There are two words I would like to highlight in Deuteronomy chapter 30 that Moses said to the Israelites to encourage them in their days ahead. The Israelites were on the brink of entering into the Promised Land. They came out of slavery and survived the perils of the wilderness. In verse 19 Moses says, “…Choose life so that you and your descendants may live”
These two words Choose Life have found a place in me over the past several hours. If you know me, you know that I am a pretty upbeat and pleasant person. I want to smile, laugh, and squeeze all the joy and fun out of the moment that I can. I am also fortunate to work two jobs which I love. As a business manager for a family business that serves or ministers to people during difficult times, I am still going into work four days a week. As the Associate Pastor, my ministry of service, support, and connection has not stopped but it looks different. Day-to-day life has assumed different ways and different energies. At times all this change can be overwhelming. I am sure many of you, if not all of you, can relate to this.
Yesterday, I struggled to find the joy, fun, and life around me. Even with two dogs with endless energy and the best person for me to share life with, it was a hard day to choose life. Muddling through the day eating brownies(1), staying in my pjs too long, flipping through a book of poetry(2), cooking something new(3,) and playing a VERY important video game(4) did not help my very flat day to rise.
I went to bed and I fell asleep praying. While awake I asked God for strength and safety, health and happiness, and clarity and kindness for myself and all those around me. I told God exactly how I was feeling and that I was frustrated, sad, and worried. I prayed for our church; I prayed for you all, going pew by pew. (It is a good thing many of you are creatures of habit.) I prayed for someone I care about and her family who are infected and affected by COVID-19.
I told God that I was having a rough day and I needed some light in the darkness in which I found myself. I told God that I didn’t like going through my days like this. I told God exactly how I was feeling…and then fell asleep. I’m sure my prayers continued in some sort of dream state.5
As it would be, I woke up this morning and the words from Deuteronomy were on my lips and in my heart. Choose Life! I preached on this text a month and a half ago at the Moravian Church in Riverside, so it is a text I am familiar with, but I haven’t given it much thought in recent days or weeks.
Choose Life! I shared my difficult day with you all because we are in this together! If you are having a rough day, have it! Acknowledge the challenges, struggles, and overwhelming feelings. As folks say these days… Feel all the feelings… and when you have let them all out…Choose Life!
See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in God’s ways, and observing God's commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying God, and holding fast to God; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
Painting by Ali Lehr
(1) Homemade Katharine Hepburn brownies via NYT Cooking
(2) Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Elliot
The musical Cats is based upon this collection of poems. Thank you MaryLiz for loaning it to me.
(3) Steamed Bao Buns as found on the Moorestown Parents' Facebook page.
(4) Possibly Fortnite, Zelda Breath of the Wild, or Merge Dragons.
(5) I would love to discuss this with our resident dream expert when the day comes that we can take a friend to lunch.