Spiritual Direction, Formation and Care

COME…prayerfully discover and discern God’s faithful presence in all areas of life.

LEARN…freely grow more dependent on God through spiritual practices.

REST…simply take time to experience the depths of God’s gentle grace.

 

Easter Praise!

The heavens belong to the Lord,
but he has given the earth to all humanity.

The dead cannot sing praises to the Lord,
for they have gone into the silence of the grave.

But we can praise the Lord
 both now and forever!
Praise the Lord!    ~Psalm 115:16-18

In this week after Easter, I have been reflecting one of the last sentences in Trevor Hudson’s book Pauses for Lent: 40 Words for 40 Days.*

We are indeed Easter people living in a Good Friday world.

I mentioned this to someone who agreed but said the Good Friday world can be a hard place to dwell. And it is. The deadening silence and absence of praise on Good Friday can seem to permeate our days. However, in God’s world where death is conquered, but’s are possible. But Easter people can praise the Lord not just on Easter but both now and forever.

May the words of this doxology, permeate our hearts and produce praises for the Lord who has given us this earth and made us Easter people. Amen and amen!

*Published by Upper Room Books in Nashville, TN copyright 2015

Halfway through Lent

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Who can utter the mighty deeds of the Lord,
    or declare all his praise?
Blessed are they who observe justice,
who do righteousness at all times!
~Psalm 106:1-3

Today is the twentieth day, the halfway point, of Lent. I am thankful for time to reflect on the transforming grace of God’s goodness and steadfast love. I am thankful for opportunities to declare the mighty deeds of the Lord. I am most grateful for the mightiest of all God’s deeds. The Cross…the Empty Tomb…Easter!

Easter is halfway here. For the next twenty days, may we continue to reflect on ways to observe justice and do righteousness. Moreover, may we remember how truly blessed we are to be people who are transformed each new by grace.

Feeling Joy

“Diligently persevere until you feel joy in it.”
~from The Cloud of Unknowing

And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe,
and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day
is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” ~Nehemiah 8:9-10

Recently, I quoted these last words from Nehemiah 8 to a friend who was having a hard time feeling God’s joy that day. I felt like I was preaching to the choir because what I admire most about this friend is the way she faithfully seeks to rejoice in the Lord always as the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Philippi.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. ~Philippians 4:4

She was thankful for the reminder. And I had to ask myself whether I was letting the joy of the Lord be my strength. Am I able to receive each new day as a day holy to the Lord and therefore rejoice?

The author of The Cloud of Unknowing encourages me to not only choose joy but to diligently persevere until joy is felt. I wonder if the author is suggesting a life of worship and rejoicing our way into God’s presence.

On your feet now—applaud God!
Bring a gift of laughter,
sing yourselves into his presence.
Know this: God is God, and God, God.
He made us; we didn’t make him.
We’re his people, his well-tended sheep.
Enter with the password: “Thank you!”
Make yourselves at home, talking praise.
Thank him. Worship him.
For God is sheer beauty,
all-generous in love,
loyal always and ever.
~Psalm 100 (MSG)

May God be glorified with our perseverance and our rejoicing…amen and amen!

 

Creation Moments

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.

And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

And God saw that the light was good.

And God separated the light from the darkness.

God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.

And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.”

~Genesis 1:1-5 ESV

I began 2019 with this Scripture passage and here it is the end of the month already. I have a had a conversation with God around what will be formed in me in 2019. I have taken time to stop and notice the Spirit of God hovering over my life. I have tried to acknowledge and appreciate how good the light God created in but a moment is. I have attempted to stop each evening to take a deep breath and remember that with tomorrow comes another first day filled with creation moments.

Throughout 2019, may you and I stop and receive the blessing of God’s many creation moments. Amen and Amen.

Thank You, Lord, for being with us, God with us.

            In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of    Syria.  And all went to be registered, each to his own town.  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.  And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.  ~Luke 2:1-7 (ESV)

This passage of Scripture from Luke’s gospel is a reminder that Joseph and Mary lived the journey God called forth from their lives.  They traveled from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem in Judea. And while they were there, Mary gave birth of her first born son and Joseph completed his family’s registration. Profoundly, the sacred and the secular met recording for eternity the Good News of God with us.

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). ~Matthew 1:22-23

My husband and I have traveled to many places in the past twelve months. And while we were there we experienced funerals, birthdays, weddings, formal meetings and informal conversations at microbreweries. Our Christmas card highlighted the good news that we have now each been in all 50 of the United States. For another year, we have lived the journey God was calling forth from our lives. And at the many intersections of the sacred and the secular, we stopped to remember again who is with us, Immanuel!

Thank You, Lord, for being with us, God with us.

Thank You, Lord, for all your benefits.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
~Psalm 103:1-5

In this month of giving thanks, I have been praying these verses that beautifully list God’s benefits: forgiveness, healing, redemption, love, goodness and renewal. I have also noticed how readily I list people, places and things among my thanksgivings. Today as I read these verses I notice the verbs not the nouns.

The real benefit in my life and yours is that God forgives, heals, redeems, loves, satisfies and renews. The Lord’s active presence in our lives is not to be forgotten. Ultimately, you and I are God’s beneficiaries and continually crowned with steadfast love and mercy.

