The Heart of the Matter

Today’s scripture: Matthew 5:3,4 (NRSV) (The Message) (KJV) What might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (Steve Adams):

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

I love the beatititudes! Just like the fantastic song by Don Henley  — they get down to The Heart of the Matter.

Blessed are the poor in spirit. It’s when we realize how poor we are in spirit that we start down the road to spiritual riches (yes, an oxymoron!). We realize that we all have huge Roman 7 parts  (that which I want to do, I don’t, and that which I don’t want to do, I do) in our lives. And worse yet, we have parts of us that don’t even want to do the right thing. No, I don’t think this is talking about thinking of ourselves as all evil on the inside (that’s shame, and God is not the author of shame). Instead, it’s realizing that, despite being a beautiful creation of God, I have areas in my life that fall far short of God’s values. I have desires, habits, fears that, unchecked, will pull me far, far away from the more than abundant life Jesus desires for me to have. (John 10:10)

Blessed are those who mourn. Sometimes mourning is good, and honorable, and necessary! I think maybe our culture has gone a little too far in the direction of “Be happy all the time — put on your happy face — don’t show a hint of sadness even if that’s what is genuinely going on in your life.” When we hear of thousands of people sick in Africa because they can’t afford decent health care, or of mass deaths in wars, or hear of a school shooting, I think we need to give ourselves time to grieve.

This reminds me of a dear friend of mine named Steve, who was one of those wonderful people who never failed to refresh my soul with his intelligence, wit, and purity of heart. (Philemon 1:7 –“I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother.”)

Steve died in 2015. At that time I was in Florida, for most of the summer, taking care of my father who was sick. After I got back home, I stopped by his house and it was strange — his van was there but the house was deserted. A few weeks later, after some unanswered phone calls, I looked in the obituaries as he had some serious health challenges. I found Steve’s obit there. It was a busy time, and even though I thought for a few minutes about what a loss it was, and thought of him again from time to time, I never really took the necessary time to recall the many good times we had.  How he inspired me; how we laughed; how we rode together to and from work for a few months, and how delightful his mother was, who he had taken care for many years, until her death. And now as I type this, I feel the loss and want to say, “Steve, I miss you, friend! You’re a gem! You showed me a part of God’s love I never would have seen without you showing it to me!” And I need to stop and shed a tear, both for losing him and also for the times when I could have been more helpful and supportive. (Some supposedly “positive thinkers” may say “Don’t have regrets, or at least don’t tell anybody you have any.” I disagree — I believe healthy regret is an essential part of living an authentic life!!!)

Thought for the day: Do I need to take some time to crawl into God’s loving arms so I can mourn spiritual poverty, pray about my own spiritual shortcomings, and shed a tear for the losses of others and myself?

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.