Soul of My Soul

Sometime after 1985 I read a book by Catherine de Hueck Doherty. Chapter 15 covered The Great Pool of Silence. “The silence of love, coming from a pure heart, will examine with wisdom all that is said to me, and this love will determine my response.” That is an incredible challenge to someone like me who tends to respond immediately off the top of her head! “In this holy silence, we learn discernment.”

When we moved I let go many of the books I owned. I kept a copy of her Soul of my Soul.

She wrote, “The silence is the silence of love. My heart is silent, and thus there is created an inner space where I weigh my words…. Into this great pool of silence can be thrown all sorts of words.. The silence of love, coming from a pure heart, will examine with wisdom all that is said (by me and) to me, and this love will determine my response. Years ago I copied her thoughts into a cross stitched saying for my laundry room. “The great pool of silence is the laundry room of the Spirit.” That is still in a box somewhere. Hopefully I held on to it! The great pool of silence. Have you been there lately?

Have you wondered the value of silence? Have you tried to enter the pool of silence? It is very difficult in our age of constant bombardment by TV, smart phone, computers, radio, etc. When you do set aside time to try entering silence you can be discouraged by being flooded with thoughts. Even after years of practice it can be difficult to enter into silence. I do not believe it is impossible though. I think it is well worth our efforts and we should endeavor to do it with the help of God.

There have been many tomes written about the value of silence. I will not try to quote them all here. If you are interested I have learned much from the writer John Main Word into Silence, The Way of Unknowing and others titles. Also Sue Monk Kidd in When the Heart Waits Chapter 6, “Concentrated Stillness.”

“How do we fashion an environment in which we become stripped and stilled, in which the ego patterns of a lifetime begin to move away from the center and our innermost spiritual life is reconstellated?”

Kidd continued “I’ve been impressed with the emphasis that Quakers place on the concept of Christ as one who teaches us from within, of the Holy Spirit as the Inward Guide. What would happen if we took this seriously? What if we turned to the Inward Guide to lead us through our waiting?

There was an old cereal advertisement that said, “Hey, Mikey! You like it!” This might be your response if you are willing to try this sort of prayer, centering silence, asking the Lord Almighty to cleanse you in the pool of silence. Oh Lord, unless you wash us we cannot be clean.

Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,
And in the hidden part [of my heart] You will make me know wisdom.

Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Psalm 51:6-7 AMP

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:

In returning and rest you shall be saved;

    in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.

But you refused

Isaiah 30:15 NRSV

What a Relief!

We have been suffering the extreme heat along with the rest of the nation. This morning the sky is pouring rain. Not drizzle but downpour. I guess one of those clouds finally decided to bless our sod and the yards of our neighbors.

I have spent quite a bit of time consuming Mark Buchanan’s book “The Holy Wild.” It was so meaty I decided to savor it. Then it got lost in the shuffle. I finally determined to finish the book. What a blessing. The subtitle is “Trusting in the Character of God.”

Here is the publisher blurb to draw you in:

“Our perception of God makes a difference in every crevice of our character, from our inner anxieties to our public conversations. It determines whether we’re trusting or suspicious, whether we’re happy or discontent – and whether or not we can rely on God matters mightily on the day of our death. Mark Buchanan’s third book continues his penetrating exploration of the God we worship. Bravely and honestly, he poses the direst question of human existence: Can God be trusted?

“It’s life drunk deeply, lived to the hilt—where we walk with the God who is surprising, dangerous, and mysterious. It’s the terrain where God doesn’t make sense out of our disasters and our boredom, but keeps meeting us in the thick of them.

“But unless we trust in His character, we’ll never venture in. We will sit at the stream all day, dying of thirst, but not daring to drink. To follow God is to drink and drink from the stream, even if it means—especially if it means—getting swallowed up.

“Let Mark Buchanan show you the entrance to the Holy Wild, where you can live face-to-face with the beautiful, dangerous God of creation.”

The idea of “unless we trust in His character we will sit at the stream all day, dying of thirst, but not daring to drink” really pulled me in. I have had many prayer experiences with the image of the stream of Living Water.

37 On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, 38 and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’”

John 7:37-38

There is a river in Psalm 46 whose streams make glad the city of God. I believe that includes the citizens. Do you simply sit by the stream or do you dare drink from it? Have you asked the Lord to help you slip your feet into the stream, then your lower body and perhaps your entire self? Have you been for a swim in this holy stream? Have you allowed the Lord to wash you in this holy water from Him? Soak in it?

If not, why not try this during your next quiet time? He has promised there is a river of living water flowing in your heart, i.e., the depths of your being. Are you willing to accept His gift?

