When I was a Senior in High School, I had a big decision to make. I had applied to five colleges, but I really only wanted to go to one. Luckily I was accepted at all five schools and had received scholarship to all five as well, but of course, my dream school’s scholarship package left a lot to be desired. My dream school had a prestigious music program and at that time, I was convinced that God had called me to be a Music minister so I was going to be the best Music Education student on the planet. I received a small scholarship from that school, but because the school was private, it left my parents with an unspeakable amount of money still owed even with Florida Prepaid and Bright Futures applied.
I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my mom and dad in tears when they told me that realistically, this school had to be taken off of the table. They loved me enough to tell me NO, and even now, 20 years later, I am convinced that what my parents were really teaching me with that hard conversation around the Kitchen Table was about priorities. They loved me enough to not let me graduate with $100,000+ in school debt. They loved me enough to prioritize my mental health and emotional well-being over the disappointment of not going to my dream school. And they loved me enough to say, when it came to college, there is a better way.
It turns out, they were right and the lesson I learned that day lead me down a path to go to Florida Southern College, pursue Music Education with a minor in Religion, fall in love with the study of Scripture, lead a Campus ministry, join a sorority and graduate with honors because I prioritized correctly. Sometimes (most times) it pays to listen to the wisdom of our parents. And whether you realized it or not, the Scripture we studied on Sunday helps shed some light on this very topic.
This past Sunday, we celebrated the work of God through our Vacation Bible School, we sang fun songs and heard a powerful message from Pastor Leah. As we look back at the text from Mathew 6, here it is again from The Message version.
19-21 “Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.
22-23 “Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a musty cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!
24 “You can’t worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you’ll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can’t worship God and Money both.”
This Scripture and this call from Jesus is really about our priorities. As you might guess, putting God first is the goal, in all things. Now I am not trying to say that one college was the Godly “choice” and one college wasn’t, but when it came to financial stability and the opportunities of my two younger sisters who also wanted to be able to go to college, this was the God honoring decision for us as a family. I idealized one school and obsessed over it, but ultimately, God had other plans for me that would lead me to seminary and to answering my call to be a pastor. Sometimes our priorities are short-sighted and so grounded in the present, we can’t imagine another way. Sometimes are priorities are passed down from our family of origin or the person we married. And other times, like in the Sermon on the Mount, our priorities are from Jesus Himself.
When we are honest with ourselves and with God, we can ask, “What is my priority in this situation?” Are my eyes fixed on God? Or am I focused on another prize or passion? Or said another way, how are you storing up treasures in heaven where the earthly things can not destroy it?
It helps if we understand that “Heaven” refers not to where we go when we die. Instead, “Heaven”, is where God is right now, and where, if you learn to love and serve God right now, you will have treasure in the present, not just in the future. And so how does one learn to live like Treasure Hunters on earth? N.T. Wright lists these three things in his commentary Matthew for Everyone (Chapters 1-15).
- Learn to live in the Presence of a Loving Father
- Learn to do everything for Him and Him alone
- Get your priorities right
If we focus on the last point, our priorities are right when our eyes see clearly. This is why the eye metaphor is used here. Jesus is essentially saying, get your eyes checked and make sure your eyes are shedding things in light, not in darkness. Meaning, take care that what you actually look at does not take your heart and mind astray. If you are in control of your eyes, do your eyes help you keep your priorities straight and lead you in the right direction?
My hope is that I have given you some thoughts to take with you into this week as you hold to your priorities and seek to keep Jesus first. If you are free this Friday, June 23rd, I would love to have lunch with you, from 11am to 1pm on the first floor of the church office. Bring your own lunch anytime during those two hours and we can talk together about this devotion or any others that have sparked something in your heart and mind that you would like to discuss in community.
See you then!
Check out today’s video to hear from Pastor David about the recent FL Annual Conference! During this update, he shares three observations from this special gathering.
My father is an architect by trade and a pilot by hobby. He has always loved flying and we were lucky enough as children to fly with our Daddy when he flew a small plane up and around where we grew up over the years. He kept up his license and took refresher courses and can continue to look up at the skies and upon seeing the underbelly of the plane, tell us what kind it is.
Two years ago, when my sisters were all home visiting, we had the rare chance to fly with our Dad once more and I snapped the picture below. He let us try our hand at the throttle and trying to control the height of the plane. He of course kept his hands near the controller, but we tried to control the plane on our own. I was thinking about this experience when I read a devotional last week from Rev. Cameron Trimble who is both a pastor and a pilot and she writes about the wisdom of flying loose. I shared it with my Dad and it felt like the right message to share with you this week.
What do you think about when you hear the words, Flying Loose? What image comes to mind?
It feels as if sometimes the world is spinning out of control. Our tendency may be to try and tighten our grip and control what we can control. I had one of these moments recently on Sunday morning when my favorite son was having a meltdown and I was about to lose my holy “you know what” on him. But we all have moments like Charlie, when the world as we know it seems as if it is falling apart and all we can do, is to sit and cry.
Rev. Trimble writes this, “Our world today is nothing if not swirling, turbulent wind tossing us around. We have experienced economic meltdown, climate countdown, racial throwdown, political breakdown, technology showdown, and religious letdown. We are living through the breakdown and breaking open of much that has defined modern life.”
She goes onto explain that when she teaches other pilots, she reminds them to Fly Loose. When we hit turbulence in a plane, the pilot has two options.
“When you are flying into turbulence you will learn something about your airplane…. If you tighten your grip on the yoke, you reduce the aerodynamics of your aircraft. You, as the pilot, actually make the flight less safe, steady, and stable. So, remember: When the going gets rough, fly loose….”
And so as I connect this back to my life and how God calls us to live, I celebrate that we only have one life to live and we can choose to live it with Freedom. Not a laissez-faire kind of living, where you don’t care at all about the things that matter to God, but abundant life kind of living that frees you to care less about control and helps you loosen your grip on the throttle of life.
Spiritual Direction and taking care of my soul has helped me with this. The closer I am to Jesus, the more His voice crowds out the noise of control and power and needing to have it all together. The more I spend time with others who have had real, transformative experiences with the living God, the more I see how deeply and diverse our God works, I realize that I was never really in charge to begin with. Ultimately, we can look over and see that while we may know how to fly a plane, we were never the pilots in the first place. Instead, our Heavenly Father, just like my earthly father has control of the plane; He is doing the flying, we get to enjoy the view. We may think we are in control from time to time, or we may think that we are really running the show, but our Heavenly Father has His hands on the throttle, and He is doing the flying. It is our privilege to fly loose and let God handle the rest. From the co-pilot seat I encourage us all to look over and see whose hands have you, who is ultimately in control and whose ways are higher than our own.
And don’t take yourself too seriously, life is a gift…so fly loose. God’s got you!
I would love to invite you to have lunch with me on Friday, June 23rd. Once a month I would love to gather with anyone curious about digging deeper in your spiritual life and unpacking one of the recent devotions with me. If you are in town, bring your own packed lunch and meet me anytime between 11am-1pm at the church on that date. Hope to see you then!