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May 1, 2015
Consider Your Ways

Sharon Gallagher
May 2015

Thus saith the Lord of hosts;“Consider your ways.”  (KJV) (Haggai 1:7)

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.”  (NIV) (Haggai 1:7)

The biblical injunction to consider your ways—or take a hard look at your lives—occurs twice in the first chapter of Haggai. The prophet tells the people that they have their priorities wrong.They’re consumed by concerns for their own daily comforts, while forgetting to honor the source of their life, the creator God.

Here’s the verse in context as translated in “The Message”:

3-4 Shortly after that, God said more and Haggai spoke it: “How is it that it’s the ‘right time’ for you to live in your fine new homes while the Home, God’s Temple, is in ruins?”

5-6 And then a little later, God-of-the-Angel-Armies spoke out again:

“Take a good, hard look at your life.

  Think it over.

You have spent a lot of money,
   but you haven’t much to show for it.
You keep filling your plates,
   but you never get filled up.
You keep drinking and drinking and drinking,
   but you’re always thirsty.
You put on layer after layer of clothes,
   but you can’t get warm.
And the people who work for you,
   what are they getting out of it?
Not much—
   a leaky, rusted-out bucket, that’s what.

7 That’s why God-of-the-Angel-Armies said:

“Take a good, hard look at your life.
   Think it over.”

(Haggai 1:3-7)

   The prophet is condemning the materialism of the ancient Israelites. And, as we know, materialism is also a problem for our age—a distraction from the things that really matter.

   Several of us at New College Berkeley recently had coffee with some U. C. Berkeley students, to listen to their concerns. Although the students were in different fields, they agreed about the “materialistic assumptions” in their classrooms. Questions about deeper meaning, or ultimate meaning simply aren’t raised in their classes.

   In Haggai the first step advocated by the God-of-the-Angel- Armies to counter materialism is “Take a good hard look at your life. Think it over.”

   At New College we offer a variety of helpful practices to stop and “think it over.” Our spiritual direction groups, Ignation exercises, and retreats, all aid in cultivating an examined life.

   For some years now I’ve taught a fall class for New College called “Writing Your Journey” and have found the weekly writing exercises helpful in “thinking things over.” Listening to other members of the group also helps. Hearing how God works in the lives of others, challenges and encourages my own faith.

   The early church fathers viewed writing as a helpful spiritual discipline. In the fourth century writing was seen as a tool for cultivating holiness and many Christians saw a relationship between writing and the Christian life. Antony is said to have commanded his monks to keep diaries “to note and write down” the “stirrings” of their souls.

   A few years back I wrote a book called Finding Faith: Life-changing Encounters with Christ and had the privilege to read and collect a number of conversion stories. Some of them were dramatic stories with signs and wonders. Others were quieter, but equally moving.

   We who’ve heard these and other stories of faith, needed to hear them. Our lives would be impoverished if we hadn't heard them. They needed to be told. And, we all have stories that need to be told. As the great Frederick Buechner says, “Listen to your life.” Writing about our lives, even if we have no other readers, can be an important tool to self-understanding and an encouragement in our Christian walk.

Join us in our fall NCB programs, as we consider our ways.

Posted on May 1, 2015 at 5:59 PM

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