Posted in Living this Life

River of Delights

Well, I didn’t expect that this morning.

Sitting out on my back porch, writing another boring journal entry of what I am missing, places I am not going … a bit numb of heart and mind, if I’m being honest.

I don’t know if you’re anything like me, but what word would you use to describe your heart during these trying times? Anxious? Confused? Maybe angry or frustrated. Often bored, sometimes detached. Emotional? Definitely. These are usually the richest days of my year. The days we get the live what we were made for – individually and as a family. And here I sit on my back porch, trying to find something to write to capture another week/month filled with laundry, [more] organizing and random home projects, and more meals cooked than ever in my life. Feeling bored and a bit useless. It’s hard not to grieve.

But my Jesus. He finds a way. Here’s how it went.

My journal entry from a few days ago contains these words, “I continue to feel a bit numb these days. I’m spending time with Jesus, meeting with Him each morning, and He sustains me, meets me, gives me precious promises. But I long for life! For that spark that makes me excited for this day…” With nothing to really look forward to, our days can become a monotonous repetition of the day before and we’re all feeling it.

Then these words came along, swung me sideways, and left me on my knees before Almighty God. “He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness” Psalm 107:9

Longing and hungry soul – I can relate to that.
Satisfied? Filled? Not so much.

So what stands in that gap? No one but me. And thus I sank to my knees.

I must confess, when I first read these words, I thought about what He would give me to satisfy my longing – where will You take me? What will You provide to fill this aching?

And the naked truth is – He already has. Read on – “My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” (Ps 84:2). And this – “They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house and You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures… My people shall be satisfied with MY goodness, says the Lord” (Ps 36:8; Jer. 31:14)

Maybe my biggest problem isn’t everything the news cycle screams at me. Maybe my biggest problem is me – where I am looking for satisfaction. Some days we may be doing the right thing, making a difference in the world, being busy for God – but is this where my joy lies? Because when it is all stripped away and I feel so naked, the truth about me is revealed. In this quiet, in this “lack of purpose”, my God is the same. And the river of pleasures He provides hasn’t shifted one little bit.

Spend a few minutes here with me … There was a time in the nation of Israel when they lost everything “normal”. They were taken to the foreign land of Babylon and suddenly their world was upside down. Feels a bit like 2020 right now – only instead of us being taken away to Babylon, it feels like Babylon has moved in and claimed our world. It suddenly seems like we’re living in a foreign land and it’s hard to find your place in it at times.

So those Israelites? They spent their days longing for what they had lost. Pining for the day they would return. In the middle of all this restlessness, God sends them this message: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jeremiah 29:4-7)

foreign land 2foreign land

Do you feel like you’re in exile some days? Like you step out of your house and see a foreign land around you? Come into this place with me – camp here a while and let these truths soak deep into your bones. Right here, in the place – find the beauty.

God has not forgotten us. And He invites us into the beauty with Him. These words from Andrew Peterson have shone a light on the path I walk these days – “Uncertainty is no reason to stop adding to the beauty of the world. We don’t know what’s coming. Write songs anyway. Make pies. Plant gardens. Why? First of all, you might be in Babylon for longer than you think. Second of all, gardens are beautiful. And beauty is one of the best ways to fight the darkness… because the love that lives in beauty lasts forever. It is unshakeable. So step out into the … world and plant whatever garden God has called you to plant. Pull the weeds of injustice and evil. Plant so much beauty that it chokes out the poison.”

Plant so much beauty that it chokes out the poison.

Do you feel like the world is burning down around you? Like you don’t recognize your “normal”anymore? Come, plant a garden with me. I don’t know how yours will look – it may not involve dirt and seeds, but I know it starts with Jesus. Letting Him be enough. Just Jesus.

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It’s the only real soil to plant a garden in. That satisfaction that we get from whatever we find as our identity? The fun and laughter we found in places we used to go? The grieving, the restlessness, the desire for more that we are prone to feel in the absence of the familiar? It’s all starting to feel a bit like what Paul described as a “man beating the air” (1 Co. 9:26)

Can we stop chasing the wind and just let Jesus be enough?

To “place yourself in the way of His allurement” as Jonathan Edwards beautifully describes. To let your breath catch in wonder as you watch the flower slowly open. To find some documentary on creatures on the bottom of the ocean (try The Riot and the Dance: water) and try to wrap your mind around the God who put them there, and then splashed them with color and humor that can hardly be described. To simply think that He created all the wonders of the galaxies, calls each star by name, knows every sparrow in the sky, and yet engraves our names on the palm of His hand. (Is 49:16)

“May we chase your mercies over ragged hills, pursue your song through the sparse and layered lyric of sculpted deserts, marvel at your mystery fixed in the wheeling designs of stars overhead. May we hear it in the coos and calls of owls and small creatures that fidget in the night, trace it in the leaping dance of campfire flames, and sense it in the sweet incense of pine and leafmeal” (Doug McKelvey)

All this quiddity has a purpose beyond pure exultation.  For “all of God’s creation becomes a beam to be “looked along” or a sound to be “heard along” or a fragrance to be “smelled along” or a flavor to be “tasted along” or a touch to be “felt along”.  All our senses become partners with the eyes of the heart in perceiving the glory of God through the physical world” (Piper)

To taste and see that the Lord is good! (Ps 34:18). To let that soak deep into who you are until you are changed “now that you have tasted that the Lord is good!” (1 Peter 2:3) To be strengthened in the safety of this – “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure… I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. (Ps 16:5; 8)

Oh, be refreshed by this, my friend! Let the dew of His goodness soften all those hard places! “I will be like the dew to Israel…” (Ps 133:3)

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him” (Ps 62:5)

Or if you prefer Mary Poppins’ theology – “We’re on the brink of an adventure children! Don’t spoil it with too many questions!”

