Monday, October 4, 2010

The Duty That Lies Nearest Revisited…..

I've been thinking about the tribe I wrote about in my last post.  In a land a world away, in both culture and distance, they felt moved to make a huge sacrifice to help the people of New York City.  In the scheme of things, it is really a drop in the bucket....yet, like the widow in scripture who gave sacrificially, it is huge. It seems to me that it was an act of generosity and compassion that was divinely inspired.  One of those acts Ephesians declares we were created for....
For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. NIV

A while back I wrote a post about the "duty that lies nearest."  In it, I quoted an essay on the God Quest site:
But when we are able to hear God’s voice, what will God say to us? I believe God gives every person, eventually, the ability to live in two beautifully simple ways. He gives us all the ability to be faithful to the highest that we know; and, the ability to “do the duty that lies nearest” (Carlyle) as his Spirit reveals to us individually, simple opportunities to obey him in love.
 God has given everyone a “measure of faith.” Some people apparently have more than others. Are we faithful to the highest we know? Are we willing to do the duty that lies nearest—in the “now”? God is faithful to speak to each of us in these ways as we “image” God within us with a sense of His acceptance, love and kindness for us.
Being faithful to the highest we know is to know Him! This is Eternal Life; that is, to know of God’s nature, and to let Him imbue us with it. It is a state of heart that is able to enjoy the quality of eternal life right now. After all, all we have is “now” and eternal life can be enjoyed in the present. It finds its expression in obedience: doing the duty that lies nearest. This could involve writing a letter we have had intentions of writing, a phone call we’ve been meaning to make, forgiving a person who needs our forgiveness. God is faithful to continually prompt within us “duties” that we may in turn commit as love-offerings to Him. But this requires holy imagination—the ability to see God as he is. No one who has seen God for who He is, can live; that is, live in ones former ways of selfishness and fear.
And what is the duty that lies nearest?  I don't think it is necessarily the duty that is nearest geographically.  No...perhaps it is the duty that likes nearest to our heart, as in when God "lays it on our hearts" to do something.  To do one of those good works prepared for us to walk in?  The quote about the duty that lies nearest is by Thomas Carlyle

Do the duty which lies nearest to you, the second duty will then become clearer.
Keith has said many times that being obedient to the voice of God is the main thing in our Christian walk and overshadows all the woulda' coulda' shoulda's others impose upon us (and we impose upon ourselves)

I am also reminded of a true story by Loren that has been retold in many forms all of which carry the profound meaning related in the original.  It is from his book, The Star Thrower.   I will include it in this post, copied and pasted from a site called Bella Online...written by Deanna Joseph
The Starfish Story
adapted from The Star Thrower
by Loren Eiseley
1907 - 1977
Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.
 One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"
 The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."
 "I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man.
 To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"
At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "I made a difference to that one!"

Few stories have gained internet popularity the way "The Star Thrower" has. Most often it's sighted as "author unknown," but it is actually a classic from 1979 written by Loren Eiseley, who has been hailed as a modern day Henry David Thoreau.

Loren Eiseley was both a scientist and a poet, and to this day his writing is the subject of much discussion and inspiration. In this story he is the "wise man" touched by the innocence and determination of another soul.

"The Star Thrower" is a classic story of the power within each one of us to make a difference in the lives of others. And though it has appeared in many forms (sometimes it's a native american man who is throwing the starfish into the sea, sometimes it's a grandfather, or a young girl or boy) it is none the less a powerful reminder that we should be here for each other, and to seek to help, even in small ways, whenever we can.

In such turbulent times as these, when we may feel alone and small and unable to make any lasting changes we may find ourselves asking "What can I do that will make a difference?" or "What can one small person like me do?"

In reality we don't have to be rich, talented or even particularly intelligent to make a difference in the life of another. We just need to remember that we ARE here for a purpose, and that making small changes in the world eventually add up to something bigger in the life of another.

When we become throwers of the stars, we too, have the power to change the world

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