Thanksgiving Day can be a tangible reminder not to take God’s benefits for granted. However, the Psalmist reminds us to bless the Lord each new day by remembering the many ways we benefit from God’s presence.

Thank You, Lord, for all your benefits.

Thank You, Lord for knowing my way.

With my voice I cry out to the Lord;
with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord.
I pour out my complaint before him;
I tell my trouble before him.
When my spirit faints within me,
you know my way!
In the path where I walk
they have hidden a trap for me.
~Psalm 142:1-3

This past month, I have been meditating on Psalm 142, and more specifically David’s words in verse 3: When my spirit faints within me, you know my way! I am not hiding in a cave like David, I really have nothing to complain about, and I can not think of any outlandish troubles on the horizon. Sure, there are petty annoyances and continual confessions that cause me to seek God’s mercy. But, I am not praying as fervently as David in this Psalm or as Paul in the book of Romans:

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right
alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it
doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of
our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we
know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present
before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives
of love for God is worked into something good. ~Romans 8:26-28 (MSG)

And yet, I am still drawn to the verse: When my spirit faints within me, you know my way! I cannot help but think of the words Jesus spoke to those with troubled hearts:

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father
except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my
Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” ~John 14:6-7

Perhaps my heart is troubled and my spirit is fainting even more than I want to admit to myself or others. Perhaps I need reassurance that God’s spirit is alongside me and pointing out the hidden traps on my way. More importantly, perhaps it is when everything appears “fine” on the outside, I need to pay attention to the inner workings of my soul and the way I am praying.

David reminds us that prayer opens our lives up to God and Paul’s words make it hard to forget that prayer also opens God’s life up to us. 

No matter what state my spirit or your spirit is in, God knows our way, and is helping us know the way to pray.

Thank You, Lord for knowing my way.

 

Thank You, Lord, that in the heavens You will establish Your faithfulness.

But I, O Lord, cry to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
O Lord, why do you cast my soul away?
Why do you hide your face from me?
Psalm 88:13-14

I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever;
with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.
For I said, “Steadfast love will be built up forever;
in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.”
Psalm 89:1-2

It is often said the Psalms cover a myriad of emotions. Perhaps like me, you have experienced the Psalms covering a myriad of your emotions. On any given day, I find myself reading between their lines I hoping to find what I am really feeling.

Notice the juxtaposition of the Psalmist’s emotional interactions with God above. Like me and maybe you also, at one point in the day I can feel very far from God, but at another time I can feel like singing and praising God’s steadfast love!

Notice too the promise in these verses. Even when you and I wonder why we feel cast away and hidden from God’s presence, in the heavens God’s faithfulness will be established. Even when we are certain of God’s steadfast love for us and our loved ones, in the heavens God’s faithfulness will be established.

In the myriad of our emotions…as in the heavens, God’s faithfulness will be established. are established.

Thank You, Lord, that in the heavens You will establish Your faithfulness.

Thank You, Lord for the blessing of appearing before you.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
As they go through the Valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
each one appears before God in Zion.
~Psalm 84:5-7 (ESV)

Last week my husband and I traveled through four states in four days on our quest to have visited all 50 states in our lifetimes. Since there was really no particular reason to visit them, we had subtitled them our forgotten four states. However, by way of country roads and major highways, we were pleasantly surprised with our discoveries in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas. The expansive Ozarks, the various museums, the first Walmart store, the story tellers and the noteworthy microbreweries. We will not soon forget the states themselves but I must admit the trip in general is still a blur.

The life with God is similar. Certain legs of the journey are not soon forgotten. As our hearts travel along God’s highway, we experience happiness and gain strength. However, on another leg our souls might feel as parched as valleys thirsting for rain. I am learning the blessing of pushing through the blur of these desolate valleys to the life-giving places where my spiritual strength is rediscovered.

This rediscovery often comes at the end of the journey when most needed to finish well. For with a rhythm of going from strength to strength in the Lord’s name comes the blessing of appearing before God.

Thank You, Lord for the blessing of appearing before you.

Thank You, Lord for making us thirsty.

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
~Psalm 42:1-2

I am part of a group of modern day psalmists. Together we explore the deep connection between poetry and prayer. At any given meeting a word or phrase from a poem we share turns into a prayer. Or vice versa, a word or phrase from a spoken prayer becomes the infrastructure for a poem.  Recently, I was struck by the following phrase: “God wants me thirsty.”

We have had so many hot summer days in Northern California that physical thirst has taken me by surprise.  In those thirsty moments, I add a few ounces of cool water to my cup and drink just as the deer who visit and drink Sierra snowmelt flowing through the river near my home.

Moreover, just like the deer in Psalm 42 who is drawn to flowing streams because they are thirsty, I am often so spiritually thirsty that I am drawn to streams flowing with God’s living water. And I wonder. Does God want me thirsty?

I am inclined to think that God allows me to be thirsty so that I am found by him rather than found at my familiar watering hole.  When you and I appear before God thirsting for what is right and good, then blessing, happiness and satisfaction become cups of cold water we offer to others who are thirsty.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.” ~Matthew 5:6

Thank You, Lord for making us thirsty.