Two fiery, uncompromising men—John the Baptist and Jesus– invite us into the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom within us (Luke 17:21).
And their message is remarkably similar:“Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is near. Make straight paths for the Lord,” John says.
The first words Jesus speaks to people (as opposed to the Devil) in the Gospel of Matthew are “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matthew 3:2)
“Repent – Μετανοειτε, metanoia. The verb μετανοεω metanoia, which means turn around, turn your direction 180 degrees.
“The word may be derived from μετα meta after, and ανοια, anoia madness, which intimates that the whole life of a sinner is no other than a continued course of madness and folly: and if these are evidences of insanity: to live in a constant opposition to all the dictates of true wisdom; to wage war with his own best interests in time and eternity; to provoke and insult the living God; and, by habitual sin, to prepare himself only for a state of misery–every sinner exhibits them plentifully. It was from this notion of the word, that the Latins termed repentance resipiscentia, a growing wise again; or, according to Tertullian, restoring the mind to itself.” (Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible)
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Prayer formulas have been devised to cover the essential elements of prayer, TRIP—thanksgiving, repentance, intercession or praise, or ACTS—Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving and Supplication.
I actually enjoy the daily discipline of repentance. It’s like moulting and shedding the baggage of sin and silliness. It feels like going through low, narrow golden gates into the presence of God, shedding the encumbrances of stupidity, submitting my mind which can so easily wander from the path of wisdom to an inrush, a golden shower, of divine wisdom.
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These lists, which can seem prideful, have humility at their heart. You recognise your limitations, you recognise that you are not going to be able to do what God has called you to do if you try to do everything. You realise that, like most people, you can, at most, do one or two things well, and so you focus.
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Here is my list, formulated through trial and error, through doing the opposite, and wearing myself out.
What I Don’t Do
1) I barely cook. I have never learned to. I am an hit-or-miss cook. And a messy one. Fortunately, for me, too, my husband Roy is an excellent cook.
2) I don’t clean. At all. We do have a splendid cleaner, and have weekly four hour cleans.
3) I don’t enter stores!! Roy buys groceries. I buy clothes, books, and everything else I need online. And I shop on a definitely-needed basis (except for books), refusing to look at catalogues or websites unless I am looking for something definite. No frivolous shopping any more. I strictly limit the new clothes I buy, and try to wear out or give away the clothes I have before buying more.
4) I don’t volunteer at my children’s schools. At all. I did some when Zoe was little for the joy it gave her, but I did not enjoy the experience, and would rather relate to my kids one-on-one.
5) I don’t do gyms any more, but use exercise as a secret spring within my body to give me energy when I am mentally tired, or physically sluggish. So I walk or run or lift hand weights or do yoga for quick energy when I am tired between writing sessions.
6) I don’t take meals round for people. I did do that for several women who were ill or had babies, but the sight of the husband lolling with the remote control while we rushed there with their dinner was too galling. Men are not genetically incapable of boiling spaghetti, grating cheese and chopping a salad, and women should not impose on the good will of other women by asking for meals to be brought around in an age of grocery stores with healthy cooked meals and delivery services. Rant over.
6B I resent the trivia churches decide is women’s work. I resist calls on women to serve coffee at church breakfasts, hot cross buns at Easter and mulled wine at Christmas. Men can heft a decanter of coffee or mulled wine as well as I –or better. Flowers, altar linen, laying out the elements—nah!!
7) I don’t “do” Christmas. I treat it as a time for rest.
What I Do Do
Now, don’t be impressed. Without it (and often, in spite of it) I lose my way, get depressed, forget my priorities, get angry about silly things (notice my rant about meals), waste my time, waste my life.
Experiment with prayer to find how long works for you. Works? Gives you a sense of peace, joy, strength, love and energy. For me, with a monkey mind which takes a while to settle, I like to spend at least 30 minutes resting, “soaking” in God’s presence.
2) I pretty much read or listen to my Bible every day. It is sharper than a double-edged sword, and many small tweaks in my daily life spring from my daily Bible reading. For instance, last term, a friend was getting on my nerves, and the Book of James helped me bite back my urge to confide my annoyance in other friends, and listening to 1 John on repeat helped me to see the good in her, and consider how I could act lovingly towards her.
3 I write every day, aiming for at least an hour,
4 I read every day
5 I exercise pretty much every day as much for mental health as well as for physical health.
6 And I nap almost every day. That’s how I manage to wake up early.
7 We have a sit-down family dinner seven days a week, and family lunches at weekends.
7B I spend time with friends twice or three times a week
8 I garden every day when the weather is good, less frequently in bad weather.
Gosh, how much I had to cut to get this into place, and how much more there is to cut. Anne Lamott again: Every single day I try to figure out something I no longer agree to do. You get to change your mind—your parents may have accidentally forgotten to mention this to you. I cross one thing off the list of projects I mean to get done that day. Am working now on limiting Facebook and Twitter.
How about you? What’s on your “I Don’t list”, and on your “I Do list?”
Blog Through the Bible: Matt 3-4
Jan 2, Matt 1-2 God Comes to Those Who Dare to be Different: Do Not Be Afraid