be still my soul

 

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My Lord, you are my shepherd; I don’t have need for anything.  Even as the dark shadows surround me, I am not afraid because your word and presence give me comfort.  The enemies of my soul are lurking in wait for me to stumble and fall, but I will not falter.  Where You lead I will follow.  You are my shepherd.  You have set a table for me overflowing with abundance and hope.  Surely nothing can separate us for the rest of my days because your mercy and goodness are with me and I know that I am blessed.

“Be Still, My Soul”
by Catharina von Schlegel, 1697-?
Translated by Jane Borthwick, 1813-1897

1. Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

2. Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

3. Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart
And all is darkened in the vale of tears;
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears.
Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay
From His own fulness all He takes away.

4. Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Hymn #651
The Lutheran Hymnal
Text: Psalm 46:10
Author: Catharine Amalia Dorothea von Schlegel, 1752, cento
Translated by: Jane Borthwick, 1855
Titled: “Stille, mein Wille”
Composer: Jean Sibelius, b. 1865, arr.
Tune: “Finlandia”

Psalm 23

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.

“It’s January.  Outside the weather is cold and dreary.   Melancholy is knocking on the front door.  I’m looking for warmth and comfort within.  Join me?

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

 

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housecleaning time

Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me.orange tree

Most people don’t like housecleaning, do they?  Yeah, I know the end result is amazingly comforting and fulfilling, but the actual work can be a lesson in Boredom 101.  Dust, sweep, scrub, organize, grab the Ty-D-Bol, where’s the Ajax?  For me, it’s a trip into futility because I know cleaning will need to be done again in another two weeks.  And then, before I realize it, the two-week period stretches into a month and I look at my house completely disgusted with myself for being such a dirt-bag.

I am certain none of you, my illustrious readers, have this problem.  You all seem to be outstanding people with impeccable cleaning habits.  But how about your heart?  How often do you get down into the nitty-gritty of what’s on your heart and do a ruthless housecleaning?  Throw out the old, ponderous grudges?  Get rid of guilt baggage that simply is not useful anymore?  Maybe rethink theology that no longer makes sense in your life?  C’mon, let’s get honest.

King David, in Psalm 51, has been confronted by the prophet Nathan regarding David’s affair with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah.  David and Bathsheba  David, from the palace, spied the beautiful woman bathing on her rooftop and sent for her.  Then, having slept with Bathsheba while her husband was fighting with the armies, David, in due time, faced the consequences of his sin learning that she was pregnant with his child.  To conceal his transgression King David ordered Uriah home from the battle front believing the soldier would sleep with his wife and the pregnancy could then be attributed to her husband.  Uriah, however, refused to sleep with Bathsheba while his fellow warriors continued to fight in battle.  To him it was a matter of honor.  David then continued with his deceit, got Uriah drunk believing that his soldier, filled with wine, would certainly bed his wife.  That ploy also failed whereupon King David ordered his soldier to the most dangerous position on the front line where he was killed in battle.

End of story, right?  Actually not.  Not only did the entire episode have a witness in the prophet Nathan, David’s conscience and the guilt over his actions were invalidating his spirit.  He was a deeply devout man who had fallen to lust, deceit and murder.  Psalm 51 is a petition to his God, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness…..wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity and cleanse me from my sin….cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.”

Not quite as eloquently, but equally contrite and remorseful, I have again and again and again petitioned the Lord of my life for forgiveness and cleansing.  Cleanse and renew, cleanse and renew, cleanse and renew.  It will be a lifetime endeavor because I am a human who is faulted and broken in need of a forgiving, loving, compassionate God.

Housecleaning is a good thing.  Sometimes we find things that were thought to be lost.  Sometimes we discover dirt that could be harmful to us.  Often we can rid ourselves of useless bric-a-brac.  But always, we finish the chore feeling cleansed and renewed.

“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.”  Psalm 51:10

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fear not

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.

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How many times as children during an electrical storm have we run to hide in a room without windows or pulled bed covers up over our heads?  We felt we were safe because we could not see the lightning flashing outside.  And then, when the thunder cracked in the heavens, we plugged our ears with little fingers.

