01/10/21 Ecclesiastes 7:18 “It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.” This week I want to speak on balance. Balance may be the single-most important characteristic we can pursue, outside of love, because it is apparent in every conceivable element of life. Balance is complicated, sometimes enmeshed with various components. When we were kids, if there was a park nearby, didn’t we enjoy playing on the see-saw? As I got older, I discovered that a friend and I could balance on the see-saw by standing on it if we positioned ourselves exactly right. We would find that center of weight/counterweight with our bodies. The lighter person had to move out more, the heavier person in toward the center. In fact, we found we could move around on the board and always find the balance. It was exciting and satisfying to be balanced in this way. If we erred, we could fall and get hurt. As Proverbs 11:1 teaches - A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight. That is true in all areas of life. If you are sitting in a chair with one shorter leg, or loose leg … it wobbles. Tires out of alignment wobble. A refrigerator or washing machine with an unbalanced leg wobbles or vibrates. It can be annoying, if not damaging. Musicians in an ensemble need to find the right balance between the volumes of the various instruments or voices in order to sound harmonious. They could all be in tune, but if one part sticks out above the others it is distracting and can ruin the entire performance. Businesses know these lessons as they balance marketing and sales efforts with expenditures and profits. Investment portfolios need attention when it comes to balance. Sports teams know this: there must be a good balance between offense and defense, speed and strength, youth and experience. John Wooden, coach of the UCLA basketball team from 1948-1975, said, “Next to love, balance is the most important thing.” Balance is important. Finding balance can sometimes mean removing the things that are mucking up our lives, our thinking, and our hearts. Sometimes it is allowing damaging relationships to end; for negative and disrespectful people to fall lower on our ‘must visit’ list. At other times it is thought patterns, self-talk, and habits that must be abandoned. Look around you and within you and take inventory of what is unbalancing your life. What is wobbling? Take the steps necessary to fix the broken table leg, replace the tires, tighten the screws, and caulk the windows -- find the balance. Make a concerted effort to avoid the extremes on either end of the scale. As Solomon said, “It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other.” This doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to stop all of our delicious but damaging activities. Just find the balance. If we eat too many desserts, our lives start to wobble. We don’t have to stop, just find the balance. If we assess ourselves as lazy, find the balance between doing nothing and being industrious. Balance is not getting rid of all the wrong things. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “Evermore in the world is this marvelous balance of beauty and disgust, magnificence and rats.” Often time it is our focus that needs adjustment in seeking balance. Are we looking at the magnificence or the rats? When Rebecca was spinning while dancing, one way she kept her balance was by focusing on one particular spot as it passed by her line of sight. It kept her from getting dizzy; it kept her upright. Where are we focused in our lives, relationships, finances, diet and fitness, educational desires, and in our spiritual lives? Some of our lives are so busy, we feel a little dizzy once in a while. This is a sign of unbalance, and that we need to refocus. Isaiah 26:3 teaches us: “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, whose thoughts are fixed on you!” When our thoughts are fixed on God within, we are more stable in all areas of our life. We wobble less. “For thou wilt light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.” (Psalm 18:28). The darkness refers to the confusion, hesitation, frustration, or anything that would unbalance us and dim the light within us. To speak of balance means to be poised, have stability, and a steadiness. We can build balance into our lives and thinking by taking time in a few areas. One is to take the time to plan for emergencies, plan for situations that we know might stretch us, or demand our most, or push our buttons. If we plan a response, when the situation occurs we remain more balanced; we are not caught off guard. We can take time for God. Taking a few minutes a day to sit still and pray or meditate, to be in the Presence, in the silence with Spirit helps keep us physically and spiritually stable. We can take time to nurture our family ties. We can take time for our self, to play, and to enjoy ourselves. This fun time feeds our soul helps us be more effective with others. We can also take time to reflect on our life. How do we spend our time? Does the way we spend our time truly reflect our priorities or are we out of balance? How are we handling our schedules and the stresses that arise? A group of Americans exploring Africa had hired native guides. Each day they pushed the guides to go faster and a little bit farther, until one day the guides sat down and refused to go. The Americans could not understand this and asked, “Why do you sit