Devotional Day 10
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers and sisters. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is coming from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will He gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures. You know this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Now everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger; for a man’s anger does not bring about the righteousness of God. Therefore, ridding yourselves of filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.James 1: 16-20
Conversations on El Camino
This morning we got going around 8 am, stopping by the albergue where we stayed the first night to look for socks Dean had lost (but had no luck). There we also had a brief conversation with a pilgrim whose feet were wrapped in gauze, after being badly damaged with “trench foot,” after not being properly dried out and rested during long hours of walking. A while later, two other pilgrims caught up with us and conversation kept us together, despite them appearing to be faster walkers. He was from Holland and she was from Italy, and they had met on a previous El Camino walk.
About an hour later we reached a café that we had been looking forward to reach. With no kitchen where we’d stayed the night before, we had not yet enjoyed breakfast or coffee that day. After sitting down, we continued talking about reasons for the walk, faith (particularly after they saw us quietly pray before eating), and the keto diet, including why I was on it. It was interesting how they opened up more about their beliefs when witnessing our expression of faith. They shared more about their own issues when I was vulnerable in sharing my own physical problems (going back to a brain tumor), the reason for my diet.
They eventually headed out at their brisk pace. We were about ready to go, but a conversation between Dean and a Brazilian (which seemed to be mostly him complaining about his job) delayed us a bit. From there the trek gradually got steeper. We thought (from what another pilgrim said) the peak was supposed to be halfway, until finally looking at the guidebook and discovering it lasted more than 12km into the day’s walk. Time seemed to go faster when focusing on Scripture.
“Every good thing”
Rather than God being one to cause temptation, He is the Giver of all that is good, which we can trust to be consistent. He is the source of Light, not darkness, love, not sin, truth, not lies. Here James identifies us as “first fruits,” just as in the story of creation, the things He created were good, but humans were “very good,” made in His very image. He values us! Of course, the greatest gift of all was Jesus Christ, laying down His life as a sacrifice, for our salvation. Yet perhaps we more frequently fail to recognize all other “good” gifts from God, and fail to express our appreciation for the many ways we have been blessed.
Walking along El Camino, I enjoy seeing the flowers blooming, hearing the birds singing, feeling the sun shining and a breeze blowing. Who created the beauty of flowers? Who orchestrated the symphony of birds? Who designed the earth and heavens and everything in between? And who designed our senses and our minds to be able to perceive and enjoy all these good things? Yet we forget to say thank you, to praise the Creator for His artwork. We fail to slow down and enjoy all the things that can satisfy our desires without pulling us into sin.
Often it is the challenges and deficits we encounter that give us greater appreciation for things easily taken for granted. When feeling hot and thirsty after climbing uphill on the trail in the hot sun, cool water coming from the mountain seemed so much more refreshing and gratifying than going to the fridge from an airconditioned room when already fully hydrated. Sore muscles could be a reason to complain, or a reminder of the gift of mobility. The smell of dung when walking past the fields of grazing cattle could be perceived as unpleasant, or a reminder of our capacity to differentiate between the putrid and lovely scents we encounter. Tiredness is good when it is evidence of the many steps we were able to take today.
“quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger”
I think when we read this verse we often think it refers to our interaction with other people. While there is certainly value in using this as a general rule with one another, especially those close to us, as I read the whole passage, I see hearing being related to the word we receive from God, that which He is ready to implant in us. But when we look at our patterns of prayer, it seems we’ve been taught to do more speaking than hearing. I’ve heard all the abbreviations about what to include in prayer, such as “ACTS”: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. Those are all valuable, but where is the hearing?
As individuals and the body of Christ we need more time for hearing and receiving from God. As we work on addressing the messy parts of our hearts, minds, and actions, we need truth to replace that filth. If trying to change angry reactions, we need to be turning to God to receive His peace. Contemplative prayer, Lectio Divina, and other disciplines can help us practice listening. The hours on El Camino have also been opportunities to hear, with other distractions put aside. A big part of that has been directly related to these verses, repeating them over and over, and asking God what He wants me to know or asking for clarity. Maintaining an attitude of humility, or being ready to receive even what may not always be what we want God to say, is critical for receiving His truth, His word.
With no measure of how far along we were, we figured we had a long way to go, setting low expectations for arrival time. Getting there before 2pm was a nice relief, with beds still available and plenty of time for showers, laundry, and even some coffee right next door.
Later we walked to a local restaurant that served the pilgrim’s menu for dinner (including a pitcher of wine), and saw some familiar faces, including Patricia from England. We were already feeling tired upon returning to the albergue, and expected to go to bed before 10pm. Unsure if there was a certain time by which we needed to be out the next day, I went out to the patio around 9pm to ask if anyone knew. There was a group of Italians sitting around the picnic table, and the question turned into a boisterous English/Spanish/Italian conversation. Soon, Dean also joined us.
Before long, they opened and generously shared a bottle of wine. Then came exuberant singing from multiple languages, as well as a geography lesson about the different parts of Italy they represented. Quite a friendly and lively group! Everyone went to bed at 10pm, which was quiet hour. Although I fell asleep at first, I woke up in the middle of the night and had trouble getting back to sleep. It didn’t help to be congested and in the large room with several people who snored loudly. While earplugs help, that is a common challenge in the albergues. Quiet sleep is definitely a “good thing” a greatly appreciate.
Thank You, Lord, for the many blessings we so often forget to appreciate. Thank You for the light You shine in our lives, inviting us to experience Your presence and love, the greatest gift we can ever receive. Help me to allow time to humbly listen and readily receive the truth You have for me today.
- Consider the good things in your life. What can you choose to intentionally appreciate and make a reminder of God’s generosity and love?
- How much space and time do you allow for listening to God?
- Listening is a spiritual discipline that often takes practice. It’s okay to start with just a short time and normal for our thoughts to wander. Make a goal to set aside time each day to listen. You may take a short verse as a focus point, asking God what He wants you to hear from that verse.
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