Archive for the ‘Stories’ Category

“The Middle Seat” by Kristin Rathje

March 30, 2011 3 comments

[Guest writer for this post is Kristin Rathje. Kristin  teaches upper level English at Lutheran High School North in St. Louis, Missouri.  She bonds with about a hundred kids per year, writes, reads, and monitors curriculum for a staff of about 40  She is also my friend!  Enjoy a bit of her writing.]

At the end of a lovely visit to San Francisco, I woke early, went for a run, and then returned to my hotel to prepare for my flight.  As I fit all my conference goodies into my suitcase, it dawned on me that I could have the concierge print my boarding pass before I left for the airport.

Anyone who travels one of the popular airlines that has open seating knows that if you want a decent seat, you should print your boarding pass much earlier than two hours prior to the flight.  However, being lost in the beauty of San Francisco, I had overlooked this detail.

I double-checked my room to make sure I had all my possessions and took the elevator to the lobby.  The concierge easily looked up my flight and printed my boarding pass.  You guessed it; my boarding letter was ‘C’.  You know ‘C’, it’s what comes after ‘A” (all one through sixty passengers) and ‘B’ (all one through sixty passengers).  Oh, well, I had just been to a conference that had challenged me to look for the bright spots, so riding in the shuttle to the airport, I took in all the sights of San Francisco one last time, not giving a second thought to my boarding pass.

Upon arrival at the airport, I noticed that my flight was delayed about 25 minutes.  This normally wouldn’t be a big deal, but according to schedule, I was only going to have 40 minutes between flights in Denver.  So, I checked my bags, waded through the security check, and then walked to my gate.  The agent assured me that even though we were departing a little late, we would arrive with plenty of time to get my connecting flight.  So, I put my worries out of my mind, visited a gift shop, bought myself some lunch, and enjoyed some Internet browsing.

As the time for my flight arrived, I again moved to my gate and noticed that every seat in the waiting area was filled.  I sat down in a nearby area and waited some more.  Finally all the passengers with ‘A’ lined up and then boarded.  Then  ‘B’.  Finally ‘C’.  As I walked past the gate agent, she remarked that only middle seats remained, so please take the first available one so that the flight could get moving as quickly as possible.  Well, I am nothing if not a rule follower.  I found the first middle seat and asked if I could sit there.  The man at the window and the woman on the aisle of course said, “Sure.”

Only once I was seated did I realize why some non-rule-followers passed this spot.  The man at the window was probably close to double my size.  He couldn’t help but spill over the armrest.   The woman on the aisle also used up all her space and a bit more.  It wasn’t until she started calling him George and they began to pass a bag of Combos back and forth that I realized that my seatmates were married – to each other!  “He likes to sit by the window, and I didn’t want to get stuck in the middle again,” she said.

Even as I write this I’m chuckling.  What a bright spot.  Even though my flight was running late, even though I would have to run to meet my connector in Denver, even though I had ‘C’.  I had found something to laugh about.   I chuckled and warned them that I was rather sleepy and I might just cuddle up to one or the other.  They didn’t seem to mind.

I did indeed nod off a few times.  We made our connecting flight. (Yes, they live near St. Louis, too.) And now, as I write this, I am on the aisle in a much larger plane, sitting next to another couple, each reading a book in silence, neither larger than the seat they occupy.  And you know, the only reason I’m still laughing is that I’m remembering the ridiculous arrangement I had on the last flight.

Saving the Pieces:

On a day that could have left me grumbling: leaving a place as beautiful as San Francisco, having non-preferred seating, running late, and being squished, I was, by God’s grace able to see a bright spot.  We are given opportunities to see the bright spots each day in the middle of all the things that come up in human life.  I pray that as I walk back into the reality of my life – laundry, lesson plans, and little annoyances, God continues to turn my eyes toward the bright spots.


Sabbath Evenings – Holy Spirit Hunting

May 23, 2010 3 comments

Today the Church celebrates the ancient festival of Pentecost, the fiftieth day after the Resurrection of Jesus – the giving of the Holy Spirit to the disciples and to the church. I look forward to it every year as I would a birthday party.  Confetti, please. Jesus has now left one place (the earth) to be present in believer’s hearts. Astounding!

[The prayer]: Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of Your love.

[A Scripture]: “Electrifying! This first Pentecost was like no other! The wait in Jerusalem was over – the disciples received the Holy Spirit in fulfillment of Jesus’ promise of empowerment as they spread the Good News ‘to the ends of the earth'”(Acts 1:8,GNT).