As an adult I thoroughly enjoy an electrical storm, smelling the air, feeling the energy in my body, hearing the claps of thunder and seeing the spectacular display of lightning in the skies.  I no longer hide as I did as a child, but that doesn’t mean I will stand outside in an electrical storm under a tall tree, or on a golf course with putter in hand, or on the water in a boat.  Why?  Because I know today not to tempt the power of nature and I don’t believe God protects foolish men on golf courses or fishers on the lake.

But soon a fierce storm came up.  High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.  Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion.  The disciples woke him up, shouting,  “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”  Mark 4:37-38

Naturally, the disciples feared for their lives.  This body of water on which they were being tossed about furiously was not some little backyard pond.  But, instead of taking measures to save themselves by bailing water out of the boat, they awakened the sleeping Jesus and questioned his concern for them.  Don’t you think in that situation, one would awaken Jesus and throw a bailing bucket to him yelling,  “Get ready to jump, can you swim?”  How many times in my life have I confronted God, “Don’t you care about me?  Why are you allowing this to happen?”

The passage from Mark goes on to say that Jesus woke up, calmed the waters and told the wind to be still.  In the same manner when I begin to panic, God says to me, “Relax, son.  Be cool.  I’ve got this under control.”

“I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”  Psalms 34:4

Seeking the Lord in times of turmoil and surrendering the outcome to his mercy and grace is easy.  In the storms of life I usually have no other options and the resulting relief is welcome.  Conversely, seeking the Lord when life is good, the skies are sunny, and I’m enjoying a great day is a challenge.  I’ve retrieved my white flag of surrender, the crisis is over, and I am once again doing the driving.  “OK, Lord, thanks for the help, but I’ll take it from here.”  It would be wonderful if I could surrender my will and my life just one time and be done.  But my life simply does not work that way.  I am still a work in process and apparently have many future lessons to learn.

This physical existence which we experience gives no guarantees to our survival.  Car wrecks, disease and illness, crazy shooters at our local WalMart – we are not assured that tonight we will return home safely to loved ones.  But, it’s always been that way.  Rocko, the cave man, never knew whom in his neighborhood had a bigger, more deadly club.  The Jews, during Jesus’ time were at the mercy of the Roman conquerors and the religious hierarchy.  Jesus was not the only one crucified.  History tells us that thousands were hung on a cross during the rule of the Roman Empire.

Rational fear in the temporal world is probably a good thing.  It keeps me alive and out of harm’s way.  I have learned not to run around my neighborhood looking for a hairy caveman with a big club and I don’t seek out soldiers wanting to crucify me.  But what about fear in my spiritual world?  As a child I became  an extremely fearful person listening to the stories of a judgmental, white-haired, bearded, vengeful, fire-breathing, old man sitting in the heavens just waiting for an opportunity to BBQ me in hell.  The people telling those stories were not evil; they were merely misinformed.

That childhood fear was irrational, not based on truth.  Today, I have the truth in front of me in the words and teachings of the man whom Jewish countrymen hoped to be the deliverer from Roman and religious oppression.  He was not that messiah.  He died like many other victims ignobly hung from a cross.  Centuries later the Roman church fathers assembled writings about Jesus into a plan for successful living which suggested we could have freedom from fear.

I believe that is what the book of John tells me.

“If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.”  John 8:36

It’s not rocket science.  In his lifetime, Jesus spoke to his disciples and his followers in parables.  Analogy and metaphor detailed what he was trying to teach about the spiritual world in which he dwelled.  Essential to delivering those teachings was not only the faith of his followers in who he was, but also Jesus’ faith in an eternal, everlasting presence which he named as God, his Father.

Scriptures tell us that Jesus suffered the human condition just as we do.  He displayed anger, compassion, doubt, disappointment, and fear.  The lowly carpenter from Nazareth probably suffered the same concerns about clothing, housing, and providing food for his family as we do.  He enjoyed the company of his Jewish brothers and sisters, attended weddings, and partied with sinners.  That’s what gives me hope.  Jesus was not a saint when he was alive on earth.  He became divine centuries later only when the fathers of “Christianity” proclaimed him to be so.  But, while alive on this earth, Jesus was just like you and I.

That gives me tons of hope and reason to have faith.  I, too, can be a better version of me.  Temporal fear is a life-preserver, but soul fear is merely an absence of faith in what Jesus can do with me as a child of God.  A Psalmist from long ago told me to not be afraid of walking this earth even when death and darkness surround me because the love and compassion of God will protect my soul, will lead me out of that deep valley into a place of gentleness and kindness where I will dwell forvever in His mercy and grace.  Amen, my cup is overflowing.

