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Choose Life–Thursday after Ash Wednesday

  • Posted on Feb 26, 2009

Choose Life

These are the words the Lord commanded Moses to speak to the people: “I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil. …I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice, and cleaving to him.” Deuteronomy 30:15, 20

Sometimes you just know when God is talking to you. It doesn’t happen very often in own’s life. But sometimes, you just know. This passage for today’s meditation is one of those critical verses of scripture for me personally. In fact, I think this passage saved my life.

In the sermon at the Tri-Church service at Corpus Christi last night, I spoke about Parker Palmer’s own spiritual crisis in his early thirties. He speaks about the experience in his excellent book Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation. At some point in his early thirties, he read the line from William Stafford’s poem “Ask Me.” The line that seared his soul was this: Ask me whether what I have done is my life. That line changed his life. Palmer would probably say it saved his life.

This passage from Deauteronomy did the same for me. It saved my life by showing me the way to healing–not only in my body but in my vocation and soul. I heard this passage read on Sunday morning on a hot summer July morning in 1989 at St Paul’s Church, Alexandria. It had a been a wonderful and terrible two years. In 1987, my father-in-law died of a sudden heart attack while my father was in the hospital receiving a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. In March 1988, my father died. In November of that year, my son Jack was born. In April of 1989, Jack was baptized and I found myself in the hospital with gallbladder surgery. After the surgery, I could not get well. At first, I thought I was just tired from having a new baby and no sleep. One day, I found I did not have the energy to walk a city block. Something was very wrong. I didn’t know what to do. It felt like my whole world was in a shambles. My life didn’t feel like my life anymore at all. I should be enjoying my new son. I wondered if I was slowly dying. Would I leave my son motherless? I didn’t know what else to do. I went to church.

In 1989, I could count the number of times on one hand that I had been to church in 15 years–and that included my father’s funeral and my son’s baptism. I had lost my way to church as a teenager. But without my father’s strong presence in my life, I didn’t know where else to go. So, I showed up on Sunday morning. And Deuteronomy was the first reading right out of the box. I put before you death and life–choose life. Choose life. That is all I wanted to do. Mysteriously, that passage seemed to change me that day. I realized that I wasn’t alone in this struggle for health. God was with me. I knew it that day. I’ve known it ever since.

In the weeks after that Sunday, I was diagnosed with a thyroid condition that was easily remedied. I regained my strength. I didn’t go back to church the next Sunday. But that fall, I did. And I signed up for a Bible Study course and…well, I kept right on going. In a year, I had left tax law (where I was miserable) and was in the process for ordination in the Episcopal church. All along, from that point, choose life was my mantra–God speaking in my life.

I can’t tell you the number of times that I come back to Choose Life as a mantra. Life continues to throw the choice of life and death in our path. It is a continual process of choosing life. Again and again and again. I am so glad that God as Holy Spirit somehow nudged me that July Sunday to go to church. Just when I was at the lowest point of my life, God was there. And God spoke in the words of Deuteronomy.

Today: What you are doing today–is this your life? The way that gives you life? Begin to wonder with God on that question. How do you choose life for YOU?

Text for today: Deuteronomy 30: 15-20