What if our yard or the neighbors new sod across the street refused to accept this blessed downpour this morning? What if their sod said, “No thanks. I don’t trust that water. Give me water from the ch-ch-chuk rotating sprinkler any ole’ time. Not that downpour stuff that occurs so unreliably.”

Unlike rain from the sky the river of Living Water runs continuously within us as we stay joined to , abiding in the Lord Jesus Christ. He gives the water, not the clouds or weather systems.

What are you waiting for? If your soul is dry and thirsty now is the time to drink deeply from His eternal source.

Prayer Warrior?

She said, “I am very thankful for your insights. I have so much to learn. Don’t we all, I suppose? I would love for you to teach me more about prayer and how you came to be the prayer warrior you are. It has never come easily to me, and I know having more time in prayer with the Lord would dramatically grow my faith. If you’re willing, maybe we can figure out how you could best teach me?”

That was one email that sat me down hard. I feel as if at age 70 I am just now learning the prayer life. So I thought about her request. Prayer warrior is someone willing to pray for others. That simple.

The very first thing that comes to mind is just talk to God. Define a request and then let’s go together to Him and discuss it. In Scripture it says

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

Mark 10:51a

Jesus likes me to be specific. Not to the point of dictating to Him what He SHOULD do in any given situation, but rather, what I am asking. Good communication is based upon truth.

Take delight in the Lord,

    and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4

If I take delight in Him, He will put His desires in my heart. When I pray for those desires, how can I go wrong?

I find that so many people are at a loss for words when it comes to speaking to God, or even speaking their heart to anyone. Years ago, one woman told me repeatedly, “You always give me the words.” I do not believe you have to be a “word smith” to pray well, but you do need to be able to express what your heart desires. Otherwise, how will you know when your prayer is answered?

When I pray for others I try to practice my best listening skills. Then say back to the person what I think they said, “Is this how you want me to pray?”

How did I become a prayer warrior? Well it was certainly gradual! I read the New Testament believing the passage that “God is no respecter of persons.” Acts 10:34 in various translations says, “Then Peter began to speak: ‘I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism.'” Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to people in the book of Acts after His resurrection and ascension. He would give it to me for the asking. So I believed and asked. Romans 2:11 reads “for God does not show favoritism or partiality.” If the anointing of the Holy Spirit could be given 2,000 years ago, it can be given today. He gave to me in various ways at various times.

Then the Old Testament passages about giving a word to others in due season.

The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue,

    to know the word that sustains the weary.

He wakens me morning by morning,

    wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.

Isaiah 50:4 NIV

Listen carefully. Pray accordingly. Not adding my editorial. Just praying.

Perhaps one of the strongest lessons I have had is to “Leave it at the altar.” When we pray for others we are to leave our requests at the altar and walk away. We were not designed to carry the burdens of the world on our shoulders. If you are ever to be an effective intercessor you must learn how to release those burdens to God….and leave them there. If the Holy Spirit intends for you to pray about this again, you will know. He is neither vague or ineffective in His promptings. The point is to not walk about worrying about the prayer concern. Just pray and release the concern to God.

Those are my thoughts for now. Hopefully they inspire and assist in your prayer journey.

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints

Ephesians 6:13,18 KJV

Having done all, stand.

Thoughts and Phrases

I collect quotes and ideas as I go along day by day. Recently I realized I had a BUNCH of them and should begin sharing them. I try to record the authors, but at times I simply do not know who said or wrote it. Here are a few for you to ponder and apply.

Have you ever been hard on yourself? Critical of your every move and conversation? When you are having a particularly dark day this might help. I found it to be a great balm to my soul.

“A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.”

Christopher K. Germer

I once had a spiritual director named Marie. Each time we would meet she would send me off after our sharing with the statement, “Be gentle with yourself.” We are usually our own worst enemy. Just sit down on occasion and be quiet.

“It is indeed a radical act of love just to sit down and be quiet for a time by yourself.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn

A little glimpse through my word picture …

“Low-lying black clouds were shifting in thick, grotesque shapes across a fat full moon.”

Molly L. Dutina

One of my very favorite new to me authors is Charles Martin. Does not matter if I am reading his fiction or other books, there is always more than one idea that stands out to me.

“The cross of Jesus Christ is the place where we give Him all the bad that has come upon us, and He exchanges it for all the good that was due Him.”

Charles Martin What If It’s True

What a grand exchange! Any bad that has occurred in my life can be exchanged in Christ. Rest in that truth. Go make that exchange if you have not already.

