Excerpt from Luke 6:43-45
"The mouth speaks what the heart is full of."
William C. Green
We can think more about what to say than about why we want to say it. Is it because I actually care about another's feelings - or because I want to be forgiven for something mean and hurtful I've done? Or before a meeting, am I more preoccupied with the fool I might make of myself than about why what I have to say is important?
Just so spiritually. It's easy to get things backward. We can fixate on results at the expense of a well-centered heart. There are often indexes in the back of Bibles where you can look up "God's promises," "gifts," "blessing," "help in times of need," "overcoming fear"—including the fear of public speaking.
But the Bible is not a book of coupons redeemable for what we want. It's a book of connections with God that redeem our spirit. The blessing or "fruit" of that spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Trying to find and share these qualities apart from the right spirit is like trying to drive a car with a tank about empty: we'll sputter to a stop.
Growing in the right spirit can become a habit. In addition to reflecting on these daily devotions we can select among several portions of the Bible and concentrate on them - like Exodus, the Psalms, Acts, Luke. John.
And we can pray, however we wish, remembering, as Paul says, "the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words."
Good things come out of the treasure of our heart. Lent is a time of self-examination. What's in your heart that blocks or frees God's blessing?
"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me…You will not reject a humble and repentant heart." Amen. (Psalm 51)
William C. Green is Vice-President for Strategy and Development, Moral Courage Project, NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and the author of 52 Ways to Ignite Your Congregation: Generous Giving.