Keep on Digging

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Sometimes I allow the wrong things to capture my attention. I’ve noticed when that happens, I’m pulled away from staying the course, from my focus on what is good and what is Godly.

Today I received some inspiration from the Old Testament and the perils in Isaac’s life. (Thank you, online Read the Bible in a Year plan.)

Tucked in the book of Genesis is a little story about Isaac, his servants and how they responded to the Philistines’ attempts to sabotage the good that God wanted for them.

The Philistines were determined to frustrate Isaac and take for themselves what was rightfully his. The land of Canaan was given to Abraham and Isaac by God, and yet Isaac can’t seem to claim any of it for himself.

“But when Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found there a well of flowing water, the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with the herdsmen of Isaac, saying, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Esek, because they contended with him. Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over it too, so he named it Sitnah. He moved away from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it; so he named it Rehoboth, for he said, “At last the LORD has made room for us, and we will be fruitful in the land.” Gen. 26:19-22

Many biblical commentaries focus on the plight of Isaac in this story with a nod to his peacekeeping personality. When faced with diversity, Isaac maturely moved on. But it’s also meaningful to probe the character of the Philistines, for there is a lesson to be learned from them as well.

The Philistines were contentious and argumentative to the digging of wells by Isaac’s servants. The Philistines’ hostile nature is the bait of Satan! And he baits us, too. The evil one wants us to stop digging our own wells and start a wrestling match with him. Satan wants to distract us from the task at hand and waste time in fruitless battles. Isaac and his servants didn’t “bite!” They moved on to victory, where the Lord made space for them to dig. Water flowed. They were “fruitful in the land.”

I don’t know what Satan is throwing at you that gets in the way of God’s plan for you this day, week, or new year. But don’t take the bait!

Keep digging your wells. Say no to the evil one.

And you’re going to find Living Water.

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The Best Day of My Week

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Have you ever thought about what your favorite day of the week is and why? Growing up, the best day of my week was Monday. I was one of those geeky students who loved getting back to school after what I thought was a long weekend. In college, my favorite day was Friday because that meant date night with my boyfriend, Jim Thomas! Once I became a wife and a Mom, my favorite shifted back to Monday. I relished the prospect of a brand new week ahead, anticipating the good things to experience with my family and friends. I even liked the rhythm of homemaking; laundry on Monday, making grocery lists for Tuesday,  scheduling activities with the kids, etc.

This morning during worship service I realized that I had a new best day.  I found myself thanking God for today. Imagine that! I was a little shocked. Our worship service, I thought joyfully, is so worshipful. What a gift! What a blessing! I get to worship with incredible people and song leaders that point me to Jesus every Sunday. This morning I decided that my favorite day of the week had packed its bags and moved from Monday to Sunday. It felt like a miracle!

I am sad to say for many years church day was not one of my favorites. I won’t drag you down with all the struggles I’ve had with getting to church. Let’s just say in more youthful days my spiritual immaturity collided with the normal (and some not so normal) aches and pains in the body of Christ. Add that to the reality of getting three small children ready for church after some sleep deprived Saturday nights!

Is Sunday a hard day for you? If so, I can empathize. Sundays are complicated. So I give you this worship song, one we sang this morning.  I give you this music; not to fix you, your Sundays, or your church, but just to bless you and point you to Jesus.

Three 2015 Un-Resolutions for Reading the Bible

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Thy word is a lamp unto my feet.

I once heard a conference speaker say: “Don’t submit to a daily reading plan so you can cover the Bible in a year. Read it everyday so the Bible covers you.”

I’ve been thinking about this statement since Jim and I have chosen an online Read the Bible in a Year plan for 2015. We both agree that it’s hard to slow down and actually read the words! That may seem rather odd, but the temptation is to skim through the passages that we know so well. Perhaps that’s what the conference speaker was trying to communicate. Just reading through for the sake of getting to the end is not the goal. So Jim and I are resolving not to resolve to just get through.

Jim says reading through the whole Bible in a year is not a resolution. It’s something he’s been planning on doing anyway, and January 1st seemed like a good starting date. I like the way he thinks. Sometimes when we make a resolution, we fulfill it for the resolution’s sake, not for the sake of changing how we go about our days.

So if I’m going to read the Bible so it covers me, I might need to make some un-resolutions surrounding some unhealthy habits first.

Un-Resolution Number One: Follow a Bible in a Year plan so I can check it off my list.

I am so guilty of this. Making it part of a to-do list to check off goes along with my over-achievement personality type.

I resolve to slowly read the passages, letting God’s word soak in.

Un-Resolution Number Two: Follow this plan with my usual attitude.

This may sound harsh, but sometimes I approach Bible reading with the attitude of why bother? I’ve been a Christian for forty years which means a lot of Bible studies, the repetition of Bible stories with my kids, listening to countless sermons, etc., etc.

