A Balm for the Scorched Soul

Watch out for this peeled door light! Here without rain, without shame my noonday dusk made spots upon the walk: Tall drops pelted the concrete with their jewelry belonging to the old world’s bones.

Owning this view, in the air of a hermit’s weather, I count the fragmentary in drops as blue as coal until I plumb the shadows full of thunder. My prayers supervise the atmosphere till storms call the hounds home. Thomas Merton, “In the Rain and the Sun”

Last evening as I alternated between nodding off and cradling my phone by the blue glow of “Blue Bloods” on TV, I was following the weather. Waiting for when to turn the air off and open everything up. I held it up, “Look, it says possible thunderstorms!” She then went to her satellite weather ap which did indeed show a small front moving through.

I have been missing all the Arizona monsoon action, all the crashing and brilliant skies that are part of every July-August there. The one thing I most looked forward to over the course of the relentless heat of summer. It was always like a balm for the scorched soul.

And we were treated last night to a light sprinkling of blessed rain. I ran outside to feel the sweet little cold needles pelt my skin. And later, after this side of the world had fallen asleep, the flash of lightning and rolling thunder came. It was nothing like the ferocity and power of Arizona storms which can leave you breathless with simultaneous wonder and fear, but God’s hand was in it just the same.

It was a gift. And here and now I am listening to the earth’s noises in the quiet of morning which is really the same as a prayer without actually speaking the words. A nearby train is rolling through and the dust is settled. I breathe thanks for the doxology of coffee…….”Praise God from whom all blessings flow……..”

Whatever happens in my life I have been given the best possible gift, or I guess I have been able to receive it. We’ve all been given the gift, everyone who has ever taken a Heavenly breath, for all breath does come from Heaven. It’s just that knowledge alone, that God is here and I never remember not knowing that. For some reason in my mind and heart it was settled long ago.

And yes, there have been many times I have wondered at His methods, even as I felt the world as I knew it drop out from under me. Even when I was too tired to believe or pray. And it’s not about simply putting on a happy face, it’s about knowing that something was carved into your soul that was there even before you were born.  And that someone is a God who loves much more than we can possible imagine. Enough to sacrifice Himself to win us back.

This is the whole crux of the Christian Faith:

It’s simply this: I was born, and that alone proves I was meant to be here. And if I was meant to be here, that proves the bigger thing, that God wanted me here. I am here because He was here first. “We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

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Evening Falls

 

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Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul……..Thomas Merton

I am trying to learn this: When words are few, there is a reason and a purpose for it. At least that’s what I am telling myself. There was a time not so long ago that my words poured out almost effortlessly. Not anymore. I know it’s a season I am going through and I don’t know if it will last for another month or a year or even more. I am resting in His timing, trying not to force words that aren’t there.

This evening I told myself I would come out here and write whatever came, whatever sounds I heard. Just now, the sun is slipping away to another part of the world giving way to a cool evening and a colder night. I am drinking Tazo Zen tea, the kind I used to drink on my work afternoons with a drop of honey and milk. I thought that might spark something creative.

The Mockingbird has stopped singing and now I hear the drowsy growl of a small plane overhead. That makes me think of fishing when I was a kid, and BBQ potato chips and a rocking boat and water lapping against the side. I didn’t really fish I just went along. I remember the sky being so very blue.

It’s beautiful here now, like living inside a Haiku poem. California in Spring, especially in the foothills is very close to Tolkien’s Hobbiton. On our drive there the other day it wouldn’t have surprised me to see Bilbo and Gandalf on a stroll or sitting on the side of a hill blowing smoke rings as they puffed their pipe-weed.

Green hills

And the other day I found a perfect nest. I was walking up from the river and I saw a big dark object laying at the foot of the trees. I looked all over and didn’t see any baby birds or eggs, thankfully. I carried it like a trophy, it was such a marvel I didn’t know what to do with it. I wanted to preserve the miracle, for that’s what it was (is) to me. How a bird could design something so incredible and engineer something from nothing is beyond me. It’s just God, that’s all.

Nest

So, my friends if you are still reading, “Good on ya!” I am thankful for anyone and everyone who has been keeping up with me on this blog. It’s a Grace journey we are all on. Along with Thomas Merton, I believe that everything we go through here serves some kind of purpose.

My tea has gone cold in the mug and the mosquito’s are out. I wish the bats would come and eat them all. It’s about time for them to come out. The birds have gone quiet now, all tucked away on their secure boughs. Time to go for now.