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soul’s foundation

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.

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  • A trust in inner coherence itself.  “It all means something.” (Faith)
  • A trust that this coherence is positive and going somewhere good. (Hope)
  • A trust that this coherence includes me and even defines me.  (Love)

Fr. Richard Rohr at cac.org names faith, hope, and love as the soul’s foundation.  The author of 1 Corinthians 13:13 agrees.

“Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love.”  NLT

Think about it.  Every human being who ever has been, is now, or ever will be, receives equal and inherent dignity as children of God.  We, all of us, have been created in the image of God.  Jew, Gentile, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, believer and non-believer, white, black, brown, purple, straight, gay, male and female, none of the above, etcetera, the ancient wisdom of Jewish scripture (Genesis 1:26-27) tells us this is truth. That is our starting point, but, unfortunately, the human condition questions, disputes, and regresses to a state of prejudice in which the powerless and disadvantaged lose out.  Even the forefathers, hallowed for the United States Declaration of Independence, when they famously declared “all men are created equal”, they actually meant all who are white, property-owning males.

Not much inherent dignity there, but at least it was a new direction in governing.  It became ‘WE, THE PEOPLE’.  That’s what Jesus’ ministry to the downtrodden, oppressed Jewish nation was all about.  Do you really think he was planning to start a brand new religion or that, as many Jews were hoping, he was planning to usurp power from the Roman governors?  No, Jesus understood that he too had inherent dignity as a child of God and that his purpose on earth was to lead others to also believe.  He and his disciples, calling themselves ‘the Way’, ministered to the poor, the sick, the dying, the oppressed with a message that they too were worthy of a seat at the table.  They too were children of God blessed with dignity and worth.

Although the religion which names itself after Christ has missed the mark of the message of Jesus in so many ways throughout history, it does acknowledge that faith, hope, and love (sometimes called charity) are mainstays of a Christ-centered faith.  In the times of today, when not much of anything makes sense and I know the world is irrational, the rock of my spiritual foundation needs to be solid and unwavering.  It cannot be built on man-created theology or a litany of ‘thou shalt and thou shalt not’.  It must be an indwelling sense that has deep personal meaning, that gives me a positive path to follow, that tells me I am worthy of His love.  Jesus is my rock, can be yours too.  Has nothing to do with religion or church or theological correctness.  It’s all about my soul and yours, nurturing that inner sanctum, and claiming our rightful heritage as children of a merciful, loving God.  AMEN?

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”  Psalm 18:2

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Who’s your Daddy?

 

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“Turn Your ear to me, rescue me quickly.  Be a rock of refuge for me, a stronghold for my deliverance.” PSALM 31:3 TL

Where do you go when your world is being challenged from all sides?  I know you have been there because you and I are not uniquely different and, trust me, I have spent a lot of time begging the above verse penned by the authors of Psalms.  It is my signature plea to a timeless, Universal entity whom I name God.  You may name yours by another name, but when we cast aside man’s theological philosophies there is just one who is the I AM.

I like the word phrasing, “rock of refuge.”  It inspires in my mind a place, or state of consciousness, which is protected from the ravages of an insane world, a place where the intents of vile men cannot reach me, a sanctuary which can conceal me even from the evil which exists within.  The rock is strong, impenetrable and secure.  Amazingly, it does not erode with the forces of nature or the passage of time.  On the contrary, it grows and becomes stronger.

And, it is a “stronghold for my deliverance.”  As much as I would like to attribute all my factory defects to environment and circumstance, when I find that inner  place of honesty and transparency, I realize that I need desperately to be delivered from myself and the character traits which make my personal world insane and unmanageable.  “Turn you ear to me, rescue me quickly” from that which seeks to destroy me – anger, envy, greed, gluttony, pride, sloth, and lust.

Social injustice, poverty, oppression, national politics are also issues that can cause severe conflict if I don’t have a rock to sort everything and place priorities on those issues.  Approaching wickedness and uncivility with a peaceable intervention does not imply a lack of conviction.  I do not need to scream and rant to show the outside world that I am incensed by a corrupt political system.  Jesus overturned the tax collectors’ tables efficiently and forcefully, but I don’t see in the Bible any accounts of screaming, violence, and profanity.  Jesus also had that rock as his fortress and refuge.  He had his personal inner conviction guiding his actions, but he relied on the strength of the rock whom he called Father.

