It’s been so humid, with a day of rain, so I know what’s coming: mushrooms!
I think whimsical thoughts of fairy seats, gnomes, and the mysteries of the forest floor. I love the overnight secret work of these mushrooms. And I love how we can still find something wonderful in any condition.
I woke up distressed about the news in Charlottesville as I have walked those grounds for four years as a undergraduate. I think about what it means to gather together and love people, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and teach others how to live without superiority and hate in their hearts. Is there no answer in scripture? Is there no teaching here?
I go to Philippians 2 and the instruction to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” I go to Ephesians 2 and the teaching on unity; I think about how we are all being “built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” I go to Galatians 5 and read again about the fruit of the flesh that inevitably feeds division, rage, hatred, and factions. The sin we see in Charlottesville is an ancient evil. In fact, it points to the enemy of souls and the “spiritual forces of evil” that aren’t flesh and blood. We unite in the battle against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6).
As people around me ask what to do and how to help when we see attitudes and actions rooted in superiority and hated I think of this: Everywhere we go, might we teach what it means to believe that others are better, have more to teach us, understand God in a way we haven’t experienced yet, and connect with our souls to fashion a special structure that houses God in a more complete way? Fundamentally, we belong to one another, and we have an enemy seeking always to divide. We proclaim this in our homes and neighborhoods, in our schools and in our churches. We understand firstly that the cause of what we see is spiritual. The solution, first of all, is as well. We go to God’s word, depend on Jesus’ supernatural power to heal division, and we move out into the world as agents of peace, unity, and mercy.
So many times, I want to move into action in my own efforts to solve problems, to have impact, and to make a difference. But today I remember John 15:5 where Jesus says to abide with Him. He says, “apart from me you can do nothing.”
Nothing! Apart from God, we can do nothing. If we remain in His love, however, we do extraordinary acts of love empowered and directed by the Holy Spirit.
Today, in the forest along the road behind my house, deer ate from the bushes. I circled around twice to see two spotted fawns eating as well. What other wonders hide in the forest?
Each new semester, I wonder if this time, I’ll feel exhausted and bored and burnt out when I arrive to sign my new teaching contract in the English department. I wonder if this is the year I’ll experience drudgery. I wonder if I’ll resent the work–the lessons plans and grading and office hours.
Those feelings never come! Praise God for fresh joy and energy! I visit my empty classrooms with so much curiosity and giddy anticipation of which students will sit where, what I’ll learn about them, and what I’ll read of their writing. What a privilege and sacred vocation teaching has become in my heart! What a wonderful task ahead!
We returned from our summer travels to find an enormous plant overtaking the corner of the garden. Is it a pumpkin plant? A zucchini? Squash? Watermelon? Since its roots originate from the depths of our dark, rich, nutritious compost bin––where we discarded pumpkin seeds––we think it’s a pumpkin. We consulted a horticulturalist who believes it’s most likely a pumpkin growing.
How fun to wait and see what’s coming! How curious to not know, to wonder. I think about planting our hearts in the rich, nutritious soil of God’s word. I think about how we’ll grow so beautifully and bountifully this new academic year. I think about how we often cannot predict what kind of harvest might come. But we know this:
It will be more than we can ask or even imagine (Ephesians 3). Perhaps, in October, I’ll be harvesting glorious pumpkins. I’ll keep you posted!
I think about Psalm 42 and what it means to thirst for God, the Living God (verse 2). It’s so curious to note the cause of thirst and the soul-dehydrating experiences of the psalmist. He recounts his tears, his longing for a past to which he cannot return, and his disturbed and downcast soul. He’s looking inward, not outward to whatever God might promise. He’s soul thirsty.
This summer in my Old Testament course, I learned how, in the ancient world, water mattered more than anything else. Finding water meant thriving bodies, crops, and livestock. The pagan religions focused on pleasing the gods to guarantee rain. Yet the psalmist isn’t thirsty for this most practical and physically sustaining element. He thirsts for the Living God who brings a hope far greater than bodily thriving and material prosperity. What matters most is that he might “meet with God.” What matters is the blessing of God that far surpasses whatever else it is we think we need.
We thirst for Jesus. We say, along with the psalmist, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” And today, we can meet with Him right now, wherever we are, in whatever condition of thirst. He becomes our living water now.
I’ve loved blogging daily for since March 2010 because it provides a moment, a call for reflection and worship. I write each day to answer the two questions that have come to govern my whole life:
How can I worship God here because of what I see that reflects Him?
What I am learning?
These questions have cured so many days of longing and sadness and boredom and even anger. The questions have cured confusion and wandering.
So I take a moment.
All afternoon, I think about Psalm 119:9-16 as an answer to the question, “How can I live a godly life? How can I keep my way pure?” I especially think about this for all the incoming freshmen students who want to live in a way that pleases God.
The psalmist writes:
How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes!
With my lips I declare
all the rules of your mouth.
In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.
I consider what it means to seek God with my whole heart so I do not wander. I think about storing up His word more and more. I think about how to fix my eyes on God and how to delight in Him. I will guard my life according to God’s word.