I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify Thy name forever. Psalm 86:12
There is an elementary school and middle school whose campuses are connected into one large complex about four blocks from my house. To walk, run or bike around their parking lots is approximately ¾ of a mile. Over the summer, on many mornings, I have ridden my bike 10-12 laps around the parking lots, covering 7.5-9 miles in an attempt to get into some kind of shape. I’ve watched dozens of sunrises which I have enjoyed. Now, with school coming back soon, teachers have been arriving each day for their pre-planning. I ride anywhere from 5:45-7:30 a.m., depending on what time I wake up and what time the sun comes up. And over the last few weeks, as teachers have made their way back to campus, the majority of them arrive about two minutes before 7, which I presume is the time they start their work day. As one who like studying the human character, as well as people watching, I see that there are a few teachers who arrive around 6:45 or 6:50. The majority show up right at 6:58, so they get in the building at 7, there are a few who get in at 7:02, just a few minutes late, and a few more who slink in at 7:10. Reflecting on this daily sight at the school spawns a few thoughts that I’d like to share with you.
While there are days when we will be two minutes late or ten minutes late, I believe that most people have a habit of arriving at the same time each day. Some will be habitually early, many will be habitually on time and some will be habitually late. I’m not sure how to classify each group—perhaps the early group is conscientious, or studious; the on time group is obedient and compliant; and the late group is either overbooked, lazy or rude. It’s almost comical, as I see the same people each day, and the same ones arrive 10 minutes late, like clockwork, usually looking exasperated. It makes me think, “Just set the alarm ten minutes earlier and you’ll be on time.”
In any case, there are three groups of people in most things in life, including the spiritual life. There are the “go all out,” the “do what’s expected but nothing more,” and the “do nothing and hope nobody notices.” In a given year, there are probably days we fluctuate amongst all three categories. But there is definitely one category in which we find ourselves most often. Which is it? 6:50 (early and all out), 7:00 (on time and the minimum), or 7:10 (late and no little to nothing)?
These categories figure into our spiritual life in many ways:
- Our prayer life. There are people who joyfully pray every day. There are those who pray but it is really an afterthought. There are those who only pray in crisis, if then.
- Reading Scripture. There are people who read the Scripture every day. There are people who read the Scripture occasionally, or hear it only in church. There are those who never open the Bible and usually miss the reading in church as well.
- Loving our neighbors. There are people who are the first to help. There are those who help but don’t jump first. And there are those who don’t help at all, hoping or assuming someone else will.
- Using our talents for God’s glory. There are people who use their talents for the glory of God. There are people who their talents for their own benefit, and if God gets some glory, that’s okay too. And there are people who bury their talents, neither helping others nor glorifying God.
My intention in this reflection is not to be judgmental, so forgive me if I am coming off this way. It is, rather, to be thought provoking. We will decide what kind of person and Christian we want to be, and then we will form habits around this decision. Those habits will go with us for life, and then at the end of life, we will stand before God and answer for the kind of life we lived, the kind of habits we have. As long as we are alive, there is an opportunity to repent, to change bad habits. If we are someone who is going all out, we should feel encouraged. If we are someone who is doing the minimum, we should be motivated to become more committed. And if we are struggling with commitment, we should be reflective on what and how we are doing with what we’ve been given.
There are certain areas of my life where I feel I’m going all out, like I’m a 6:50 person. In these, I pray I’ll continue. There are certain areas of my life where I could do better, like I’m a 7:00 person. I hope with God’s help, some internal motivation, and some external encouragement, that I can improve in these areas. And sadly, there are areas where I’m definitely a 7:10 person, where I could do a lot better job of “showing up,” whether that is for God or for other people, or even for something personal like exercise. These are areas that must be attacked with consistency, motivation, and a sense of purpose. Of course, outside encouragement is always helpful.
Today’s Psalm verse reminds us to give thanks to God with a whole heart, with the “6:50” heart, not the “7:10” heart. It reminds us to give the best to God, to love Him completely, to serve Him joyfully and devotedly. As you go through your day, evaluate yourself. Look at your marriage, your parenting, your job, your faith, your friendships, your prayer life and your own sense of discipline. Reflect in which areas you are thriving, which ones you are getting by in, and which ones need some shoring up.
Incline Thy ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Preserve my life for I am godly; save Thy servant who trusts in Thee. Thou art my God; be gracious to me, O Lord, for to Thee do I cry all the day. Gladden the soul of Thy servant, for to Thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For Thou, o Lord, art good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on thee. Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; hearken to my cry of supplication. In the day of my trouble I call on Thee, for Thou dost answer me. There is none like Thee among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like Thine. All the nations Thou has made shall come and bow down before Thee, O Lord, and shall glorify Thy name. For Thou art great and doest wondrous things, Thou alone art God. Teach me Thy way, O Lord, that I may walk in Thy truth; unite my heart to fear Thy name. I give thanks to Thee, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify Thy name forever. For great is Thy steadfast love toward me; Thou has delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol. O God, insolent men have risen against me; a band of ruthless men seek my life, and they do not set Thee before them. But Thou, O Lord, art a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Turn to me and take pity on me; give thy strength to Thy servant, and save the son of Thy handmaid. Show me a sign of Thy favor, that those who hate me may see and be put to shame, because Thou, Lord, hast helped me and comforted me. Psalm 86
What kind of person (spouse, parent, worker, friend, Christian) are you? A 6:50, a 7:00 or a 7:10? Work hard for the 6:50 mark. Because when we go to meet the Lord, it is the one who gave the best effort that will receive His favor!
he Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! There you may find a database for past prayer team messages as well as books by Fr. Stavros and other information about his work and St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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