[What to wear to the party]: Why, red of course!

And now, for a little story.

A long time ago . . . once upon a time . . . when I was much younger . . . about 19 . . . I began a Holy Spirit hunt. I wanted to have an Acts 2.32 experience: tongues of fire, ferocious winds, and being caught up by the Spirit’s power. This hunt was not uncommon. The era of the charismatic movement was in full swing.  Christians were seeking the Holy Spirit as though he had just recently been introduced into Christianity.   Beloved christian friends who were a part of the movement thought that my life was void of the Holy Spirit.   I questioned their assumption at first,  but I also noticed they seemed to be nicer and more loving people than me, and besides that – they talked about Jesus like He was their best friend.  Curious and eager to be like my friends,  my  hunt for the Holy Spirit began.  Here’s my “personal “Acts 2.32” account:

First, I got alone in my bedroom. Pushed everything out of my way so I could lay completely horizontal, flat on my back with arms spread out. I relaxed and readied myself for the Holy Spirit’s descent [the carpeted floor was quite comfy]. I figured the ancient church’s mantra of Come, Holy Spirit and fill the heart of your faithful one would be a good prayer to get the process moving along, so I prayed: “Come, Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit, come. Spirit of the Holy God, come..” [Did you know that back in the 70’s ceilings were painted and texturized with sparkly stuff? This fascinates and distracts me for a moment]. I counted multiple spider webs and what appeared to be floating tissue dangling from the corners of my room. Symbols of the Holy Spirit? No. Just webs. [When was the last time I cleaned my room?]

Where was this fierce Holy Spirit I was hunting?  Hmmmm. A different prayer this time, and I’ll do it in three [to symbolize the Trinity]:

“Come! Come! COME! Holy Spirit!” Silence. Nothing.

I turned over on my side. The horizontal position may be a bit presumptuous upon the Holy One of Israel – I’ll avert my face a bit. I tried praying every biblical number of “Come, Holy Spirit” that came to mind: 3, 4, 7, 9, 12, 24 [but not 6, for that is an unholy number]. More dust. I was getting fidgety and feeling stupid. [Thank goodness no one was home].

I rolled over to lay completely prostrate. Nose on the floor. Palms down. Surely, this must be the most humble I could be before my LORD. Again, nothing. “Holy Spirit, I am here, where are you?” A few more minutes of tapping my fingers on the floor, breathing in the ever-present dust, and muttering my mantra ended in a huff. I had given the Spirit 10 whole minutes to create a windy wildfire in my room – like He had in the Upper Room with the disciples. Enough. I’m done. I’ll hunt later. Maybe a different plan. [I guess I’ll clean my room now].

What was my restless hunting all about?  And why all the formulaic fuss on the floor to rouse the Holy Spirit’s attention?  And what did I expect, anyway?  Was I really missing the third person of the Holy Trinity after all these past 19 years we had spent together following His entrance into my heart through baptism? “Holy Spirit, isn’t this Your job?  Don’t you make sure that if I seek, you’ll move heaven and earth to meet me here on this floor right here—right now and turn me on to being a vibrant  Christian?” Confusion set in.  I felt embarrassed,  disappointed, and frustrated.

Thirty-plus years later, I look in on that day with a certain ambivalence. I wanted what my friends had, yet I knew the Holy Spirit had always been present in my life.  It would take several more years for me to come back to the Bible and seek truth in my Holy Spirit hunting.  In the years following my “bedroom experience,” mostly in college, I positioned myself as an elitist Christian, possessing something only for the “truly” Spirit-filled.  I tasted the life of charismania.  Sadly, along the way, I judged, hurt and alienated many Christian friends and family and gave them the message that I had once been given: “Your life is void of the Holy Spirit.” What I had searched for was not working.

So, what was my hunting all about?  Finally, it was about acceptance. A little surprising, isn’t it?  I wanted to be accepted by Christian people that I was indeed a Holy Spirit filled Believer.  I have replayed this scenario over and over  even into my marriage and as a Pastor’s wife.   I am still learning and struggle every now and then – but my heart knows and believes that Jesus has accepted me completely. He taught me this by the Holy Spirit through His word (Romans 15.7)

“Holy Spirit, I get it now. The truth is it was not me hunting for you—it was You hunting for me.”

