A Soul at Rest

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O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
From this time forth and forever.

Psalm 131

It’s a wonderful thing to think about isn’t it? That our soul can be completely quieted by resting in the Lord, as rested as a weaned child. I love when I stumble on a verse I either haven’t read in a long time, or don’t remember reading at all. It’s like it opens up a brand new vista just when I need it most. This morning, I asked for a word because I had nothing and then after prayer the words flowed out without me even trying.

Jesus said,  Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?

Yes, indeed. This morning was a gift, as I sat outside in the breeze I quieted my soul by noticing little things……a dried leaf skittering across the ground. The sound of the little bee wind chime which has a delicate sound that the big clanging buoy bell tries its best to drown out. A hummingbird chirp was coming from somewhere but I never saw it. When the world is turned down and the soul is quieted, you can hear these things.

Last night I went out and gazed at the bright wedge of moon and thought that faith in God is very much like that moon without anything shining on it. We know it’s up there but only when the sun is shining on it do we see it. Every day I see faith living itself out in the land where the shadow of death hangs.

I see the man who comes preaching and singing to Joyce’s care home. What a tough crowd, half of them have their heads down on the table. But He is doing what God calls him to do, and I don’t know how he does it week after week but he does. And with joy too.

I see Elaine having to change her Mom’s clothes, a thing that horrifies them both but they do what they have to do. And I don’t know how she does it, but she does. Faith living itself out no matter what, because like that moon, we can’t see Him but we know He’s there and there is hope because He lives and He’s with us, every step we take however painful.

Right now I am reading a wonderful book I  found called “The Green Desert” a silent retreat. It’s written by Rita Winters. She quit her high stress advertising job and went on a 3 week retreat in the Sonoran desert. I highly recommend it. As I read her descriptions of the desert I know so well, I thought how blessed I have been to have lived here in this Hermitage I call my home for 8 years now.

The desert speaks to you if you let it. It teaches you what no other place can, it speaks of lonely sun-scorched places and turns the quiet up in your soul. The death in the landscape all around you, the severity of it all makes it that much more beautiful when it surprises you with life. Powerful resurrected life that has the power to take your breath away.

And it gives you the sense at night when you look up at all those stars amidst the shadow of those towering sentinels, the Saquaros, that they are bearing witness to something older and bigger than you.

You recognize there is another side to it all and you can sense it. Beyond the blackness, beyond space there is a ring of light so brilliant we aren’t prepared to see it yet. Our eyes are still too attuned to this world, but just the same they are there. The crowd of witnesses the Bible talks about is there. And just today I realized I didn’t have to question if they can see us, because a witness sees who and what it’s witnessing.

And like the moon, like God, just because we can’t see them unless the light is shining on them, doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

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How I quit my Bible plan and started reading the Bible

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Recently I started a Bible reading plane via the You Version app on my phone.  At first I was doing great. I had the best of intentions. I wanted to read it cover to cover in a year and I chose the version I thought would give me a good balance, a section from the Old and a section from the New Testament each day.

I cruised through Genesis……then came Exodus. I started to lag behind with the book of Numbers. And I got really, really bored. Oh, the endless rules and regulations, the sacrifices. It was just too much.

I started to skip over whole sections. I thought….”I have read all this before.”

Then I got behind for days at a time.

I found the section called “Catch me up.” You task-oriented folks will know what I am talking about. I hated to have “unchecked boxes” and unfinished sections.

You all probably know where I am heading with this already.

Yup, I had succeeded in making my daily Bible routine into nothing more than a religious ritual.

I made it just another thing on the To Do list

I had succeeded in virtually squeezing the life right out of the Word. I had made it as dry as the toast of all the rules and laws that had bored me to tears in the Old Testament.

It started out as a Spiritual discipline and ended up being something that made me feel fatigued and like a failure.

So I quit my Bible plan, and now I am back to reading the life back into the Word. I feel the fresh stream flowing with life infused with the Holy Spirit again.

I think the reading plans are great, mind you, and I love the You Version on my phone. I just felt the Lord asking me why I was making it something He never meant it to be.

An obligation

So now I am back to reading for the right reasons, out of a sincere love for God and wanting Him to know how I value the words He penned just for me, for you, for all of us.

And I feel the difference.

Who but God goes up to heaven and comes back down?
Who holds the wind in his fists?
Who wraps up the oceans in his cloak?
Who has created the whole wide world?

What is his name—and his son’s name?
Tell me if you know! Every word of God proves true.
 He is a shield to all who come to him for protection. Proverbs 30:4,5

Letting the rain speak

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I was presented with a gift this morning, it was the pitter patter of rain on my little tin roof. I thought I should give God the respect to stop and listen instead of opening my windbag of prayer requests right away, so I settled back and did just that. Thank you God, for letting me hear You in it this morning. Rain is somewhat of a miraculous thing in the desert. It makes the news. We go outside and gaze at the clouds to see what direction they’re moving to see if we will get more. And Arizona is the only place I have ever experienced the curious phenomena of rain in the front yard and blue skies in the back.

