Day 49: Matthew 6:26

Look at the birds: they do not plant seeds, gather a harvest and put it in barns; yet your Father in heaven takes care of them! Aren’t you worth much more than birds?

[This is a continuation of Jesus’ teaching about materialism and worrying.  He is explaining to his disciples how they can bemore faithful than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees in doing what God requires.” (See Day 23)].

Jesus says stop.  Look at the sky.  See the birds.  Smell the roses. Listen to the wind in the trees.  He says stop working, stop studying, stop talking.  Look at the birds.   Watch them fly!  So cool!  Think about the world you live in and learn its lessons.  One of those lessons is that God provides for the creatures of the earth!

I was raised in the Midwest and infused with its famous work ethic.  I was raised on good ole’ hymns like “Work for the Night is Coming” and fables like the one about the hardworking ant and the ill-fated grasshopper.  I was raised to believe that there were two choices in this life – work or die.

What is the fruit of this great Midwestern work ethic?  A debt-burdened society obsessed with prosperity, driven to work ever harder to collect more and more things to protect them from the world’s uncertainties.  People are bound by their mortgages, loans, and credit card debt.  The hoarders who are held prisoner by their possessions have become a metaphor for our society.  Think about all the time spent worrying about money – Will there be enough money to support my kids?  For retirement?  In case of illness?  If I lose my job?  To help my aging parents?  To support my unemployed adult children? To keep my house out of foreclosure?  To avoid bankruptcy?  To cover a medical catastrophe?

While my parents believed in that good old Midwestern work ethic and dearly wanted me to be successful at something in life, they also raised me to be a porch sitter.  In the summer months not a day went by without a little porch sitting – early in the morning when the birds are singing their hearts out, later in the afternoon when the grasshoppers were leaping about and it was hot to work, and after supper when the day’s work was done and the lightning bugs and crickets took over.  We would all go outside and sit on the porch and watch the clouds go by.  My dad would sit in his old recliner and smoke.  Mom and I would sit on the porch swing.  Everyone else sat on lawn chairs or on the steps.  We would drink lemonade or Kool Aid and eat ice cream or watermelon.  And sit and talk and swing.

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The porch where I grew up.

I learned that when the stress gets to me, I need to get outside with those birds Jesus talks about.  Take a deep breath.  Relax.  Connect with nature. Enjoy the moment.  Set aside my worries.  Live for the moment.  God provides.   Exhale.  I feel better just thinking about it.

Today I don’t have a porch.  I live in a new house in the suburbs where decent porches are kind of expensive. While most suburbanites sit out back on their decks, here in our neighborhood they sit in their garages.  They open their garage doors, set up some furniture, plug in a couple of fans, and they are good to go. Our neighbor John has a recliner, end tables, lamps, a television, Christmas lights, a refrigerator, and plenty of chairs for visitors. Another neighbor invites the whole neighborhood to parties in his garage, a fully appointed “man cave” with a projection TV and a juke box.  I realized that a garage is a great place to put a porch swing, so even though I don’t have a porch I have a place where I can swing, watch the birds and the clouds, chat with the neighbors as they pass by, and reflect on the goodness of life.   One must adapt.

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This is what Jesus invites us to do.  This is how Jesus wants us to live our lives.  Sit around, watch birds, and radiate the peace of God.  This scripture would not have been appreciated in the 20th century Midwest.  Dang lazy nonsense.  If Jesus had grown up around here he would have irritated the hell out of everyone.  But of course that’s what he was sent here to do.   Get the joke?   Oh, and this morning I saw a beautiful hawk.

What does this scripture say to you?

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