On a recent ministry trip to West Virginia, a spiritual friend of mine (who was traveling with me) and I spent an hour at Daniel Boone Park in Charleston overlooking the Kanawha River. It was a beautiful fall day and a delightful moment to share at the river’s edge.
We talked about our shared ministry efforts that week, laughed about a few special moments, listened to each others hearts, prayed together, and even sang a hymn from an antique hymnal, “The Church’s One Foundation.” It was a choice moment for both of us, one I will long remember.
We both noticed that the highway noise behind us was in stark contrast to the reflection of the brightly colored trees in the serenity of the water below us and the peacefulness of the opposite side of the river. It was a picture of our souls…with the foreboding constancy of background noise and our hearts’ longing for the peacefulness and restfulness ahead of us on the other shore.
The unstoppable traffic noise behind us was a picture of our daily reality…continuously in motion. Our sharing, laughing, praying and singing were snapshots of the deepest desires of our hearts.
I’m thankful for those moments when it felt like the world stood still and I was attentive enough to fully embrace the abundance of a treasured God moment. I’ve recalled that experience in the pages of my journal and in the quietness of my prayer closet over the past 10 days since it occurred…and I’m profoundly grateful for the joy it is to my soul.
For what recent special moment with God and a spiritual friend are you most thankful today? Whisper a prayer of gratitude to the One Who gives such gifts to you…remembering and giving thanks is always good for the soul.
I’ve been sidelined from normal daily activities due to my mid-summer accident and injury now for over 10 weeks. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the values of my suffering and setbacks, thanks to the promptings of my spiritual director and several conversations with my spiritual friends.
What are the values I’ve discovered?
First of all, when we suffer physical pain and/or injury, we are invited to consider afresh the suffering our Lord Jesus embraced in our behalf. If it weren’t for his obedience in suffering a painful death on the cross our salvation would not have been gifted to us by our generously loving Lord who willingly paid the price.
Secondly, when we suffer we need to trust that God knows with intimate detail all about our pain and heart ache. He empathizes with a compassionate love and desires more than anything to provide all we need to deal with our reality whether it will include healing or not.
Thirdly, when we suffer we become more empathetic toward others who also deal with physical or emotional ailments…either chronic or short term.
Fourth, we need to trust that God will watch over our lives, our comings and our goings, and will perform his good and perfect will in his time and in ways that he will orchestrate in our behalf…regardless of our physical condition.
Fifth, when we suffer physical hardships, we need to slow down and let our body heal organically and wait with patience for that to occur in a time frame that’s consistent with the human body’s natural capacities. And, we need to accept the help of others who desire to serve us with practical, emotional and spiritual support.
Sixth, as we suffer physically we need to remember our mortality and eventual death…these bodies of ours will eventually slow down and lie dormant as our “new bodies” are resurrected to eternal life.
Seventh, in all circumstances we need to remember to hold fast to hope and a future with joy!
It’s one thing to be sidelined from activity, and another altogether to be off the field with no hope at all…what other lessons have you learned along the way as suffering has entered your experience and taught you to trust the Lord in an ever-deepening way?
24 hours of unhurried bliss…the Sabbath. As a long-time Sabbath breaker, I now look forward to our Sabbath rest more than any other day of the week. It reminds me of my childhood when our family would awaken on Sunday morning, eat a leisurely breakfast and then head to church. After the service there was always a “coffee hour” for relaxed and playful conversation. The Sunday afternoon meal time was generally reserved for family, as was the afternoon devoted to playing cards, watching football, taking naps and walks, and practicing hospitality. It was a rejuvenating time; I didn’t realize how good I had it until the past few years when our family returned once again to the discipline of Sabbath.
In the subsequent decades since growing up under my mom and dad’s roof, the Sabbath I once knew as a child got eaten up by activities such as homework, busy college days, ministry in the local church (not much Sabbath to speak of!), and years of breaking the Sabbath to fit in multiple responsibilities or a massive checklist of “to do’s.” All the while we were giving lip service to importance of the Sabbath but not the kind of respect it deserved…until a few close spiritual friends (prompted I’m convinced by the Spirit of God himself!) broke through with a challenge to set apart the day for rest, refreshment and renewal. The result: sun down Saturday to sun down Sunday devoted to Sabbath rest…a commitment we want to maintain the rest of our lives.
We aren’t legalists about the Sabbath, but we are indeed making it a priority both as a weekly discipline and as a lifestyle. It’s transformed our lives in more ways than we can count. I’m especially grateful for Mark Buchanan, the author of The Rest of God (my favorite book on Sabbath), who will be our special guest at LTi’s 7th Anniversary events next month. Will you join us and, more importantly, will you recommit to the priority of Sabbath rest for you and those you love?
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
From St. Patrick’s Breastplate
When it’s all about Jesus Christ, then we can rest secure that no matter the circumstances of our lives, we are held lovingly in the palms of his hands. I was reminded of this truth recently while sitting with a leader who had been tossed and turned by several relationships and incidents that had rocked his boat. When he was finally able to acknowledge the presence and power of Christ in his midst, the seas welling up within him began to calm and his sight for the way forward became much clearer.
There’s something significant about the reminder that no matter what happens to us in this life, Christ is there to rescue, restore, refresh and renew. His ongoing presence brings peace to any storm and joy to all the blessings we receive from his gentle hand. There is no tribulation or temptation that he can’t conquer in our behalf. There is no trial or testing that he can’t help us embrace. The powerful presence and ongoing protection of Christ is our greatest source of strength and hope.
St. Patrick had it right…Christ is forever before us and when we invoke his name we return our thanks and praise to the place where it rightfully belongs: to the Lord of our salvation.
How many times in a day or week do you find yourself saying, “I really should have…” or “I wish I could have…” or “If only I would have…”? Many of us say these lines without a second thought.
But, what value do they hold for us? When are these statements most helpful? Most of the time they feed our sense of guilt, shame, blame or regret. Rarely are they productive, unless used as a sincere reflection that’s genuinely positive or profitable for the future.
Lately I’ve found myself saying my own shoulda, woulda, couldas…surrounding my recent water skiing accident and eight weeks of therapy that haven’t brought about the healing I had anticipated. On top of that, we recently discovered through another set of x-rays and doctor visits that I was misdiagnosed originally…instead of torn muscles alone, we now know that I have two fractures that need the attention of an orthopedic specialist and a new regiment of therapy.
I’m left with a spiritual, emotional and physical dilemma… continually look back with regret, shame, blame and guilt? Or, look forward with lessons learned and a newly transformed prognosis for healing?
Shame, blame, guilt and regret are not good for the soul…I’m going to choose patience, joy, and a faith-filled anticipation of brighter days ahead.
What will you do with your “shoulda, woulda, couldas” this coming week?
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