Waypoints for Spiritual Guidance
September 24, 2017
Our son is a First Officer with American Airlines, flying the Airbus out of Charlotte, or CLT, as it is known by frequent flyers. The other day he flew from CLT to DFW, Dallas Fort Worth and on to PHX, yes Phoenix and on to MCI, Kansans City.
That’s airport shorthand for cities; many of us have flown enough to know the most familiar airport codes. LAX Los Angeles, ORD, Chicago O’Hare and so forth.
But there are other sets of airline letters that most of us don’t know. They are called Navigational Waypoints. A waypoint is fixed point in 2D space (latitude and longitude) used to define points along a route. When you take off you fly from one waypoint to the next. It’s a little like my saying, “How do I get from my home to our church? Well, I take Camelback east bound to the waypoint at Camelback and the 101, turn north to the next waypoint at the 101 and Olive, turn east to the next waypoint at Olive and 83rd and turn north at the waypoint 83rd until I land here. I drive from one waypoint to the next and the GPS in my car indicates where I am, where I’m heading, and my final destination.
Most all navational waypoints are composed of five letters and are supposed to be pronounceable. There are so many clever waypoint names: here are a few:
When you are approaching Schipol Airport of Amsterdam you fly over a waypoint on the Dutch coast called TULIP. Near the India Pakistan border is a waypoint called TIGER.
Near Detroit is a waypoint called PISTN (for the Detroit basketball team.) and MOTWN
Sports fanatics: Near Boston, you have CELTS and BOSOX.
Only in Texas you find: DRPPD, FTBAL,TEXNN, COACH, QTRBK, TAKKL, RECVR, FMBLE and TCHDN. By Soldier Field; KUBBS and BEARS.
In Portland, the pair of TRAYL and BLAZR, balanced by the highbrow OMMSI,(Portland’s Oregon Museum of Science & Industry) and POWLZ (the incredible Powell’s Bookstore).
Foodies: Near Kansas City, you get the regional SPICY, BARBQ, TERKY, SMOKE and RIBBS.
Near St. Louis is AARCH (FOR THE GATEWAY ARCH)
But the best of all is near Pease, NH, ITAWT ITAWA PUDYE TTATT. Greetings Tweety Bird from the cockpit.
So I was thinking about of all this the other day, it occurred to me that just as aircraft need navagational aids to get from one destination to the next, you and I need navagational aids on our journey of faith. Without specific aids, without clearly understood waypoints, we end up wandering and lost. Here are your navational aids for the coming week.
Monday: Judge not and be ye not judged. Matthew 7:1
We’re all tempted to make unkind or derogatory remarks. The basic reason is that pointing out another’s deficiencies makes us feel less uneasy about our own. So on this day start out by asking the Lord to help you stop judging others. Then watch yourself all day long. Though you may think some derogatory thoughts, do not express them. Employ the bloody tongue syndrome by biting your tongue. Count to ten. Put a rubber band on your wrist and when you say something mean pull it to remind yourself what you’ve just done. (The Jesuits do this.) Do anything—but keep the critical or spiteful thought to yourself.
At the end of the day, if you have succeeded, you will feel a deep glow of satisfaction. If you haven’t, write down a brief record of each transgression. The following Monday read those notes, and begin again.
Tuesday–Forgive seventy times seven. Matthew 18:22
Seventy times seven. We’ve heard this verse explained enough times to know that seventy times seven actually means to forgive endlessly, continually, without any preconditions or excuses.
Of all the spiritual disciplines this one is the hardest. There are people who have bullied and betrayed us; people who have deliberately wanted to hurt us, and did.
And so the discipline for Tuesday is to make a list of all the persons you dislike, those for whom you feel separated by a gulf of resentment. Then pick one person and do something specific about bridging that gulf. Make a phone call. Write a note. Go up to that person at the office and say or do something that is a clear and unmistakable signal that the past is forgotten, that hostilities are over. Maybe it isn’t not possible to meet that person face to face. Maybe it isn’t possible for you to do it this week. Maybe if you extend an overture that overture may be rejected. But the fact that you want to do something about it is what counts in the end. Something good inside you will be strengthened. Something worthwhile inside you will grow. And something wise within you will know it.
Wednesday God loveth a cheerful giver. II Corinthians 9:7
In our computerized world, charity has become strangely impersonal. We give to this church or that organization with one eye on our bank account and the other on our tax deduction. Some of us tithe, but too often we are not cheerful givers. One reason may well be that in this kind of giving there is no direct contact between donor and recipient. The results of giving are invisible, and much of the warmth and joy of giving are lost.
The discipline for Wednesday is to take some possession that has real value for you and give it away. Not to a friend, who may somehow repay you, but to a stranger who needs it more than you do and who cannot repay. Carry something to the Salvation Army or Goodwill. I have a conviction that if I haven’t worn it in a year, I need to take it to Goodwill. The costlier the gift, the greater the benefit. But what you give, and how you manage the giving, is up to you. There are are two rules here. One, there must be no hope of reward and two, you must tell no one of what you have done.
