Tag Archives: exercise of faith

When You Need the Ear of God in the Fast Water

An elk bugled under a night sky spilled with stars like grains of sugar. My heart lifted. The next morning, I bowed my head under the firs by the creek to listen to the Lord, marveling at King David’s request in Psalm 31:

“In You, O Lord, I put my trust; Let me never be ashamed; Deliver me in Your righteousness. Bow down Your ear to me. Deliver me speedily; Be my rock of refuge…” (verses 1,2).Sept. 2015 016

Did you see that? “Bow down Your ear to me.”

What gave David the courage to make so daring a request?

I searched the creek for empty caddis fly casings for a mosaic wall. These marvels of engineering—tubular accretions of sand—protect the nymph in its larval stage when it crawls the creek bottom like a snail in a shell.

Discarded tubes were hard to find. The drought-depleted creek runs so slowly this year a thick layer of scum covers most of the creek bed.

Lord, flood me with the water of Your grace and joy. Wash away the scum of worry. Help me trust You for what I cannot see. Sept. 2015 045

Under a rough stone seven large caddis fly casings clustered—cemented to their rock of refuge to await next spring. Safe from enemies, they bathe in life-giving water in the deepest part of the creek where no scum grows, to survive summer’s drought.

The fast water.

I wedged the rock down again. The winter creek will run several feet above it, crashing and deadly, but the caddis flies will be safe. I can see the perfect analogy. But I’m afraid of the fast water.

Maybe you are, too?

I once had a ewe named Dolly who was scared of the fast water. Every spring, wSept. 2015 035hen her water bag broke and her lambs squeezed towards the outside world, she came to the barn and fell in the straw, faint with terror.

The other ewes dug holes for nests, murmured sweetly to their unborn lambs, and lay down to push, their bellies inflated like balloons. They licked and talked to their newborns, nudging them towards life-giving udders.

Not Dolly. As the wracking tremors crossed her belly, she’d head straight  into shock, eyes closed, ears growing cold, silent except for the grinding of her teeth, setting mine on edge. Every year it was the same story.OldCompBackup 1291

Bow down your ear to me. Deliver me speedily.

Often I had to pull her lambs out quickly, rip suffocating sacs away, rub the lambs
down, and swing them to clear their lungs of fluid, while Dolly’s eyes slowly glazed over.

A Vitamin B shot changed all that. In seconds, Dolly would lift her head. She’d stare at her babies, wobbly on their legs, hungry. She’d lick them excitedly, head to tail. She’d bawl loudly, announcing her victory as though she’d won Olympic Gold in the Birthing Event.

But after several years of emergency lambings, I had to give up on Dolly. And that’s the biting edge of my fear when I struggle with the same things over and over–that God will give up on me. Do you ever worry that way?

But God says, “I wAugust 2015 206ill never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

My shepherding was limited by resources, genetics, and stamina. But Jesus is the omnipotent Good Shepherd Who cares for us forever. It was David’s intimate knowledge of the character of God that gave him the courage to ask Him to bow down His ear.

“In You, O Lord, I put my trust.”

Spending time with God in His word and prayer builds that same intimacy and knowledge. With it, we defeat the enemy of our souls who knows how to tweak truth just enough to turn it into a lie, keeping our focus on our limiting weakness instead of God’s limitless power.

O Lord Who made the Milky Way, the bugling elk, and caddis fly, bow down Your ear to us. Be our Rock of Refuge where the water runs deep and fast, our Vitamin B to stand firm in trials. Lift our heads that we might focus on Your sufficiency, instead of our weaknesses.Sept. 2015 041

“Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the Lord” (Psalm 31:24).

 

Calisthenics 2–In the Locker Room

Feb-Mar 2015 018 (2)I’m still wrestling with the whole idea of spiritual exercise. I guess I’m expecting some sort of radiance–you know–like the glow of healthy skin during physical exercise.

So far it’s not radiance but dog poop on one child’s feet, another tattling, two melting down, and me trying to create a quick meal everyone will like when we’re out of cheese, non-grainy bread, and juice.  Which makes me wonder if I’m on the wrong track?

Why does my life seem so small, so tunnel-visionly, so mundane, so “Martha?”July-Aug 2015 059

After I wrote Calisthenics 1, I looked for glorious ways to exercise my faith (the Holy Olympics? The Heavenly Oscars?) Instead, I found myself in what feels like the locker room of life–in the sweat and athlete’s foot and mopping after other people’s showers.

As if that’s somehow less…

I faced a grinning baby with a stinky diaper and his solemn older brother who also had a loaded one. To my shame, I told my daughter about her kids with the diaper needs–my girl who’s a missionary and currently battling an excruciating carpal tunnel.

But when I looked in her face, I saw her pain and exhaustion and longing. That’s when I saw You, too, Lord, hanging on the cross for me and for her. That’s when I thought about “…whatever you do for the least of these, you do for Me.” (Matthew 25:40)

I argued with You, I’m sorry to say. I argued I had dishes to do, and toy pick-up, and a child crying, and I wanted to ice my sore foot. I had a schedule to keep and isn’t orderliness Your way, too? What about margin and balance? July-Aug 2015 060 And You said,

Was it “margin” to go to the Cross?   

