Boy Scout Motto: Be Prepared
Matthew 25 (NIV) 25 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ 7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ 9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. 11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ 12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
A perfect parable for being prepared, prepared to live in the serenity of the Love of our Lord and prepared to die to Him, and to inherit everlasting life.
Reinhold Niebuhr wrote a prayer in 1943 that has become famous. I’m sure you’ll recognize it.
“God, give us grace to accept, with serenity, the things that cannot be changed, the courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.”
I love this prayer; and as many of you know, it is used by millions of people around the world. This prayer is a wonderful philosophy of life. The key to it, of course, is the “adverbial phrase” — to have the wisdom to distinguish between the first two parts — to know what in life to try to change, and what to try to simply accept because it cannot be changed. In other words, be prepared for life.
How many of us have the wisdom to know these things? It seems that if we have the wisdom, if we accomplish this through life experience, contemplation, prayer, meditation, however we gain wisdom, we can earn that quality called serenity, happiness, and, of course, inner peace. It is all about using our knowledge, our wisdom to accept, and to be prepared, relying on our God and His Son to guide us.
The search to find and become serene – to feel that sense of peace requires a balance of knowledge, wisdom, and positive action. What would we need to bring into our lives to feel that inner peace? I think the true way to feel this serenity – to feel serene – is through our relationship with God; and we do this through belief and the preparation to live as one with Him.
Even scripture has its own serenity prayer and it dates back thousands of years. These words will have a familiar ring to them. Focus on the words of the Gospel of Matthew. Realize as you read and perhaps reread these words of Jesus what He is telling us on how to prepare for serenity – inner peace.
Matthew 6:31-33: “Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life – what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body – what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air. They neither sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns. And yet, your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you, by being anxious, can add one cubit to his (or her) span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing?
“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They neither toil nor spin. Yet, I tell you, even Solomon and all of his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? Therefore, be not anxious saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ But seek first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.”
I love these words. They are magnificent and so calming in themselves. We have heard the last part many times; and it is the true significance of this spiritual journey that you and I are searching for in order to grab the significance of happiness, and our desire for serenity and inner peace. Seek first God, then all else will be added unto us.
I know, you have heard it and done it before. I believe every one of us has. Yet, in order to be serene and know happiness, you and I must pursue this every day – put God first in our lives. This is the only way to be prepared to live a serene and purposeful life.
With all the challenges in our lives these days, it is difficult to have the confidence and the trust it takes to actually believe that we can put God first. Maybe that’s why many people are not at peace and are fearful. It’s scary to turn over everything, especially for those who do not totally trust.
So, as we contemplate our need to put God first so that God may speak through us, and act through us, and give us something worthwhile to do, we realize, all over again, this loving connection that is ours.
What promises would you like to make to yourself right now? Promises that you will keep.
If we DON’T do that, then we tend to need the world to support us so we won’t be afraid, so we can find serenity (through others); we need our spouses, our bosses, our co-workers to recognize us, praise us, and give us credit for what we have done.
One thing about people in this day and age – they do not always give us the support that we need or feel we deserve. It does not happen all the time. Maybe that is because we are the ones who are supposed to give that support, and love to ourselves. Keeping our own promises is a key way for us to find our own inner peace and our own serenity.
If you ever feel a sense of anxiety, what can you do about it? Think about it, and the answer comes: “Really be there.” What does that mean? The answer is: “To really be there, in the moment.” When you feel anxious, you need to breathe deeply into that stress, that anxiety and then pray. Don’t try to stuff it or ignore it. Then it just grows and grows.
Think about this: during a rainy day, instead of fearing that it might ruin your plans or make you feel down and anxious, take a deep breath and notice the raindrops and how they slide down the window pane. Focus on that beauty of nature. Listen to the thunder as the rain continues. The sheer variety in the raindrops and how they fall can be very relaxing. I feel relaxed just thinking about it (since it rarely rains in Texas during the summer months).
