This past month, at my weekend drill for the California Air National Guard, our unit social worker walked into my office and asked me if I was busy.
“Yes, I’m busy,” I told colleague Nancy Bloom. “I have a list.”
She could see I was working up a dander, so not wanting to be on the top of my “list,” she offered to help. Hearing her offer to help, I decided the best approach was simply to blurt it out.
“My inspiration has expired. I have no more.”
She’s a trained professional, so I knew she’d already noticed the 42-ounce caffeinated Pepsi on my desk, and she could detect my engines revving up with satire. I held up a little booklet called the “Daily Bread.” It’s a daily reading collection of inspirational thoughts published every three months by RBC Ministries. It’s been distributed to thousands of soldiers for generations.
“Do you see the dates on these? They’re expired!” I yelled facetiously. “How do you expect an airman to find inspiration in October over words written for July Fourth? Winter inspirations must be written with warmth, while summer inspirations must blow a cooling breeze upon the reader.
“Can’t you see it?” I asked, slapping my palm with the now-tattered pamphlet. “This inspiration is expired! I need some new inspiration!”
As facetious and self-entertaining as we were finding ourselves on the tail end of this long weekend, it caused me to reflect on how easy it is to let our own inspiration expire.
The Christ-follower Apostle Paul had a pretty good strategy of keeping inspiration fresh. He went to the source. At the source, he knew there would be a constant flow, not a limited commodity.
He tapped into this unlimited source by doing what he calls in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 “pray without ceasing.” There are a lot of people who have interpreted this verse as a commandment to spend their entire lives in prayer. As admirable as that might be, I suspect most of those who live on this side of the stratosphere might find more practical advice from Andii Bowsher, author of “Praying the Pattern.” Bowsher says, “Paul was suggesting making life into prayer rather than making prayer into a life.”
That’s something I can relate to.
I can spend all week praying for fresh inspiration and still get nothing but a frustrated editor muttering some pretty unspiritual words about my column being past deadline. But when I seek to make my life a prayer, when I seek to serve and to become the answer to the prayers prayed by others, I get real inspiration. Like many chaplains who work in the military or in the hospital, I’m often asked how I find inspiration to continue this work.
My answer is, “it’s not always easy,” but when I do it well, I do it by living the principle Bowsher describes. I pray to become the prayer. When I manage to do this, my inspiration never expires.
Just then, a sergeant approached my office asking whether I had any new “Daily Bread.”
“Mine expired,” she said.
Needless to say, Nancy and I nearly split a gut laughing over God’s timing.