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making His appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.”  He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:20-21

In case you did not quite understand, here is an elaborated version!

We are Christ’s ambassadors. God is using us to speak to you: we beg you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, receive the love He offers you—be reconciled to God.  For God took the sinless Christ and poured into Him our sins. Then, in exchange, He poured God’s goodness into us!

Living Bible 2 Corinthians 5:20-21

Have a blessed Sunday.

We have plants!!

When we moved here in May we placed a special order for what plants we wanted in our front flower beds. The first order they brought to us was wrong so we sent it back. Then we had to wait for the sod to get established before they could being us the correct plants since they would bring mulch and drive over the yard to bring the plants with machines.

So we waited. And Miranda in the office went on vacation. And we waited and finally one day they brought the plants!

Oak tree looks a little tipsy, but it will get established.

The shrubs are butterfly bush (near door) and sweet viburnum (near corner of building). We asked for Vitex which is a native butterfly bush. Not certain they found one, but the shrubs are in now. The other plants in front bed we brought with us from the old house. Rose and ferns. Bought the rose blooming brightly below. It lived in a plastic bag for a couple months before getting planted in a 5 gallon bucket. There is also calla lily which began as a spring houseplant. I find it amazing that all these plants can be grown, transplanted, re-established and flourish in new surroundings.

The edge of the sidewalk has some iris from the other house, oregano and columbine plus new Astilbe which are not blooming. (Well, there is one dried flower on the Astilbe.) I will eventually put spring bulbs in there. The broad leaves are amaryllis which will be taken up in autumn, dried and re-potted for winter blooming. You can just see the stone that says Bob and Molly’s garden – a gift from friends. And, of course, little black fence to discourage the dog from wandering into or taking a shortcut through the flower beds!

On the corner is a purple hydrangea that was a housewarming gift, hosta from other house and the new small decorative grass.

Hosta and decorative grass repeat on other side of garage door. We are delighted. Just praying and wishing for rain. Soaked the tree once and will need to soak it again until it seems established.

Watched a sermon on being rooted in Christ. Wonder how long it takes an oak to be rooted on Platform Street?

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Colossians 2:6-7 NIV

Praise Him!

Are you familiar with the hymns of Fanny Crosby? One hymnal I own has 19 hymns written by her. It has been said some hymnals were reluctant to publish too many songs by one author so she often used a pseudonym.

Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fanny_Crosby says Frances Jane van Alstyne (née Crosby; March 24, 1820 – February 12, 1915), more commonly known as Fanny Crosby, was an American mission worker, poet, lyricist, and composer. She was a prolific hymnist, writing more than 8,000 hymns and gospel songs,with more than 100 million copies printed. She is also known for her teaching and her rescue mission work. By the end of the 19th century, she was a household name.

One of my garden flags.

So as I spotted my garden flag today I was reminded to sing one of Fanny’s songs. The lyrics are below!

  1. Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer!
    Sing, O Earth, His wonderful love proclaim!
    Hail Him! Hail Him! Highest archangels in glory;
    Strength and honor give to His holy Name!
    Like a shepherd, Jesus will guard His children,
    In His arms He carries them all day long.
    1. Refrain:
      Praise Him! Praise Him! Tell of His excellent greatness;
      Praise Him! Praise Him! Ever in joyful song!
  1. Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer!
    For our sins He suffered, and bled, and died.
    He our Rock, our hope of eternal salvation,
    Hail Him! Hail Him! Jesus the Crucified.
    Sound His praises! Jesus who bore our sorrows,
    Love unbounded, wonderful, deep and strong.
  2. Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer!
    Heav’nly portals loud with hosannas ring!
    Jesus, Savior, reigneth forever and ever;
    Crown Him! Crown Him! Prophet, and Priest, and King!
    Christ is coming! over the world victorious,
    Pow’r and glory unto the Lord belon
    g.

Published by Fanny Crosby 1869 and still the truth resounds in my heart. Always sing my soul, my Savior God to Thee, HOW GREAT THOU ART, how great THOU art. (No she did not write that one. Carl Boberg did.) Keep me centered in your love and power today I pray. Help me lean hard upon You, Lord.

Hold Still

When Bob was hospitalized and almost died my journal from 2018 reads,

Someone wrote: “I had to accept myself in all my gory glory. Sometimes rage, sadness, and a myriad of other strong emotions will be part of your experience, too.” And so it was with me.

Tired. Too tired to read. Often too tired to even eat. Numb with fatigue of body and emotional shock.

Feel. Express. Accept. Move on. Get up. Do it again. Find a way to cope with the shock.

“You can’t be any other place than where you actually are!”