Thursday Be thankful. Psalms 100:4
A couple of friends were reminiscing about things and people for whom they were grateful. One man said, “Well, I for one am grateful for Mrs Wendt an old high school English teacher who 30 years ago introduced me to Tennyson.” Someone in the group asked if he had ever told Mrs Wendt of his gratitude. The man admitted that he had not but when he got home he sat down and wrote her a long overdue letter. The letter was forwarded and finally found the old teacher. Back came a note written in feeble scrawl. It said:
I can’t tell you how much your note meant to me. I am in my 80s, living alone in a small room, cooking my own meals, lonely, and like the last leaf of fall lingering behind. You will be interested to know that I taught school for 50 years and yours is the first note of appreciation I ever received. It came on a blue, cold morning and it cheered me as nothing has for years.”
All of us are debtors, not just to the Giver of life, but to countless individuals who have helped us along the way. Parents who gave us love and protection. Teachers who helped us gain knowledge. Physicians who guarded or restored our health. Friends who offered sympathy in time of need. Co-workers who carried our load when we weren’t able to carry it ourselves. Pick out just one and give them a phone call or write a note of gratitude this week.
Friday Pray without ceasing. I Thessalonians 5:17
There is a diet in which one of the requirements is to drink eight glasses of water daily. Without the repetition of that simple act eight times a day, the diet does not work as it should. Repetition has its value in developing spiritual awareness, too.
The discipline for Friday is to write down some favorite prayer or Scripture. Then on eight separate occasions during the day find time—or make time—to meditate for five minutes on what you have written down. What do the words say to you? Is there a deeper message?
Saturday “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118
I take that to mean that it is today and today only that God has given us to enjoy. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. Yesterday with all its trials and tribulations ended at midnight. Tomorrow begins at 12: 01 am. To fret over the past or to worry about the future is to miss to miss many opportunities God places in our path each day.
In Thornton Wilder’s play “Our Town”, the main character Emily has died, but is granted a wish by the stage manager to return from the realm of the dead to relive her 12th birthday in her home town of Grover’s Corners. She is terribly disappointed because she realizes that her friends and her family are walking through life blindly, not seeing the beauty around them, not seeing the beauty in each other. Just before she returns to the cemetery, she asks the stage manager, “Do human beings ever realize life while they live it–every, every minute?”
The stage manager answers, “No. The saints and poets, maybe–they do some.”
Do you remember those few lines from the “Sanskrit”:
Look to this day, for it is Life
The very Life of life!
In its brief course lie all the verities
And all the realities
Of your existence:
The bliss of growth,
The glory of action,
The splendor of beauty;
For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow is only a vision
But today, well lived,
Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
All of us work so hard to achieve, to get things done, to work, work, work–to feel good inside by what we have accomplished. We are so goal oriented that we have missed something. We have missed the moments. We have missed each other. We have missed God.
Sunday Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. Exodus 20, verse 8.
The Jewish Sabbath is Saturday; ours in Sunday. But the original meaning of the day is the same for Jews and Christians. Sunday is a day to rest from work and disciplines. The wisest Man Who ever lived took one day off in seven. Our Lord and Master thought rest was important, he thought worship was important. He was in the synagogue weekly.
Why go to church? Especially on those days when you just don’t feel like it. I will tell you a story. If you’ve ever been to the Middle East and watched an oriental rug being made, you’ll notice that the weaver does all of his work from behind the loom. Every now and then he will come out from behind the loom and look at the pattern he has been weaving. If there is an error here, or a lack of symmetry over here, he will go back behind the loom again, and take out some strands, or pull other strands more tightly.
Six days a week you and I are working from behind our loom, weaving the pattern of our lives. But on the seventh day we step from behind the loom and we look at the pattern we have been weaving. We compare that pattern with the pattern that was set on the Mt. of Sinai or the Mt. of the Beatitudes. When we step out from behind the loom each Sunday, we see which strands of our lives need to be altered. When we worship each Sunday, we get a perspective on our lives we find nowhere else.
Let me underscore this point by quoting William Temple. The late Archbishop of Canterbury said, “This world can be saved from political chaos and collapse by one thing only and this is worship.”
I believe he is right. I believe that worship can do that for the world. But I also believe that worship holds enormous possibilities for us as individuals. Whether we are young, fresh from the starting gates, with most of our lives before us; whether we are of middle age, fending off the destruction that wastes at midday; or whether we are in our latter years, living under the sharply slanting rays of a setting sun, I believe–with my whole heart I believe–that we can do nothing more meaningful or therapeutic for ourselves, and others, than to be faithfully present, week by week, month by month, for the worship of Almighty God.
Go to church. Thank God for all the miracles which represents your life. Think back over your life in the week just past. Ask yourself if you have noticeably changed for the better. Give yourself an honest answer. But don’t be discouraged if you haven’t made much progress. For after Sunday comes Monday. And another seven days.