Many people want to contradict the existence of a rock, they vehemently deny with substantial energy that God is not.  That’s OK, I at one time was one of them.  Stridently ridiculing those of faith and defying them to prove their faith was a hallmark of my youth.  I was the intelligent one, they were the dupes.

Only when alcoholism forced me to my knees, did I decide to stay on my knees for a few moments longer and say a prayer, plead to the unfamiliar rock and fortress which I had ridiculed and discredited for many years.  With no more arguments, nothing to lose,  I was in desperate need of relief from myself and my atheism.

My church foundation as a young boy was based on old time preaching and music.  We sang “ROCK OF AGES” probably every Sunday.  “Rock of ages cleft for me.”  It’s a stunning visual for lost souls –  a fissure in a solid rock wall split to provide protection and comfort from the elements of our personal storms.  Why would anyone not want to believe?

ROCK OF AGES

 

HEROES – 2018

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest beckoning me.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and mercy will follow me.

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Who are your heroes?  Sports celebrities, maybe?  World politicians, social justice advocates, personal friends, maybe a parent?  Why do you think of them as heroes?  Intelligence, money, fame, accomplishments, ethics?  Whatever your criteria may be, your choices are absolutely valid because these are your heroes, not your mother’s, your pastor’s, your teacher’s or those of your spouse.  You measure them according to your code of conduct, your conscience.  You see in them the person you strive to be, the legacy you would like to leave as a member of humanity.

In the world of sports celebrities, Derek Jeter of pro baseball, Tim Tebow of college football’s Heisman fame, and Colin Kaepernick of pro football top my list.  The one common thread with the three, in my mind, is their surrender to a purposeful life superseding their athletic gifts.

Jeter exhibited a wholesomeness of character which presented to his fans a lifestyle worthy of emulating.  Derek did not use PEDs, he did not carouse, he did not create chaos in the sports world. Unlike numerous peers who succumbed to the glitz and glitter of fan adoration, he maintained with innocence and wholesomeness his poster child presence as a man of integrity and ethics.

Tim Tebow was quarterback for the Florida Gators winning the Heisman in 2007 and leading his team to BCS National championship games in 2006 and 2008 seasons.  My most memorable thought of Tim is the 2009 BCS Championship game during which he wore in eye black John 3:16.  Over the next 24 hours that verse generated 90 million Google searches.  In 2010 the NCAA banned messages in eye black.  His visibility as a Christian believer created controversy on the playing field and among the sports pundits.  That high-profile walk in faith probably closed many doors of opportunity in the sports world.  He has been instrumental in numerous philanthropic endeavors.

“Loving others is not an option.  As followers of Jesus, we don’t get to love certain people and not others.”  Tim Tebow

Colin Kaepernick is most notable as the professional quarterback who took a knee during the playing of the national anthem.  In subsequent games, fellow team mates and players across the realm of pro football joined him in protesting a country and an Administration which was not paying attention to the increasing incidence of police brutality against blacks.  The POTUS referred publicly to Colin as an s.o.b. who needed to be run out of pro football.  Sports fans will argue till hell freezes over about the legitimacy of Kaepernick’s protests, but one cannot argue his dedication to his belief in social justice for all Americans.  As with Tebow, this highly gifted athlete has put principles above wealth and fame thus seeing his sports career nosedive.  He is the founder of the Colin Kaepernick Foundation to fight oppression and he hosts the Know Your Rights Camp for youth to get educated on how to interact with law enforcement.

My ultimate hero is Jesus of Nazareth.  Not the God-man as created by church fathers in the 4th century, but rather, the human being who loved his fellow-man so much that he was willing to suffer crucifixion as the penalty for his crime of offending the Jewish powers and inciting the Roman conquerors.  Jesus protested the social injustice, aided the oppressed and poor, lived his life according to ethical principles.  I think Jesus is smiling when he sees Derek, Tim and Colin.

Merely my humble opinion of course because I believe life is like a baseball game.  Got to keep on slugging away for what I believe is right – just like my heroes.