My spiritual discipline for years has been to read the Word, study and pray. Repeat. When our lives hit this huge crisis and he almost died it was difficult and practically impossible to hold to any discipline. I was upheld by the prayers of the church, but my study time failed completely. And then the Lord would drop a line here or there into my mind and spirit to encourage me. “Show us Your mercy, O Lord,” from the morning prayer suffrages, Book of Common Prayer. And I would go forward with whatever the day held for us. Often I prayed the full armor of God from Ephesians 6 as I drove to the hospital or dressed in the hospital bathroom after spending the night with him.

I began to approach the situation with stillness but no presumption that I in any way knew the ultimate result. Though I was often unconsciously holding my breath, there was a stillness in me. The stillness came with a peace that I recognized as coming from God. Reporting the day’s events and blood work results to prayer partners via email, without forecasting the next step or event or outcome was about my only “productive” output.

The stillness was related to Habakkuk 2:20 NRSV “But the Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him!”

Part of my struggle was yielding to the facts and in stillness letting my wishes die, placing my hope in the plans of the Almighty. I could not see the outcome at all, but I trusted His goodness and His love for both myself and my family. I learned that crucified you must hold perfectly still.

I repeat all of that because the lesson came to mind again this past Sunday. A Pastor was teaching from Galatians 5. He said when we come to verse 19 listing some of the works of the flesh we should only think of ourselves, not others. We should hold still, let God point those things out and help us remove them from our lives. We should hold still.

Crucify my flesh.

Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

Galatians 5:24

The Pastor pointed out that being too busy, busy-ness, is a popular American form of running from God. Perhaps you could try for one week the practice I have adopted lately when I am consumed with busy-ness. Taken from John 3:30 breathing in I pray “Lord, You must increase.” Breathing out I pray “I must decrease.” And I continue to consciously breathe and pray until I am centered in Him again. Yielding more of my life to Christ is never time ill spent. Holding still so He can have His perfect way in me is the highest form of living.

Crucifying my flesh is expected of me. If I truly want Christ to live in me through the power of the Holy Spirit I must be willing to put down my passions and desires and pick up His. Not easy, but neither is that impossible. “I will, with God’s help.”

What I Learned Though I Fear Heights

Ever since sliding to the garage floor on an unsecured ladder at about age 6 or 8 I have feared heights. When I heard on the news in 2017 about this guy climbing in Yosemite National Park without ropes to secure him I was terrified on his behalf. Bob had taken me to visit Yosemite on one of our many trips to California. I knew the height of those summits. In my eyes he attempted and accomplished the impossible. In this short but entertaining eleven minute talk you can learn more about him in his own words.

Wikipedia reports that “In 2016, he was subjected to Functional magnetic resonance imaging scans that revealed that, unlike other high sensation seekers, his amygdala barely activates when watching disturbing images. He however confesses feeling fear occasionally. Through imagination and practice, he has desensitized himself to most fearful situations.” MacKinnon, J. B. (June 28, 2018). “The Strange Brain of the World’s Greatest Solo Climber”Nautilus. Retrieved May 11, 2021

He said, “Doubt is the precursor of fear.” On the video I watched as he climbed Half Dome inch by inch. I remembered Peggy Snapp telling me ‘Life by the mile is a trial. Life by the inch is a cinch.’ In the documentary Alex told how he practiced for years. He practiced the handholds going up the rock face with ropes before he tried the free solo ascents.

Before trying the most sensational solo climb he literally practiced for ten years. And now, my challenge is becoming more clear. Am I willing to practice letting pain draw me into God’s Presence even if it takes ten years to feel as if I have accomplished that? Am I willing to return to the Lord over and over again, asking forgiveness for complaining and grace to begin again? The Benedictines say, “Always, we begin again.” They put that truth in a minimum of words and I thank them for that reminder!

Through imagination and practice can I desensitize myself to the disappointment of returning chronic pain? Am I willing to try? Discipline and practice. Oh those do not come easily. Can I become as unflappable and steady as Pat M.W.? Will I push back on the gloom laden cloud of discouragement that often threatens to enshroud me? Am I truly willing to let Jesus in me increase and ask that I decrease, making more space for His rule and reign?

In Full Catastrophe Living, Jon Kabat-Zin writes about the research and findings from teaching heart patients and cancer patients the practice of mindfulness for pain relief and stress relief.

I have the meditation recordings from this book. I used to own the book, but when we moved I let it go. Will I choose to listen to these recordings and bring myself from the panic of nerve pain to the centered life of returning and rest?