[Artwork:  Above :  Joseph Ignaz Mildorfer, “Pentecost”
Right:  John August Swanson, “Festival of Lights”]

Categories: Sabbath Evenings, Stories

Sabbath Evenings – Glorious Ruins

May 16, 2010 7 comments

My Grandfather’s barn was the most magnificent within the 600 square miles of Adair County in Oklahoma. Inside that barn, there were two floors.  On the top floor—the hayloft–hundreds of hay bales were carefully stacked up to the rafters.  Good for climbing.  There were two monstrous doors at each end for loading and unloading the straw parcels.  I would lay on my tummy and peer through the spaces between the floorboard watching my Grandpa do his work.  After a while I rolled over onto my back. Sunshine streamed through barn wood cracks. I felt at once dwarfed by the upper limits of this cathedral-like room.

On the bottom floor, Grandpa had fifteen stalls that he could round up his dairy cows for milking.  In my favorite room,  the Feed Room, Grandpa prepared a sumptuous meal for “the girls” called Silage.  In a giant heated kettle, he would shovel in the recipe’s ingredients of  corn, sorghum molasses, oats and alfalfa.  I was always allowed a taste. My Grandpa could do anything in that barn – even cook!

The outside appearance of the barn was equally impressive.  From my four-feet tall [more or less] perspective, it looked enormous.  I shaded my eyes to see the top of the aluminum roof where two shiny lightning rods were attached.  They were positioned like guardians protecting the barn from a lightning strike that would surely bring it down in disastrous flames.  The barn, framed with tall wooden planks was painted red—and trimmed in white. The colors were splendid and striking against the blue skies of an Oklahoma summer.

Grandpa’s barn —there was no other place I would rather traipse off to, and he knew it.  Each afternoon,  he would take a coffee break before the final milking of the day.  Standing next to him I pleaded to return with him to the barn. Most days he said a firm “No” – especially when Grandma had my hair up in pink foam rollers – something about “scaring the cows.”  But on the days Grandpa said “Yes,” the thrill of going to the barn was like journeying to the grandest place on the planet.  The barn was perfect in every way.

Many years have passed now.  My Grandfather is with Jesus.  The portion of the ranch that he cared for has long since been abandoned and neglected, including the barn.  I made a pilgrimage to Adair County a few years ago.  I was shocked and saddened by what I saw.   The barn was nested in briers and undergrowth.  Grasses, out of control, banked against the exterior.  Vines wrapped around fence poles.  Surprisingly the barn looked like it had been recently painted and a new roof installed.  This gave me hope.

Despite a “Keep Out” sign, I climbed through a fence so I could take a look inside.  Mud Daubers had taken up residence alongside birds, and other creatures.  The Feed Room was caked with dust.  The large kettle was gone.  Likewise the milking room had deteriorated.  Feed troughs were splintered and broken.  The hayloft showed a similar story of neglect. One of the doors was missing, ripped away by wind or a  maybe a vandal.  Small pieces of floor board had weakened making them risky for walking.   Strands of straw littered the dirty surface.

Even though I recognized the barn as my Grandfather’s, it had radically changed.  Not so magnificent now, more like a hollow shell.  The barn I had loved as a child was now a glorious ruin.  Once upon a time it was glorious in all its pristine beauty under the immaculate care of my Grandfather.  Now, it sat as a ruin, only a remnant of a complete and perfect structure.  Marred by the effects of weather, vandals, and neglect – the barn was only a hint of what it had once been even in its deteriorated state.  It still inspired and awed me.

Dr. Francis Schaeffer has described the condition of human beings as “glorious ruins.”

We are glorious because we were created by God for the noble purpose of being His image bearers; yet we are ruins because sin has marred the divine image we were designed to display, at times seemingly beyond recognition.

Dan Allender writes this:

To be like Jesus means that we must enter the complexity of both dignity and depravity. We are made in the image of God – glorious. We have taken on Adam and Eve’s hiding and blaming – ruin. We are glorious ruins, bent glory. And it shows up in every moment of our existence until we one day see Jesus as he is and become pure as he is pure.

Human beings have dignity, worth and value because we are made in the image of God.  People have the capacity to think, feel, love, choose, create and have relationships just as God does. But, many times we turn away from the face of another noticing only flaws and failings dismissing their unique dignity.  This dismissing of others dignity points to our own ruin and corruption.

