My desk is a rat’s nest of notes, files, cards, books, pens and unfinished projects. A pile of bank statements and bills waits on the credenza. I am writing a blog, an essay, and a book, as well as meeting with clients, preparing for classes at church, responding to pastoral care needs, and planning for youth group. I have several presentations coming up and other projects on hold. My pantry ought to be roped off as a hazardous area. Then there are the meetings to attend, my 96 year old mom, my daughters, friends, pets, and oh, yes, God.
If this does not sound like the life of a hermit pray-er as I describe myself on the About Page of this blog, bear with me. I am still praying. I suspect things might be a little more organized and tidy if I were not, but overall things would be a bigger mess.
This week I received two quotes from friends in my email. One was from Mother Teresa: “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” The other was from Charles Spurgeon: “Learn to say no. It will be of more use to you than to be able to read Latin.” Here’s where I went wrong. I took four years of Latin in high school.
Charles H. Spurgeon was a 19th century English Baptist who preached to crowds of ten thousand in London. As many of us, he had his hand in a lot of other things as well. I figure you know who Mother Teresa was. Both of these busy servants of God came into my life this week to offer their two cents on how to handle something which afflicts not only pastors, but just about everyone else I know. Overwhelmed with tasks, stressed, and anxious many of us need to learn how to say no. Moreover, we need to learn to say no not only to other people, but also to ourselves. For I have found most of us are usually the most demanding, unreasonable, and, frequently, atheistic boss we have.
Recently someone described how she is simplifying her life. She asked herself why she was doing what she did, and was she really called to this. When I find myself on the treadmill of over doing, I notice an odd thing that happens to me. The more I am trying to do, the more I think I need to do, until I totally lose perspective and am worrying about accomplishing things, which in more sane moments I realize I do not need to do. This loss of perspective and over functioning which feeds on itself is a characteristic of addiction.
Mother Teresa says, “Don’t sweat the great stuff – getting big projects, big plans accomplished. Instead do small things with great love.” I like that. I can do that. Stay in the present. Put the file away carefully with reverence. Respond to this email thoughtfully with love. Gratefully gather up all the scattered pens and pencils. Put the books back on the shelf with thanksgiving. See the wonder of God’s provision in the goodness of this moment, as I think of you, yes, you, with love and gratitude. Just tend to the next small thing with all the love and generosity you can bring. Leave the outcomes, the great ends to God.
“The smallest thing, touched by love, is immediately transformed and becomes sublime,” wrote Thomas Merton. I still need to learn to say no, but I also want to learn how to work in such a way that what I touch becomes holy. I think it is all in the focus. Is God the center of my concern, or my Latin assignment? It makes all the difference.
Assignment: Practice doing small things with great love this week. Let me know how it goes.
More about prayer –