Evening falls once again…….It is well with my soul even when words don’t come.

One thing I’m sure of

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“A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No man can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire.”

“By reading the scriptures I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The sky seems to be a pure, a cooler blue, the trees a deeper green. The whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music under my feet.” Quotes by Thomas Merton

I thought it fitting to start the New Year with quotes by one of my favorites, Thomas Merton. The second quote echoes what I was feeling as I walked down to prayer this morning. The thought that wouldn’t let itself go was this:

Whatever I do this year or any other, without God it’s a wasted trip.

I was thinking of Merton as I always do when I am close to nature. This morning as I sat down by the little river shack, I thought I heard the owl. I don’t hear it often and when I do I make myself completely still so I can hear it. What it is about nature that makes one lean in and listen? I guess that’s how I stay in touch with the Holiness of God. There is a purity in nature that this artificial world just cannot duplicate.

“Help me to love better this year,” was my prayer as I read over 1 Corinthians 13. It was a deeply humbling experience when my Pastor friend once encouraged me to lead the Bible study on these verses once. I never forgot it. We’ve all read those words so much they’ve become like a nursery rhyme. Just about every Christian wedding we hear it. But when I studied it, I saw how incompletely I really do love.

I see Jesus staggering with the cross up the hill. That is 1 Corinthians 13 personified. I saw Him forgive the mockers. I saw Him return from the dead and ask Peter if He still loved Him. I saw true love. And someday, I will see it radiating from His eyes when He looks at me. How can I not try to love better?

I see this past year and it’s staggering how far we’ve come, what we’ve been through. How I struggled with this move and now we are on the other side. It’s been a year of joys and turmoil. Equal parts fear and faith. Equal parts stress and anxiety, but also resounding love because we know who is on the trail ahead of us. We carry our home with us, in more ways than one. He is our true North. This year, and every other.

So it’s on to 2017 with Jesus. We are heading to the coast to bring in the New Year. I see hope ahead.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

 

Dawn: I only have time for Eternity

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“Praises and canticles anticipate each day the singing bells that wake the sun. Open the secret eye of faith and drink these deeps of invisible light”……Thomas Merton 

Yesterday was a tough day for me. I knew this would be hard, packing up this place has been like packing up part of myself. How do you go about doing that? This little home, the most humble of all the homes God has blessed us with has felt more like home than any of them. It’s been a place of tremendous comfort and joy.

So I packed some and I cried some. By the end of the day I was worn out. But this morning I may have turned a corner into the new Chapter. Maybe I did. It was slight, like a chord change that takes place somewhere deep in your soul. The Holy Spirit speaks in a whisper.

It was hard to walk out into the shop yesterday and see a whole wall blank, but this morning I went out and it was like it’s always been. Today I needed some Thomas Merton so I took his little “Book of Hours” with me. His words breathed life and freshness through my soul like the wind through the pines.

Today, if you are reading this, do this one thing. Go easy on yourself. It’s what I have needed to do and you need it too. Life is hard. Give yourself time to adjust to the winds of change that sometimes blow more fiercely than you anticipated. Get help from an outside source if you need it. Sometimes the body is fine but the weary heart and mind need a physician.

Here is a partial reading for the Sunday Chapter:

“Meanwhile, the most wonderful moment of the day is that when creation in its innocence asks permission to “be” once again, as it did on that first morning that ever was. 

All wisdom seeks to collect and manifest itself at that blind sweet point. Man’s wisdom does not succeed, for we have fallen into self-mastery and cannot ask permission of anyone. We face our mornings as men of undaunted purpose. 

We know the time and dictate the terms. We know what time is. 

For the birds, there is not a time that they tell. But he virgin point between darkness and light. Between being and non-being. 

Here is an unspeakable secret: paradise is all around us and we do not understand. It is wide open. The sword is taken away, but we do not know it. We are off “one to his farm and one to his merchandise.” 

Lights on, clocks ticking. Thermostats working. Stoves cooking. Electric shavers filling the radio with static. Wisdom, cries the dawn deacon, but we do not attend.”  Book of Hours, page 46

I for one, will be present today. Help me to do that, Lord. You have given birth to a new day and that is always a gift. I thank you for today and whatever it brings. Because whatever it is, you will meet me there.

Day is done…….