 I resolve to read these scriptures again because I am always in need and God’s word always provides.

Un-Resolution Number Three: Make this goal into a competition.

I can make about anything into a competition: competing with myself and/or competing with others. My crazed thinking goes something like this: “If Jim got his reading done, than I better get it done, too. Other people are reading the Bible in a year, I should be able to do this as well.”

I resolve to follow this reading plan because of a desire to know God and learn how to follow Jesus.

I wonder if any of this resonates with you. I know I needed to “un-resolute” the negative stuff before I embarked on a new plan. Your thoughts?

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. . . and a light unto my path.

Blessings,

Donna

Soul Concerns

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from the blog jodiethomae.com

I know today is Epiphany, but I still can’t put down my Advent readings.  There’s just too much to digest on each page. In fact, I keep going back to a quote early on in chapter two of The Sacrament of the Present Moment.

It is Jean-Pierre de Caussade’s definition of the present moment that captures my attention. Spiritual mentor De Caussade states: “The present moment is like a desert in which simple souls see and rejoice only in God, being solely concerned to do what he asks of them. All the rest is left behind, forgotten and surrendered to him.”

Seriously, Jean-Pierre? That may bode well for 18th century clustered nuns in Nancy, France, but my immediate response in regard to my contemporary life is, “ridiculous!”

I can relate to the “simple soul” attribute, but rejoice only in God? That is hard to fathom.

And why does God keep putting that word, rejoice, in front of me, anyways?

Also hard to swallow is: all the rest is left behind,  forgotten and surrendered to him.

Ah, tell that to the Mom who is praying over a sick one year old through 30 minute interval vomiting.

What about the homeless Dad trying to be a spiritual leader to his eight year old son while they sleep at whatever church will have them for the week?

And the kicker in the center of the teaching: being solely concerned to do what he (God) asks of them.

Heap that on top of life and all its stressors.

But what if our sole concerns morphed into soul concerns?

(Spiritual director De Caussade was in the business of soul care, after all.)

Perhaps that’s how we navigate this piece of spiritual direction.  That’s how we make it through; how the miserable moments become sacramental, a visible means of grace according to Webster. To be solely concerned is to be concerned with souls. Being attentive in the present moment to the person in front of us, a sacrament extended.

Our sole concern for soul concerns gives our well-meaning, inadequate attempts to maintain focus on God holy value and sacred purpose.

Soley concerned for soul concerns is how Jesus lived.  That’s what he taught others to do and what he desires from us.

Jesus said, “Whatever you did for the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did for me.”

Maybe we’re all a little more sacramental than we thought.

Maybe this way of being that De Caussade prescribes is not so incredulous after all.

Beyond Relief

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We love our football!

Professional football hall of famer Bill Parcells boasts a successful coaching career with an unbelievable number of wins. He is the only coach in National Football League history ever to lead four different teams to the playoffs and three different teams to a conference championship game. Parcells’ teams won two Super Bowls. Some call him the czar of football coaching. When a sports analyst asked about the joy, the sheer elation he must have felt with each victory, Parcells shrugged and said that after so many years of coaching, he just felt relief.

Can you imagine being that successful and just feeling relieved?

Parcells lamented that the pain of losing lasted a lot longer than the happiness of winning. So when his team did win, relief trumped jubilation.

His comments seemed unfortunate. Knowing that a football coach eats and breathes this game every waking moment to achieve his goal and cannot rejoice in the win is sad to me.

This spurred me on to think about my own responses to the ups and downs of my life. I don’t think one needs to be a famous football coach to have similar reactions. Disappointment that comes with loss seems to linger much longer than I’d like. And when the rigors of life beat me up and I finally have that breakthrough I’ve been praying for, I do find myself awash with relief.

But I think God wants us to move beyond relief.

Because when we get stuck in the emotional state of relief, we have trouble moving to rejoice.

This past week my son in China navigated through some major life transitions. We received a quick email from him New Year’s Eve day and then another one five days later with details of  what had transpired. His email was full of joy for today and hope for the future. My immediate reaction was relief to hear back from him, relief that life was going well, and relief that some of his fears hadn’t become reality. While all that is well and good, my son just didn’t need to hear how relieved I was. I needed to express my delight and rejoice with him.

For a moment, look back at 2014. Friends, we’ve made it through some rough times. Many of us have persevered through great loss, navigated stressful jobs, conquered health issues, or experienced compassion fatigue that comes from serving others. We can take a deep breath and be relieved that we made it through another year.

We can also rejoice! Because with those hard fought victories behind us come new beginnings, endless possibilities, and pathways for unimaginable blessings.

I’m reminded of the apostle Paul’s words:

Though our bodies are dying our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever. (2nd Cor. 4:16-17)

Rejoice!

Happy 2015!

And Happy? Winter!

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Winter in our woods, 2014

Donna