Lord, I do not expect to be a world record breaking solo climber. I do not seek any recognition at all. I simply want to live for You, to love and serve You and not be consumed by the physical sensations of my aging body. Help me to, like Paul, choose to “boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Watch and Pray

 “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

Luke 21:34-36 NIV

You do not have to be carousing or participating in drunkenness for your heart to be weighed down. The anxieties of life will do that. Man, don’t I know it’s so!?

Gratefulness does not come easy to us. “First world problems” can invade and weigh us down without our even being aware of it. Suddenly there is no joy, no lightness to life. Everything seems to be going wrong. Nothing is positive. Why do we let this happen to ourselves repeatedly? This was a battle I had to fight as we relocated. Then one day I realized that we were going to “Platform,” ‘our forever home.’ We talk about adopted dogs being given their forever home. Bob and I decided this house will be our forever home unless, God forbid, one of us has to go to a nursing home.

This Platform is where I hope to encounter the Lord in my final years on earth. This Platform is where I hope to graduate to be with Him forever. I am told to “Watch and Pray…” will I be faithful to do that little bit?

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all exhort us to watch and pray. In Colossians, Paul tells us to devote ourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

Sadly we are like the dog character from the movie “Up” who flips his brain and attention every time he senses a “Squirrel.”

There is more at stake here than pleasing an old man who is his master. This discipline will help us to escape all that is about to happen. When Peter lost his focus upon Jesus he began to sink in the stormy water. If we want to ‘be able to stand before the Son of Man” at the end of our earthly life, we must take this discipline seriously. I am not preaching at you. I am reminding myself, too. Nothing good comes from negative, ungrateful thinking; only trouble and the possibility of going under when we should be walking on the heights.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Ephesians 6:10-13

Verse 18b reads “With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying …..” Will you take your stand today, keeping on watch and praying? We can choose to let prayer occupy our minds. I have one friend in her 80’s who prays the instant you tell her about something that has you ill at ease. Instead of commenting “Oh dear me” she just out loud goes to the Lord right then in prayer. Sometimes I get annoyed by her behavior, but gradually I am learning that she is exhibiting what I am called to. My annoyance is driven by my failure to do the same. Oops.

Lord, help us to take Your Word seriously. Open our hands to lay down the petty first world problems that want to take over our minds. We need Your help in order to devote ourselves to You. Be the first order of business in every hour of our lives. Help us to honor You, our Risen Lord, with our lips and with our lives. Amen.

How are You Discerning and Enhancing ?

This is a portion from a devotional entitled Connect the Testaments, by John D. Barry

Unless we know God, we’re incapable of successfully doing His work. We must be willing to talk to God honestly about our relationships, as the psalmist does in Psalm 119:69–72. The psalmist acknowledges that he needs God’s help in all matters of his relationship with God and all matters of his relationship with others. He understands that he cannot even begin to know God without the power of God helping him.
“We must be empowered for action, both in the intimacy of prayer and in the reality of relationships. And we must support what we believe with our works, as the letter of James call us to do: “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (Jas 2:14–26).
“Reflecting regularly on how God has worked with us and is working in us allows us to recognize that everything in our lives has a purpose. God often works in others through us, and that great calling requires us to have knowledge of Him and discernment about His workings in our world.
How are you discerning the great work of God in your life? How are you enhancing your knowledge of God?

A soon to be neighbor was in town touring her home being built across the street from us. On occasion we have traded texts or emails. She has shared a bit about her faith and a prayer group she was involved in for decades. We have occasionally taken photos for her showing her the progress of the house she and her husband have planned. Having recently moved, I am acutely aware of how easy it is to get caught up in the details and the utter work involved in relocating and forgetting to ask the Lord not only to be involved, but to keep me aware of His interest and care.

After she left the neighborhood I felt compelled to write her an email affirming that the Lord knows her heart and is interested in helping her pack and move. I did not respond to that prompting immediately. When the Holy Spirit reminded me again I decided I had better get on it. So I wrote her a quick note encouraging her to turn to Him. By her response it seems I heard correctly and helped her turn her eyes towards Him in this relocating matter. We used to live 8 miles from our new home. She lives about 150 miles away. So besides the sort, store, give away, sell, pack and move, she cannot just take a break and drop in to see the progress. And then we are turned to Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart

    and lean not on your own understanding;

 in all your ways submit to Him,

    and he will make your paths straight.

(or direct your paths)

Trust, lean not on your own, submit or acknowledge and He will direct your ways. As the commercial for cereal used to say, “Try it, you’ll like it!”

The Prince of Peace is able to quiet and comfort our hearts like no other.