The thought of rain can incite different things when you are in a tent.  Fear and dread. Of course the sound of rain on canvas has its own kind of magic, but it’s never a good feeling when you realize you forgot the plastic tarp.

After I thanked God for the gift of the rain, I brought a few before the Throne. For me there is always a readjustment of sorts when I pray, a pulling back, thinking who do I think I am anyway, to enter into that Holy of Holies? Then I remember that when He looks at me He sees me just as I am, but He also sees His Son superimposed in my heart. He tells me that I should come boldly before the Throne, so I do.

Once again I run like a kid into my Daddy’s office where He’s working and though sometimes I think He has every right to shoo me away impatiently He never does. He grabs me……and hugs me, and in His eyes I see nothing but love.

Today in my Bible reading plan, one of the Chapters was Matthew 10. I wondered how it applied to me, here in my comfortable chair, here in my place of peace. I will probably never be flogged in any synagogue, or be brought before any governing authority and be questioned about my faith. I haven’t cured anyone of leprosy lately, or of anything else for that matter.

But this is what I love about Jesus. He spoke to me in those verses anyway. And just when I was feeling like I was less than anyone I read about in Scripture, He assured me that He loves me very much. And as He spoke to my heart, He told me the most important thing I could do here in my corner of the world is to be a conduit for His love, and to not let those things like anger, bitterness, impatience crop up so that the gifts of His Holy Spirit can’t come through.

And He also told me that this little blog can be a perfectly good testimony for Him because in it, I tell others what wonderful things He does in my life, every single day.

Thanks, God. You just have a way of reminding me everyday of just how wonderfully you love me.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:22-25

Spirituality versus Religion

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There was a song by Aaron Tippin called, “You’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.” I was thinking of these lyrics the other day when I heard about the study done just recently in England. The study was done on people who readily identified themselves as “Spiritual” as opposed to those affiliated with an established “Religious framework.” This one concluding statement encapsulates the results of their findings:

“People who have a spiritual understanding of life in the absence of a religious framework are vulnerable to mental disorder.”

I usually take studies with a grain of salt. I think we take too many studies that mean nothing. We waste money we don’t have on studies that most people will never know about. However, this one I found interesting because in the last 10 or 20 years I have noticed that “spiritual” demographic growing. I couldn’t count the many times I have heard it in conversation. It is somehow okay and permissible to be “spiritual” but not okay to be “religious” and especially not Christian. That stirs all kinds of moral and ethical questions we would rather not deal with. So being spiritual is for many a good alternative.

But there is a problem with being just “spiritual.” There is no one definition or set of values associated with it. Or is there? I have noticed some things about people who embrace spirituality but not any form of organized religion or belief system. They usually say that all religions are the same. Or they reject it altogether.

They also say that there are many paths to God and that all religions lead there. And if they are not religious at all, they will say that as long as they follow what they define as right they will be okay in the end. So if they follow some golden rule of ethics and rules of conduct they will measure up to God’s standards. But they are not really sure who God is either. They reject the idea of the God of the Bible, because what they have heard or read about that God seems mean, vengeful and outdated.

Their God is better. He is more manageable, more palatable. He doesn’t expect them to do anything except be themselves. He is a big, fluffy fuzzball of love. And being Spiritual doesn’t cost them a thing. And the thing is, I can understand why they have arrived there.

I am afraid for this group. I know some people in it. Too many people. And far too many of our young people. Sorry to say, many of them have watched their parents who have been lifelong churchgoers. They have seen a cheap and easy grace and a faith that makes little or no impact on how they live their lives.

Yesterday sitting in church, I felt just a little bit like Paul felt. My heart ached for those without roots. Those who think they are so solid in their belief system they convince others to go down the same shaky path. They are seeking the peace and rest that only Jesus can provide. I want to tell them their desire to be spiritual is right. It has been grafted into all of our hearts like a seed, planted by none other than God himself.

But Jesus is the only one who can make it grow.

I want to tell them how incredibly good it is to love God. And how nothing in this world compares to the joy of knowing He loves me and there is nothing He wouldn’t do to reach them……. just like He has reached me.

I want to tell them not to hang their whole eternal destination on a false definition of Christianity, on what they perceive about Christians.

Because one glimpse of Jesus is all they need.  One glimpse of God on a cross silences any argument we could ever have about whether or not God loves us.

The roots of the cross go deeper than anything this world has to offer.

Meet me today at the foot of it with Jesus.

We can heal together.