John Stott speaks candidly and with raw honesty:

I am a Jekyll and Hyde, a mixed-up kid, having both dignity, because I was created in God’s image and depravity, because I am fallen and rebellious.  I am both noble and ignoble, beautiful and ugly, good and bad, upright and twisted, image of God and slave of the Devil . . . We must be fearless in affirming all that we are by creation and ruthless in disowning all that we are by the Fall.

Here then is the paradox of our humanness. We are capable of both the loftiest nobility and of the basest cruelty.  One moment we can behave like God, in whose image we were made, and the next like the beasts over whom we were meant to be distinct.  Human beings are the inventors of hospitals for the care of the sick, universities for the acquisition of wisdom, parliaments for the rule of the people and churches for the worship of God.  But they are also the inventors of torture chambers, concentration camps, nuclear arsenals.  Strange, bewildering paradox – noble and ignoble, rational and irrational, moral and immoral, Godlike and bestial. (Quoted by Dr. Richard Winter in Perfecting Ourselves To Death)

Seeing my Grandfather’s barn repainted and with a new roof gave me hope that someday another person would come along and restore the barn to its original glory.  Our dignity, worth and value were redeemed at a high price through Jesus (John 3.16; Rom. 5.6-8; I Pe. 2.9-10).   God is restoring us and we do not lose heart  “though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” ( 2 Cor. 4,16)  Our God, through Jesus sees you and me as something worth loving and worth fighting for.

Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace! He intends to come in and live in it Himself. (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)

So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. (2 Corinthians 3.18, NLT)

Categories: Sabbath Evenings, Stories

Sabbath Evenings – Telling Stories

April 25, 2010 3 comments

“I wonder what sort of tale we’ve fallen into?”
(Tolkien, “The Lord of the Rings”)

What a great question asked by Sam the Wise to Mr. Frodo  as they walk along together on their long journey.  It’s the question people ask, sometimes with great urgency and desperation, in order to make sense and meaning out of their own story.  People are storytellers and Counselors are one of the collectors of those stories. With each client, another story unfolds intermingled with a plot, characters, setting, theme(s), and conflict. The storytelling may take weeks, months, or years.  More often than not, clients are telling stories they have not fully spoken of until now.  This is holy ground.

The storyteller lays open long-held secrets that the Counselor is entrusted to hear and hold.

We are cradlers of secrets. Everyday [people] grace us with their secrets, often never before shared. Receiving such secrets is a privilege given to very few… Sometimes the secrets scorch me… other secrets pulsate within me… still others sadden me. Being a cradler of secrets has, as the years have passed, made me gentler and more accepting — Irvin Yalom, M.D. The Gift of Therapy.

So, like Sam the Wise, I wonder along with my clients what sort of story they have fallen into. In his book Telling Secrets, Frederick Buechner writes honestly about his father’s suicide when he was 10 years old , as well as his daughter’s struggle with Anorexia.  Buechner explains why it’s important for people to tell their stories/secrets:

“I have come to believe that by and large the human family all has the same secrets, which are both very telling and very important to tell.”  [We tell . . .]

  • To be known. “They are telling in the sense that they tell what is perhaps the central paradox of our condition–that what we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else.”
  • To live fully human without fear.  “It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are–even if we tell it only to ourselves–because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing.”
  • To see where we’ve been and where we are going. “It is important to tell our secrets too because it makes it easier that way to see where we have been in our lives and where we are going.”
  • For others to know they are not alone. “It also makes it easier for other people to tell us a secret or two of their own, and exchanges like that have a lot to do with what being a family is all about and what being human is all about.”
  • Our stories are part of the bigger God story. “Finally, I suspect that it is by entering that deep place inside us where our secrets are kept that we come perhaps closer than we do anywhere else to the One who, whether we realize it or not, is of all our secrets the most telling and the most precious we have to tell.”

So, what sort of story have people—you and I—fallen into?  A purposeful one, to be sure!  This is not a haphazard myth plummeting from out of nowhere.  Paul writes in Ephesians 1.2, “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” And there is more to be said in the rest of the chapter and continues into chapter 2.  Michael Card, singer/songwriter explains people as stories this way:

“The Bible tells us that we are God’s masterpieces, (Gk.”poiema”) not only creatures, but His creations, His poems. (Eph.2:10) We are living epistles. (2Cor.3:3f) And so our lives are meant to be listened to because it is God who is speaking into and out of and through them, through the parable of each day, the symphony of the years and the masterpiece of a lifetime. If He is speaking through our lives then nothing else matters but listening to Him.

