Scripture: James 1:26-27 (NRSV), 2:1-4, 6a, 9a (CEB) and 4:6 (NIV citing Pr. 3:34)
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, his religion is worthless. The religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself undefiled by the world.
My brothers and sisters, when you show favoritism, you are denying the faithfulness of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is risen in glory. Imagine two people walking into your meeting. One has a gold ring and fine clothes, while the other is poor, dressed in filthy rags. Suppose then that you were to pay special attention to one who wore fine clothes, saying, “Here is an excellent place. Sit here.” But to the poor you say, “Stand there”; or, “Here sit at my feet.” Wouldn’t you have shown favoritism among yourselves and become ill-intentioned judges?… But you have dishonored the poor… when you show favoritism, you commit a sin.
“God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”
by Ashly Cooley, Executive Assistant for Locations and Care at Resurrection
James 4 draws our attention to the realization that we don’t know what the future holds. We can plan whatever we want, but only God knows what will happen in the days to come. We can’t live in the past because we might start to drown in the discomfort of what can no longer be. We cannot live in the future because it is unknown to us. Is the future a dystopian nightmare of famine and war, as some say, or is it a place of perfect happiness where the decisions we make today won’t matter and everything will go as we sometimes like to tell ourselves? We do not know. What we know is what we are capable of doing right now.
I heard once that God gives us days in 24 hour increments because that’s all we can handle. Anyone who’s had their whole day derailed knows that’s true! Forget the rest of the week, I just need to spend Monday. Successful recovery depends on taking life one day at a time. So how do we design our days intentionally?
Prayer is the one true constant in my life. I follow the same pattern every day. I sing the doxology in my head and pray the same prayer to start my day:
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, heavenly host;
Praise the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I then continue with, “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to your eyes. May I walk humbly beside you all my days and dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
I do this every morning, even when I’m sick. During my morning coffee, I read a prayer from a prayer book. Later in the day, I pray my prayers of thanks and petition, often uplifting many of our staff and congregation who have different needs. Prayer can center us. Prayers of thanksgiving and gratitude are about being thankful for what we have today, in this moment.
I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that day by day living in close connection with God builds a life of days well spent. I encourage you to find a prayer routine. Start with something simple that you can start each day with. Maybe set an alarm for 7, 12, 5, and 9 where you say the Lord’s Prayer. These repeated words often begin to seep into your heart and make your days bearable while shedding light towards a bright future.
Dear Jesus, we thank you for the gift of this day. We thank you for the gift of these hours and the chance to spend them in connection with you. Help us stay grounded in the present with you by our side. Amen.