I’m already starting to feel more alive. Just writing these words feels like a jumpstart for my heart. I know it doesn’t solve all the injustices that swirl around us, the screaming headlines that can challenge our peace, the questions that rage. But it’s a place to stand. A place to be. A gift of joy in the midst of the chaos. Stability that can’t be shaken.

Just Jesus.

He is enough.

the path

 

Posted in Living this Life

The God who thought up noses…

I don’t know if it’s happened to you, but sometimes something as simple as a word can come to you and turn your whole life upside down.

Or maybe it makes everything somehow more “right”.

It’s the moment you discover that the strange ache you’ve carried with you all your life has a word, and that word somehow gives it context, and allows you to breathe in a fresh way.

It was 1996, I believe. I was sitting in Jerry Root’s class at Wheaton College and he said the word. It was used often by Lewis and oozes through his writings – and it describes something I had innately sensed my whole life, but never had a way to describe it. This started a life long fascination with how to fold this perspective into my daily life.

I know – I’m taking forever to get to it. I feel a little vulnerable here – kind of like that kid on the baseball field who is chasing a butterfly when a fly ball is coming her way.

Quiddity.

Try wrapping your tongue around that one. It’s kinda delicious, dontcha think? Makes a great scrabble word – although I have yet to find an opportunity to use it. And don’t try to google it … there’s not a whole lot out there besides a sterile and boring dictionary definition about the essence of a thing. I’m going to lean on Lewis to explain this a bit better:

…”Jenkins seemed to be able to enjoy everything, even ugliness. I learned from him that we should attempt a total surrender to whatever atmosphere was offering itself at the moment; in a squalid town, seek out those very places where its squalor rose to grimness and almost grandeur, on a dismal day to find the most dismal and dripping wood, on a windy day to seek the windiest ridge. There was not Betjemannic irony about it; only a serious, yet gleeful, determination to rub one’s nose in the very quiddity of each thing, to rejoice in its being (so magnificently) what it was.” (Surprised by Joy)

This comes alive every time you stop to admire the beautiful intricacy of a spiderweb – before removing it from the corner of the living room… again. Or tilt your face up as you walk to the car during an unexpected rain storm – letting yourself feel the cool wetness running down your cheeks. When the option is hide your face while you get wet or throw out your arms and glory in it, what will you do?

Every time a firefly makes you catch your breath with wonder. (I mean, it’s a bug… with a toosh… that glows! Come on!!) This would also be an good time to take a little rabbit trail and listen to the song “Fireflies” by Owl City. https://youtu.be/psuRGfAaju4

Piper puts it like this: “Lewis gave me an intense sense of the “realness” of things. The preciousness of this is hard to communicate. To wake up in the morning and be aware of the firmness of the mattress, the warmth of the sun’s rays, the sound of the clock ticking, the sheer being of things (“quiddity” as he calls it). He helped me become alive to life. He helped me see what is there in the world—things that, if we didn’t have, we would pay a million dollars to have, but having them, ignore. He made me more alive to beauty. He put my soul on notice that there are daily wonders that will waken worship if I open my eyes. (Don’t Waste Your Life)

I don’t know what your personal world looks like right now. But I’m guessing it looks different. Some of you are stuck home, getting bored and restless. Some of you are on the front lines, working those long shifts at the hospital, stocking grocery shelves, or trouble- shooting for your employees who need to keep getting paid, perhaps. I know there’s a lot of different feelings. And I know I can’t fix it – and that’s the hardest part of it all. That helpless feeling.

So we do all we can … but when the room gets quiet and the anxiety tries to creep in – the fears about what next week or next month might look like. What the bank account will look like. That haunting loneliness that sets in – the racing thoughts that hit when it’s too quiet around you. What do we do then?

We live this moment fully. That’s really all we have, isn’t it? That cup of coffee – the warm blanket. The sound of your kids laughing – or the sound of your kids fighting. It’s the sound of your kids – let the smile flicker across your face. The rain that won’t stop – watch the way it trickles down the window – wonder at the beauty reflected in that fleeting moment. See if you can find the many layers of grey that pile up in the sky on the gloomiest day of the week. The pile of laundry to fold – again… let the warm smell of clean clothes envelop you. Just for a moment.

Let the adventure wrap itself around you – even if it stays mainly in your living room. Find the fingerprints of God all around you – He’s showing Himself in all the little places, and it’s breathtaking. Let’s curl our toes in the warm mud of this different place we’re all in and find out what God’s up to.

“”We must smell and, as Chesterton said, marvel at the God who thought up noses. Feel the texture-filled world and let sun, wind, and rain wash our faces.”  – Jon Bloom

“Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of Your wings. They feast on the abundance of Your house; You give them to drink from Your river of delights. For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light, we see light” Psalm 35:7-10

 

 

Additional reading:

Every Moment Holy – Doug McKelvey

Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life – Tish Harrison Warren

Posted in Living this Life

The heavens declare

I got to take a drive today. It felt good …

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It’s easy to feel “trapped” these days. We feel like we need a reason to go somewhere – but how about just stepping out on your porch? Take a drive around the block? Let’s be creative, let’s be smart, but let’s keep breathing!

“The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the works of His hands!” Psalm 19:1

“Step outside your front door and look at today’s stage. Speak. God will reply.

He will speak to you.

He gave you senses. Use them. He will parade His art. He will give you a scene, a setting for the day. He will give you conflict to overcome, opportunities for your character to grow or fail. But do not expect Him to speak in English. And do not expect Him to stay on whatever topic you may choose… You are on your porch. Look at the blue sky…” ND Wilson

“Fear not. Peace be to you. Be strong, yes, be strong! So when He spoke to me, I was strengthened…” Daniel 10:19