[I have much more to write about telling stories and listening to them, but will leave those thoughts for another post(s).]

What I have written so far serves as a preface to the following piece of poetry.  The poem is a story – and the narrator is one of my clients.  She has graciously given me permission to share it with you.  Her name has been changed to protect her identity, but the poem is all her – nothing has been changed or omitted.  I hope to share many more stories with you for the very reasons Frederich Buechner has laid out.

The title is “Thought You Were Gone.”  Jill [not her real name] is writing as an adult to a much younger version of herself.  You do not need to be privy to the details of her complete story to take in the tragedy and beauty.  The words are raw and honest.  You will hear angst and sadness.  And you will hear redemption, healing and  hope.

Thought You Were Gone

Thought you were gone
Thought you were dead
But there you are trapped inside my head

My lips are moving
Your ears turn deaf to my plea
Want to shake you so that maybe you can see

How sorry I am I left you all alone
For these vast sins against you, I will atone

You turn to me as silent tears fall from your sorrowful brown eyes
We are twisted and tied up in a suffocating web of lies

I have hated you more than anyone could
When no one would abuse you…… I would

I can’t number the times I would shame you for the tears you would cry
Wishing that weak little girl inside of me would crumble up and die

Everyone you loved was to screwed up to see
The wonderful person you wanted to be
You tried without ceasing to be good enough to be loved and cherished
Yet nothing was ever good enough and your soul began to perish

You found no love at home so your little feet began to wonder
Trying to figure out how to fill this void your mind began to ponder

You thought you were smart and had figured it out
A love of a man is what it was all about
You compromised yourself time and time again
Adding constantly to your growing number of sins

Each compromise made you even more broken then before
Empty and defeated you felt like a dirty whore

I couldn’t take watching you self destruct and needed to do something fast
So I buried you deep within and forgot about you at long last

The years rolled by and I was making wiser choices
All I could hear now were positive voices

I started a family more beautiful than I could have ever dreamed
I had it all together
At least that is how it seemed

Your voice started coming back as a whisper in my head at night
Desperately trying to stuff you down
I began to fight

It seemed everywhere I turned you were there
Looking at your pain was more than I could bare

I became desperate to push you away
Little compromises started creeping back into my day

Little compromises turned into enourmous ones that could not be taken back
All those good morals I had worked on were under massive attack

I tried to fix what was broken myself but it was all in vain
All my efforts just brought on more self destruction and pain

I looked up to heaven with my hands held high
Please forgive me Lord and started to cry

I’ve made a mess of my life as anyone can see
Wanting your Grace to restore me back to what you would have me to be

God showed me the only way to heal was to turn back and face the pain of the past
If I wanted any kind of peace that could last

I had tried everything I knew to avoid this task at hand
Afraid this pain my heart could not withstand

Now that I am forced to take a good look at you for exactly who and what you are
I see that you are a beautiful little girl even if a little battered and scarred

Now that I have faced the pain of the past
Those chains of yesterday are fading at long last

Walking through the pain did not kill me you see
God was right there walking with me

Hush little girl you need not cry anymore
For I love you and will abuse you no more

Little child within I’m sorry it took me so long to see
That you are a most beautiful part of  me!!

“Jill”  4/19/10

Categories: Sabbath Evenings, Stories

Sabbath Evenings – Unstilled, Distilled, Stilled

March 21, 2010 5 comments

[Caveat to the reader: this isn’t about your Grandpappy’s Home brew]

For Spring Break, Lori (our youngest daughter) and I planned to take three days and stay in a cabin alongside the Black River in rural Missouri.  This would be great! With a little more than a year before Lori flies out of the nest, I was eager to have uninterrupted time with her.  Beyond spending time together, Lori wanted to soak in the hot tub, sleep in, eat S’mores, and start reading a new book.  I wanted to get out of the city and into the country for an experience of quiet and stillness.  A steady campfire, the french-press, blank journal pages, and my Bible would sew up the restful hours ahead.  And in fact, dear reader, I am now writing as this scene unfolds.  It’s about 8:00 a.m. on our first morning out and I have all I need right here with me. An early morning fire, a french-press filled with fresh coffee, journal, Bible , pen and pencil, sunshine, and a breathtaking vista.  Jesus, me, and quiet stillness.  Rest.

Writing paints a picture.  I have just tried to paint a scene for you in broad and sweeping brush strokes portraying what seems to be a pastoral, effortless, and inspiring picture.  Alas, a bit of personal confession is necessary less I give you the impression of a perfect picture appearing without flaws.