down when we have so far to go?” The guides replied, “We are letting our soul catch up with our body.” When we are too busy, we can lose a sense of ‘groundedness’, of being in this moment right now. Our thoughts move to the past and what we have done, or to the future and all that is still to come, and we are no longer present with what we are doing this moment. One foot is on the land, the other at sea; we are unbalanced. Turning within to Spirit allows us to ‘catch up with our body’. We have enough time to accomplish what is ours to do. We can maneuver easily between our responsibilities and recreation and take the breaks we need. As we find our focus and balance, everything happens more easily, and we are at peace. As Psalm 18:36 says: You gave me a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip. At times our unbalance shows up as illness; our health wobbles. When we are ill, not only do we need to tend to our bodies, but we must pay attention to our spiritual well-being. Are we forgiving everyone and everything that has caused us pain and inconvenience? Do we love our neighbor, as the Christ asks? Are we connected with our Source? The source of balance comes down to cultivating a loving heart. To find balance, everything we do, think, decide, and say must flow from the commandment that Christ gave us: love God and love each other. Everything we purchase, respond to, or observe, can be experienced in a balanced fashion if we allow Love to imbue our hearts, minds, and attitudes. Ken Wilbur, philosopher and author, wrote that everything, at all levels of existence, evolves and transforms through transcending and including what it was. It follows the law of our Bible verse: “It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.” Life adheres to that principle: when something or someone grows and transforms, they do not become something entirely separate from what they were; they don’t let go of the one, but that is included in what they become. Our old is part of who we are now, and we have moved beyond our old, although we can recognize it at times. Balance allows us to look at every person and circumstance and recognize our own tendencies. Sometimes the behavior of others, their imbalance, appalls us because we can see just how much they are wobbling, and perhaps we observe in them an echo, a slight reflection of a tendency we see in our own souls at our darkest times – that old part of us that we have transcended. Balance gives us the realization that we cannot be perfect; we cannot have everything and do everything and be everything at the same time. Perfectionism is a journey of disappointment and destruction and imbalance. Comparison sucks the joy out of every situation, performance, and achievement, and replaces it with imbalance. Balance provides the perspective of others that they are not done yet; they are still in the process of becoming. God has not finished with them yet, just as we are not finished yet. All of us are still developing our balance. We all still wobble and fall. God is not done with this Nation yet. We are still learning, growing, struggling through the challenge of expressing Spirit, so at times we look like we are failing. But we will get back up, and try again, learning with each attempt. God patiently waits and reaches out, encourages, and gently guides us to learn the lessons of Love. It’s just that some of us are in the slow group. When we allow Love to dominate our being, we don’t have to think about and manage the myriad components that bring balance. Just to walk, there are many actions happening simultaneously: hundreds of muscles are involved, of the back, torso, legs, feet and ankles. Our ears and brains are involved. Once we have learned to walk, we no longer have to think about controlling these processes separately anymore; balance happens automatically. That occurs in our lives when we allow Love to flow; we find balance in our lives automatically. We achieve balance as we align our divine nature with our human nature. By allowing our attention to move inward to the awaiting Christ, we express outwardly our humanity and divinity, which provides balance, poise, and stability in all that we do, say, and think. Through balance we become more open to the whispers that God sends to our hearts. That's our destiny, is it not? To hear, respond, and express the Christ so fully and freely, to be so well balanced as we live and interact with a world where many are blind to God’s love, life and grace, that they begin to find their own balance. Robert Fulgham said this: Be aware of wonder. Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. No matter the activity we are pursuing, we can be aware of Spirit’s presence helping us to maintain a proper perspective and balance, ‘making the rough ways plain’. In this way we approach every activity with confidence, with a sense of newness, and without a wobble. When we are balanced, we are equipped to get the most from every moment and to give the most to every moment through our uniqueness. 1 Corinthians 12:6 says: There are different ways God works in our lives, but it is the same God who does the work through all of us. So, it is my prayer that we focus on God, love God and each other, release the extremes of thought, behavior, and emotion, embrace moderation, accept and appreciate the diversity of God’s children, and find balance, poise, and God’s Grace in life.