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It’s growing late….earlier I watched stars shyly make their sequined appearance one by one in the cobalt sky. Humans and animals alike have settled into deep breathing for the rhythm of the night has caught us all. The house creaks, and the events of the day flutter, collect, and float down and gather at my feet coming to greet me again here in my quiet chair. I smile, for it was a good day. Soon all the lights will go out for me and I will say a prayer and talk to God unless I fall asleep first. Later, in the deep dark when it’s morning but not quite morning, worry will come to find me. But I am ready for it. I have the 23rd Psalm.

Times like these I reach for Merton’s hours. So now I look for Monday and it’s here:

Let us live in this love and this happiness, you and I and all of us, in the love of Christ and in contemplation, for this is where we find ourselves and one another as we truly are. It is only in this love that we at last become real. For it is here that we most truly share the life of One God in three Persons.

Thomas Merton, A Book of Hours.

Usually, you just don’t need that many words……..I am finding that out. The more I write, the more I realize that to be a good writer, you need to be an even better editor.

When the soul quiets

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A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No man can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire. Thomas Merton
 
By this time in December you are in one of two places. You are either madly scrambling around because you just realized that Christmas is less than one week away, or you have conceded that whatever has not been done up to this point will not get done and you can begin to relax and really enjoy pre-Christmas.
 
I am at the latter stage.  True Christmas can only be ushered in when the soul quiets. The world is outside and it continues to spin wildly out of control, but I try to back off. I try not to call people on the freeway names, although this time of the year it is increasingly difficult, even with the Jesus sticker deterrent on the back window.
 
This falls under the: “I am a Christian, but I am still human category.”
 
I daydream by the tree before the light of dawn creeps over the Superstitions. I realize it will soon be packed away along with the nativity scenes, but Jesus will stay.
 
In the quiet of my soul I imagine sitting by a window with big, fat flakes of snow falling outside and a fire on the hearth inside and the peace that happens when all the clamour and noise of life is far away.
 
That’s when you can hear God.
 
I look around and I realize how much I dearly value the people in my life, here once more with me at the close of another year. When you can look in their eyes and see eternity reflected back it’s not just a silly jewelry commercial, it’s why God came to this earth.
 
It’s the seeking and saving of that which was lost, all of us, and not only us, the whole creation. 
 
Just imagine if you will, alongside myriads of angels and us bowing before the Throne, the giant redwood and the smallest of woodland creatures doing the same. And why shouldn’t they? They will once again know a world without fear. The one Sin stole.
 
And all around us, while we see evidence of the brokenness of creation, we also see its mending. People who will not give up. People who will continue to risk their own lives for the poor, the broken, the weak.
 
The defenseless. The ones too weak and powerless to do anything about their own condition.
 
It’s God paying ransom with His very own Son. 
 

Unwrapping His Promises

How long we wait, with minds as quiet as time………….Thomas Merton

And if you give yourself to the hungry
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness
And your gloom will become like midday.
 “And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
“Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age-old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.
Isaiah 58:10-12

 
My time in the desert has taught me much. When the heat stretches on and you see no end, you long to escape it. You drive up north, you go to the coast, or you go to the theater or the mall. You learn to adjust what you do. You learn from the little creatures you see that somehow thrive, and it inspires you too to go on. This imagery is easy for us desert dwellers. But here, God is trying to teach a different kind of lesson.

A lesson for when the soul is parched and needs refreshing.

He is trying to teach us a new way of living for when life burns you out. We say, “I need a trip to the Spa,” But He tells us we need to give to those who have less. New life, new energy, new hope is found when we do for others, and when we lean on Him in the doing. In a way, God is saying, “Get your mind off yourself and you will feel better.”

But unless we also harness the power of the Holy Spirit, we will quickly be burned out. It’s only when we join hands with the Creator that this regeneration and refreshment happen. The body might be beat, but inside the Spirit leaps.

In caretaking I have found this to be true. As soon as I stop harnessing God’s power, I find my anger flaring up at all those little moments….a shirt getting stuck on the hanger, her pacing back and forth, her opening and closing the door 10 times.

I focus on a Motorhome that sits idle in storage for the lack of freedom to just get up and go. I lament the loss of freedom and say it’s not fair. What is fair? People in Haiti are living in tents and have no clean water.

It wasn’t fair the Jesus had to go to the cross but He did. And now despite everything I deserve, I get Heaven here and now. And for eternity. With that in view, I can be more than a conqueror.

Whatever we are going through here and now, it is only for a season. And there are blessings everywhere we turn when we have the Lord to refresh us in all those scorched places in life.

Let’s unwrap His promises today, the basket is overflowing……..