Heroes and Villains: Nebuchadnezzar

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Daniel 4:13-17, 23-33.

Have you ever been told “You are getting too big for your britches?” Ahhh britches – one of those great Southern words, most likely appropriated from the English word breeches meaning trousers or – another personal favorite – pantaloons!

This might be hard for some of you to conceive (okay, maybe not), but it is very uncommon that I do not have a comment or opinion about the goings-on around me. I have had this quality from a very young age. My mother was raised in a house where children were seen and not heard and children did not speak until spoken to…that trait definitely skipped over me!

Due to my propensity to talk – and yes, even talk back – I heard “you are getting too big for your britches” as a chorus throughout my formative years. Perhaps the intent of hearing that phrase was to get me to be quiet…but that was not the effect it had on me. Rather, I heard that phrase…and after being a little irritated…would check in with my behavior. Was the concern with what I was saying or how I was saying it? Was I speaking from facts or from half-truths and hippopotamus-sized opinions? Was I engaged in an argument – a form of intelligent discourse that includes disagreement – or was I being argumentative?

Growing into our britches, if you will, is a vital part of the maturation process physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It is a process by which we become authorities, just not the authority. I believe this was Nebuchadnezzar’s folly.

The Book of Daniel details several accounts of Nebuchadnezzar getting too big for his britches. He is the Babylonian King and while the empire is his world, the world is not his empire. He abuses his power, he overreaches his authority, and in response, God intervenes and holds the monarch accountable. Nebuchadnezzar has dreams that precede or intercede his “too big” behaviors that Daniel interprets for him but to no avail. Like the Israelites that Nebuchadnezzar now calls “subjects,” he does what is right in his own eyes; he is too big for his own britches to his detriment…or should I say detrimoo-nt?

Although Nebuchadnezzar displays some behaviors that we do not want to emulate, he displays others that are quite useful to us. He asks questions, he seeks counsel…problems arose when he did not follow through on the answers given and counsel received.

Asking questions and seeking counsel are incredible assets to me as an individual and a leader. I ask answers so I do not assume. I seek counsel to invite a wider community into the decision-making process. Both of these behaviors are important practices in the act of discernment. Discernment encourages maturation without getting too big for our britches.

Consider in your daily interactions with family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors – how could you ask more questions or seek counsel? Identify the places where you may too easily become too big for your britches. Where are you an authority and need to remember you are not the authority? How can you engage in arguments without being argumentative?

Discern and then apply, and together we will mature with God.

Join us this Sunday in worship as we celebrate Samantha Aupperlee’s three years of ministry with us at Tuskawilla! She will preach both services as part of her farewell to the TUMC Family before beginning her seminary studies at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in August. Thank you, Samantha, for your preparation and leadership in worship this week. We adore you and look forward to celebrating you on Sunday!

Prayer: “For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies, for the love which from our birth over and around us lies. For thyself, best Gift Divine, to the world so freely given, for that great, great love of thine, peace on earth, and joy in heaven: Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.”* Amen.

*“For the Beauty of the Earth,” The United Methodist Hymnal 92.

Thrive: Depth

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Ezekiel 47:3-5

While practicing yoga I frequently hear my teachers inviting me to deepen my practice. There are a number of ways to deepen a yoga practice:

  1. Take a more full expression of a pose. For example, if you are in a pose that calls for your legs to be in the shape of a lunge (like Crescent Pose or Warrior One), you deepen the pose by increasing the bend in your front leg towards a 90-degree angle with the goal of stacking your knee over your ankle.
  2. Move to your edge. An “edge” in yoga could be the extent of your comfort zone with a pose or the extent of your familiarity with a pose. Moving to your edge means that you try on something new in the pose by bending a little deeper, growing a little taller, or extending a little longer. The goal is to not cross your edge but to increase your edge – that is how you grow in yoga.
  3. Bring awareness to the breath. What is the quality of your breath? Is it shallow and quick? Is it deep and slow? How can you lengthen the breath? How can you bring a sense of calm to a very active practice? How can you breathe with the entirety versus a portion of your lungs?
  4. Turn inward. Yes, yoga is a physical practice, but the physical practice – known as asana – is only one portion of the practice. Yoga encompasses physical as well as mental activity. It is an outward and an inward practice. It unites movement and meditation. When a practitioner turns inward, the mind settles allowing clarity to increase while distractions decrease.

As Ezekiel follows God’s messenger out of the temple and into the rushing river’s flow, he becomes increasingly aware of the river’s deepening. His expression changes as he witnesses God’s river take on its full expression as it cascades down the mountain. He moves to his edge as he wades in the water. If I were in Ezekiel’s shoes I would want to ensure a calm and even quality to my breath as I ventured into water where neither my bare nor stiletto’d feet could touch the riverbed. And I would want to focus and settle my mind. In that state of awareness and presence I would be safe and I would see and experience all that God desires to reveal.

In order to grow in my yoga practice I am committed to deepening my practice. The same holds true for my – for our – spiritual practice. God invites each of us to deepen our spiritual practices so we can deepen our relationship with God. There are a number of ways to mature in our faith:

  1. Take a more full expression of prayer, worship, fasting, service, and stewardship.
  2. Move to the edge of our comfort zones so we increase the area of our comfort zones as it relates to sharing our faith with and witnessing to our neighbors. I desire God to transform my comfort zone so it defines all that God enables me to do and that I serve in those roles with joy rather than separating what I will do from what I will not do. Continue my transformation, Lord.
  3. Bring awareness to God’s life-giving breath – God’s Holy Spirit – that dwells within us and guides us. Centering our attention on God’s breath and following the guidance of God’s Spirit will not lead us astray; it will lead us farther into the Kingdom.
  4. Turn inward away from the distractions of the world so that we may gain clarity about God’s purposes and God’s purposes for us.

(This is by no means an exhaustive list. This is what I have experienced and I would love to hear about your experiences, about how you specifically grow in your faith!)

Consider how God may be calling you to deepen your faith during this time and season. What full expression might you try on? How might you increase your comfort zone? What is God’s Holy Spirit breathing in you? When you turn inward, what do you see and how does that compare to what you would like to see? I invite you to pray about these questions this week. Ask. Seek. And share what you discover with someone you love.

Prayer: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. Allelu, Alleluia. Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek and ye shall find; knock, and the door shall be opened unto you. Allelu, Alleluia.”* Amen.

*”Seek Ye First,” The United Methodist Hymnal 405.