And think about this – the sad mockingbird has no songs of its own. It has no musical taste. It will follow the song of a robin with the song of a little sparrow. It sings and sings and sings, and is so joyful. Why? Because it makes others’ songs its own. It has real joy when it gives itself, completely, to its own singing. It feels and is complete in its joy of singing.
We have often heard that another way to serenity, to feeling a sense of inner worth and peace, is to be grateful for what we already have. The glass is either half empty or half full; it is our call. What do we say it is? Is it half empty or is it half full?
By showing gratitude toward the things we already have in our lives, we are actually invoking the very presence of God. Invoking the presence of God is surely the best way we have of reminding ourselves of what is really important. This is the number one way to prepare ourselves for serenity.
Some of us are prisoners of our desires – things we want, or the things we feel we have to have. How do we deal with our attachments to things? One suggestion might be to feel the pain of not having what you do not have.
I decided one day that since I have so many t-shirts, I would donate an old one for any new ones I bought. Guess what, except for a new blouse for church, I have not purchased any new t-shirts in a year. I often look longingly at a great t-shirt but then turn away. It hurts a bit, but I am not willing to discard the old.
How long do you ever stay happy when you get what you want? A few hours? A few days at most? Even a brand new car stops bringing pleasure after a few weeks. It just becomes the thing you ride in to get to where you are going. Is it worth it? That is something to contemplate in prayer.
We, also, can offer our attachment to things directly to God. Continue to offer to God whatever it is we desire, over and over again until we start believing that it is God’s, not ours – which it is, nothing truly is ours. The pain will then cease and desist.
We, also, can take care of our bodies. Many of the ills or discontent and anxiety we experience in our lives is often due to discomfort in the body. If we pay attention to the things that really serve us – the foods we really need to eat in the appropriate quantities, the exercise our bodies desire – the problems may evaporate (talking to myself here – maybe you, too). Take a long walk, or work out in the gym, while practicing the presence of God. A lot of problems simply dissolve when the body’s needs are taken care of. Pay attention to and take care of the body. This is another stage of preparation for serenity.
Lastly, there is a kind of discontent that comes over us that is actually healthy, despite everything we have been talking about and that is – A Divine discontent.
“Are you not paying attention to something? Is there some unfinished business in your life? Are you not taking care of your family? Do you have a commitment that you are ignoring? Do you have a calling from your soul that you are putting on the shelf? If you are doing any of these things, a kind of Divine discontent arises in the soul, and calls to us to fulfill it. It will not be content until we make the necessary efforts to fulfill them. This is a gift God gives us. We must do what is necessary to fulfill those things.”
Make a list of your goals, and prioritize them. Look specifically at your goals and decide what is most important and what you can do right now.
Taking care of yourself should be right up there as number one and also – make one of the goals the commandment Jesus gave his disciples and us and that is “To love the Lord, your God with all you heart, all you soul, and love your neighbor as yourself.” The fulfillment of that goal will bring the highest degree of satisfaction into your life.
It is spiritually important to take care of those goals as it is spiritually important to pray and to meditate. All of these things bring their own contentment.
It would be great if it only took a blue sky and some white clouds to bring serenity – not that it can’t, but more often, it takes our own commitment to know what we really need – our God, our minds, our bodies, our families, etc. – and to fulfill those needs before contentment can come.
But it will come.
Most of all, it takes our awareness that God lies behind it all.
If we seek first to know God, to put the presence of God into every activity, then serenity is ours. Or, in the words of Matthew 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and all these things (serenity) will be added unto thee.” Put it all together and you are now prepared to live in His glory. You have learned the secret of serenity, hope, faith, and trust. What more can you ask for? With this preparation you are not only ready to live a full and fruitful life, but you are prepared to pass on to that great beyond – having successfully followed that path toward His Light.
I pray that serenity lives as part of you.
God Bless you.