Unstilled. Yesterday afternoon:  Mama, you ready?”  I thought I was.  Jammies, toothbrush, map, marshmallows, bacon, waffle iron, camera, etc. all sitting by the front door, ready to be loaded in our trusty minivan — “Van.”  But, I wasn’t ready and Lori knew it.  She sat down in my desk chair, twirled around a bit, and then sighed.  It would be another 30 minutes crammed with a flurry of activity before Van was loaded and ready to go.  I amaze myself every time (and that’s no exaggeration) at the great lengths I will go to for creating an “effortless” act of stillness and quiet to take place. Those three little words just in case push me into a “Quiet-Time” fanatical frenzy.  Just in case I want this book instead of that one, or maybe I’ll want one of those new ones I bought three months ago.  Take them all.  Just in case I want different music on my iPod — Sara Groves or Jon Foreman — oh we gotta have some David Crowder.  Sara, Jon and David — download them all. “Hang on Lori, let me just download these songs.  Almost done.”  I hear another sigh and “Uh-huh.”  Just in case I want my Moleskine journal with lines or do I want the one without lines just in case I want to sketch a little.  I’ll take both.  Pencils, pens — several.  And my Bible.  Right.  At last, ready to go.  I am now feeling completely agitated and anxious.  Sadly, the scurry of endless busyness would not end here.

I will not go into the insane details of the evening as I continued to  prattle on and busy myself — working hard to model stillness for my dear Lori. I wanted her to grasp the beauty and wonderment of the experience almost as much as I wanted it for myself.  “God is here, Lori.  Listen to the sound of quiet. Isn’t this, like, so cool?”  She replied to my question with a question, “Mama, when are you going to stop working on the fire and sit down with me?”

Distilled. This morning I am meditating on Lori’s question.  By the way, I did sit down and thanked Lori for asking.  God was most definitely there, and He was using my 17 year old daughter to get my un-focused attention.  As usual, I was trying to manage the entire experience that I so very much anticipated . . . all while Lori was quietly watching.  How I must have looked to her!  We giggled about it for several minutes.  Silly ol’ Mama.  Straightforward Lori.

To distill is to purify. To purify is to purge and cleanse.  “O God, you know me – you see me, and at this moment I need you to lead me, teach me, save me from myself.” In Psalm 131, David writes:

Lord, my heart is not proud;
my eyes are not haughty.
I don’t concern myself with matters too great
or too awesome for me to grasp.
Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself,
like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk.
Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, put your hope in the Lord—
now and always.

The Lord Jesus was distilling impurities crowding out even a glimpse of a  quieted soul, i.e.  like a weaned child.  A proud heart.  Arrogance.  Managing my own plans. A self-imposed restlessness and feverish ambition.  I was like a child still fretting and demanding it’s mothers milk.  I was out of control and in need of a more Divine stillness and quietness. Isaiah 30.5 reads, ” This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” According to Isaiah stillness and quietness are much less about the props and extreme measures of preparation and more about what is happening in the heart.  And now, my heart.

Psalm 131 interpreted in the light of Psalm 130 reads like a preface to the secret of stillness:

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
O Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness;
therefore you are feared.I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
O Israel, put your hope in the LORD,
for with the LORD is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.

Repentance and God’s forgiving love cleanses the ambitious heart.  Redemption follows.  And again the Psalmist echoes the call of Psalm 131:  Hope in the Lord.  Finally, restoration to quiet and stillness and a God-prepared heart.

Daughter, Put your hope in Me. Calm and quiet yourself like a child who no longer cries for its mothers milk.  Be still and know that I am God (Ps. 46.10).  Let you soul find rest in Me (Ps. 62.1) In quietness and trust is your strength.

. “God is my Shepherd, I shall not be wanting” (Jon Foreman).  Quietness and stillness at last.  But not without the Lord Jesus distilling my unstilled heart- and not without His loving mercy and forgiveness.  The time now is around noon and Lori emerges from the cabin’s front door.  Stretching and yawning – I have delighted in this scene hundreds of times over her little life.  She looks bedraggled, but her spirit is not.  “Good morning Mama.”  After four hours of sitting with the Lord Jesus, my heart is finally stilled and quiet – not on my terms, but His. And, I will take that with me for the rest of our stay here.

Categories: Sabbath Evenings, Stories