When I saw Your pain in my daughter’s eyes, I saw the connection between body and spirit. “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1)

Body+living sacrifice=spiritual act of worship.

I saw Your cross planted like a fence post in holy ground, with the failures of all Your loved ones nailing Your body to it, soaked in Your sweat and blood, people weeping around You, some fighting over your clothes, and You thirsty, with only vinegar to drink.

Your words cut through the layers to pierce my flabby heart. “I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought…” (Romans 12:3). Ouch.

When living sacrifices change stinky diapers they worship on holy ground before the One who made children and daughters and bodily functions and weakness and strength.

I realize again it is always and ever about You–about seeing You in the face of my precious daughter, in the grin of her stinky one-year-old,  and in the slightly worried look of her equally stinky and larger three-year-old.July-Aug 2015 001 (2)

It is seeing You in the beautiful mundane, in the calling to which You’ve called me today (and who has any day but today)? It is seeing that when I offer my body as a living sacrifice (not a complaining or half-hearted one) I’m standing on holy ground.

Holy Ground.

It’s not mist, or a pillar of fire, or a golden glow emanating from my path. It’s sweat, tears, and praying in the kitchen. It’s stifling the impatient answer to my husband and speaking kindly. It’s being mindful of the connection between bodily action and spiritual worship.

So today when I delayed a chore to push a fussy baby on a trike, when clock-watching furrowed my brow and planted a plastic smile on my face, I remembered Holy Ground. And I looked around and thought, This–this is it.

Then I whispered Holy Ground to the little guy and he looked at me with his big eyes and quick smile, like Baby Jesus in my arms saying, “There you go. You’re getting it now.”1526329_10152095290999214_2084605039_n

He giggled at the ride and suddenly I couldn’t get over the overwhelming feeling of Your Presence–like my chest could explode right there on the back deck. And the radiance I was looking for?

The radiance is You.

 

One,Two–Calisthenics for the Soul

Dear One,

Have you ever been in an exercise class? Or chased kids around the yard? Or tried for five minutes to copy every move a baby makes during tummy time? If you’re like me, it only takes a few minutes of strenuous exercise to let you know what kind of shape you’re in.

The gift of faith, like the gift of muscles, needs exercise, too. 2 Peter 1:5 says to “…employ every effort in exercising your faith to develop virtue…” I’ve been thinking about what that means.July 2015 067

To exercise muscles means to put them to use–to stretch them, to test their limits, to work up a sweat, to get the heart pumping,  and to burn calories. In other words, this is not merely to go through the motions, but to develop physical and even spiritual virtues.

“…but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” (1Cor. 9:27)

One motivator for me to exercise is to lose weight so I’m lighter and faster on my feet, with improved stamina, health, strength, and appearance. But one look in the mirror or a few minutes of soccer with the kids shows me I’m not very disciplined in this area.

And so I’m wondering–am I similarly pudgy in the spiritual realm?July 2015 062

Exercising faith must look something like exercising the body. If I exercise faith, I stretch it, test its limits, work up a spiritual sweat, and a faster heartbeat. I burn the fat in my soul so I’m quicker to answer God’s call to obey, love, risk, and lay down my life for others.

If I exercise my faith, I want to improve my spiritual stamina, endurance, and health to withstand the attacks of the Enemy and “to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13) as God continues to make me beautiful.

I’m shakin’ in my tennies as I write this . But I remind myself “…we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Cor. 4:16)July 2015 068 (2)

Like any rigorous program of physical exercise, the spiritual exercise of faith will have at least two results:

1. Sore muscles–physical muscles tear a little in strenuous exercise. That’s why they hurt. There’s a cost to spiritual exercise, too–a decision to tear away lesser practices for greater ones.

2. Stronger faith–in the healing process, muscles grow larger and stronger–if we persevere in the training.

Every spiritual training program will be as individual as each person’s weaknesses and areas of spiritual cellulite.  Just as distractions derail physical exercise programs, spiritual exercise is bound to meet with obstacles, too.

In fact, every time I determine again to begin a program of either physical or spiritual discipline, I find myself in a ferocious battle with God’s enemy and ours, the devil–a battle from which I often limp away–bruised, bleeding, and discouraged.July 2015 013 (2)

That battle is the test of my spiritual six-pack. How long does the Enemy fool me? How long before I remember he has no claim on me? That I’m not alone? That God has not and never will let go of me? How well do I know the character and promises of God?

How soon do I return to His path, and my discipline?

Do I know how to put on the full, protective armor of God, to thrust and parry with the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God–so that the Word Himself, this Jesus, fights for me? Do I have His Word hidden in my heart, thrust into my belt, my hand always on the hilt?July 2015 007

Lord–crummy as I am at sticking to a program of physical exercise and caloric restraint, I know I need Your help to exercise my faith to build my spiritual muscles and trim away the useless things I gorge on instead of You. 

I praise You for Your promise to us that “He who began a good work in you will complete it,” (Phil. 1:6) so we know that, while the choice to obey You in exercising faith is ours, You’ll transform our pitiful offerings and attempts into wholeness, beauty, and strength. Thank You, Lord. I love You.