Practice, presence, and path.
In all of Indiana basketball history, the purest shooter was certainly Rick Mount. Mount played for Purdue in the 1960s. He had perfect form. I got to see Mount play, and as a kid, I was struck by how beautiful his shot was. I remember being so impressed reading in Sports Illustrated about how Mount shot 200 baskets every day – even on his wedding day. Practice took his natural talent to a heavenly level.
In my first church, the oldest member was Mabel. Mabel never missed a Sunday. When she couldn’t drive anymore, her friends brought her to Sunday school and church. Even though she had terribly painful arthritis in her hands, Mabel insisted on making the bread for Communion. Even though she was a shut in, Mable was the person who invited everyone to church. She’d had a very hard life, but there wasn’t a trace of bitterness or regret about her. She lived on very little and was definitely not wealthy, but she was one of the happiest people I’ve ever known. Being in her presence invariably made you happy. I think Mabel was so loving – and so loved – because her life was absolutely anchored in a Higher Presence of Love.
In a week or two they’ll start arriving. Robins will return to Indiana. My apartment complex must be on their migratory path because mid-February every year suddenly hundreds and hundreds of robins will appear out of thin air on rooflines and tree tops. They come while it is still winter so that they are in place, ready to go when spring arrives. Why don’t they wait? They migrate now because something deep inside them has put them in sync with a path that they stick to in order to live.
Practice, presence, and path: Practice is activity that deepens you in a discipline and leads to mastery. Presence is being part of something so that you are not just in a place. That place is in you. Path is a way that you take to reach your desired destination.
Practice, presence, and path all illustrate the Truth the Psalmist describes in Psalm 1. The righteous, those who are right with God; those who strive to live life God’s way, are like sycamore trees by Sugar Creek. They flourish because they are rooted in the source that gives them life.
Now, a tree can’t choose where it is planted, but we can. Through practice, presence, and path we can align ourselves with our Creator. We can practice what God commands. Love God; love neighbor: Practice a life of love and you will be in sync with your Savior. Being present to him; alive in him; fed by the waters of your baptism; deeply rooted in his Way, Truth, and Life allows us to flourish. Drought will come. Trials, temptations, suffering, disappointments come to us all. But being present and proximate to Christ grounds us in God-given ways to not just survive, but thrive. So that our lives bear the good fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Lives that produce that good fruit end up being on the path that God intends; that our Savior offers; and that will reliably take us to a heavenly destination.
The Bible begins with a tree and ends with a tree. When creation was first born, Adam and Eve had their tree in Genesis. And in Revelation when creation is reborn, next to God and the Lamb is the river of life and right beside it: The tree of life with its leaves for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:2). And anchoring the entire story from Genesis to Revelation we have Christ and his tree, the awful cross on which he died, to extend salvation, life, and love to us all.
Which brings us to you. You can plant yourself in the grace God is extending. You can sink your roots deep into the life that Christ is offering. Flourish in him and you shall not perish. You are at the riverbank right now. The water of eternal life is here for you. The soil of this present moment is rich, deep, and good. Dig in with faith. Branch out in love. The time to grow and flourish is now.