we think and feel and believe fall into patterns, too.  What kinds of habits do you have?  Which do you nurture?

Charles Tindley was an African American born a decade before the US Civil War began.  Although he was a free man from birth, his father was a slave and the younger Tindley was hired out from a very early age to help support the family.  He knew very well the hardships of life for slaves.  Even so, he hungered for knowledge and adopted a habit of learning.  “I made a rule to learn at least one new thing—a thing I did not know the day before—each day.”  Self-taught, he learned to read not only English, but Hebrew and Greek as well.  He had over 8,000 books in his personal library during his lifetime.  When the church where he had worked as a janitor granted him a license to preach, Tindley used it.  He became known as “The Prince of Preachers.”  Under his leadership the church grew from 130 members to more than 10,000.  All of this from such humble beginnings, a love for the Lord, and a simple habit of learning.

Tindley was also known for his hymns, including Nothing Between.  Tindley knew about habits.  The words of this hymn warn us against habits that come between us and our Lord.

Nothing between, like worldly pleasure;
habits of life, though harmless they seem,
must not my heart from him ever sever;
he is my all, there’s nothing between.

While you are on your pilgrim journey, watch your habits.  The chains of bad habits enslave us.  As Tindley’s life showed, though, good habits free us to bear good fruit for our Lord.  Let your habits of life be habits of Life in Christ.

Follow the Path!

[Use with A Habit of Decay, day 17 of A Labyrinth Pilgrimage]

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Reactions on the Journey

We may have the sense that this is our journey.  We set aside the time.  We choose to go.  We read.  We pray.  We are doing this!

Before getting too wrapped up in ourselves, though, we need to remember that the destination existed before we were born.  The way was already prepared.  Salvation is by grace.  Faith is a gift.  “We” didn’t do this.  It is simply history going through the process of becoming our story (or perhaps our story going through the process of becoming history…).  To quote one wise old man, “There is nothing new under the sun.”  In making this pilgrimage we are not acting.  We are reacting, just like the generations before us.

There is nothing surprising in this.  It is a theme of humanity.  People are reactionary.  On the darker side of our history, Eve reacted to the serpent.  Adam reacted to Eve.  Cain reacted to Abel.  When God banished him to wander, Cain reacted by complaining that the punishment was too great for him to bear.  All of that happened in just two generations, and it is sad to say the tradition continues today.

We are not doomed to failure, though.  Enoch walked with God.  David was a man after God’s own heart.  Elijah found God in the sound of a whisper.  Saul became Paul after his conversion on the road to Damascus.  All of them were reacting.  Instead of reacting to temptation and anger, though, they were reacting to God’s love and power and grace.

In the early 1800s Rev. George Croly was given a challenging assignment to reestablish a congregation in a church that had closed more than a century before.  He could have reacted by quitting or complaining about the unfair task, but he didn’t.  Instead he looked to God and reacted to grace.  He preached the Word.  He served the community.  The church grew.  At age 74 he began a project to prepare a collection of hymns, which included one which is still used today, Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart.  The words capture our need to react to the presence of the Lord in our lives.

Spirit of God, descend upon my heart;
wean it from earth; through all its pulses move;
stoop to my weakness, mighty as thou art,
and make me love thee as I ought to love.

As you continue your pilgrim journey today, ask the Spirit of God to descend on your heart.  Experience the love that God has for you, and react by sharing that love.

Follow the Path!

[Use with Action and Reaction, day 16 of A Labyrinth Pilgrimage]

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