The Prosperous Soul

Prosperous
Prosperous

 Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. (3 John 1:2)

I returned from a trip once to discover one of my houseplants drooping over the sides of a clay pot on a shelf in the corner. Somehow “Violet” had been overlooked by the friend who watered the rest of the plants, brought the mail in and let the dog out. I poured water into the poor dry pot, then sorted through the pile of envelopes on the table. I turned around when I heard the sound of dripping on the floor. The water I had just poured into poor Violet flowed over the edge of the shelf and onto the floor leaving a grey puddle on the carpet. In her neglected state her desiccated soil lacked the ability to absorb anything. Her thirsty roots could not take hold of the water meant for her and instead it poured out the bottom.

Some people are like that. You can encourage and give and “pour into them” over and over, and they still droop — perpetually, it would seem. Kind words, generous deeds, encouraging actions –all seem to merely puddle on the floor, beneath them. Yet they crave more.

I confess I’m like that sometimes. I’m not just talking about difficulty receiving compliments, but about receiving the love God pours out on me. Sometimes it seems too good to be true and I’m sure that, given my history, He surely must be sick and tired of me, at least part of the time. I find it hard to receive.

I’ve been meditating on Ephesians 3 lately.  This part caught my attention: “May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love that you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it];”

Paul’s prayer was that folks would have the power and strength to apprehend and grasp God’s love. It seems that being the recipient of God’s generous goodness requires strength. It requires exertion to hold it and keep it before it moves on.

When Violet couldn’t retain moisture I took her pot from the shelf and set it in a bowl of water for a couple of days until the soil drew it up and became saturated. In other words, she needed to soak in abundance for a while.

John addressed the familiar greeting and prayer for physical prosperity to his friend, Gaius. He said he knew Gaius’ soul already prospered because he walked in truth. He soaked in it.

Many of us lack prosperous souls because we have we have histories of feeling neglected. It’s hard to have your need for love met by parents raised by generations of parents who also suffered from love deficits. We have believed so many untruths, and been hurt or disappointed by so many people we ought to have been able to trust, that when the real thing comes along we don’t really believe it. We’ve been deceived by flattery before. We’ve had love withheld when we failed to measure up. We’ve been passed by as blessings and approval went to others. Neglect is so common, in fact, that religion has taught for centuries that we have to merit the merits of Christ. We assume love is meant for someone else but, as the song says, “not for me.” Religion always tries to qualify definitions of grace with a “yeah, but…”

Yesterday I listened to Bach’s setting of Mary’s prophetic song in Luke 1. One of my favourite songs of all times is Mary’s humble declaration, as J.B. Phillips translated it: “He has deigned to notice me.”  (“Quia respexit humilitatem” in Bach’s version.) Mary was most blessed among women because she had the inner strength to accept and carry the ultimate expression of God’s love — His Son. Her response was one of praise.

Then Mary said, “My heart is overflowing with praise of my Lord, my soul is full of joy in God my Saviour, for he has deigned to notice me, his humble servant and, after this, all the people who ever shall be will call me the happiest of women! The one who can do all things has done great things for me—oh, holy is his Name! Truly, his mercy rests on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, he has swept away the high and mighty. He has set kings down from their thrones and lifted up the humble. He has satisfied the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away with empty hands. Yes, he has helped Israel, his child: he has remembered the mercy that he promised to our forefathers, to Abraham and his sons for evermore!” Luke 1:46-55

We will never be the vessels God designed us to be if we neglect to send our roots down deep into His love and learn to drink deeply. A productive life of beauty, pleasant fragrance, and good fruit is entirely dependent on learning to soak up God’s love, on responding to his attention and believing and knowing in an intensely intimate way that His love is not conditional or manipulative. His Love is Truth. Without his love flowing through every fiber of our being we droop. We starve in the midst of abundance.

When God said,”Be still (cease striving) and know that I am God,” in the middle of a Psalm about battle, he used the same word that described Adam’s relationship with Eve -an intimate, profound, restful knowledge.

A prosperous soul is a soul that knows it is deeply loved and cherished and can rest in that love.  Everything else is poverty.

May He grant you out of the rich treasury of His glory to be strengthened and reinforced with mighty power in the inner man by the [Holy] Spirit [Himself indwelling your innermost being and personality].

 May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love,

 That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it];

[That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]!

 Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]—

 To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen (so be it). (Ephesians 3:16-21 Amplified version)

As we enter a new year, my prayer for you is that you may prosper in all things and be in health -as your soul prospers. A blessed and prosperous New Year to you!

God is love. He loves you and sent His Son for you. Let that soak in for a while.

Dance with Me

Flowers by the Dead Sea
Flowers by the Dead Sea

I fell in love at Christmas.

I didn’t intend to. In fact the only reason I went out with this guy, who was persistent enough to ask eight times, was to prove to him that we had nothing in common and that it would be colossally boring.

It wasn’t. He talked to me like I had a brain. All my male friends were boys I had grown up with; this was a man. That fact was kind of intimidating so I said goodnight and that was that. But…..later I needed an escort to a posh event with the opera company I was a part of and none of my male friends would be caught dead in a place like that. I was desperate so I asked him, and he obliged. One of the women at the reception asked me how I snagged a “gold key blazer man.”  I didn’t even know what that was, but the fact she was impressed made me look again. He drove me home and we sat in the car and talked for hours. We went out several times after that. He bought me expensive gifts. He took me to fine restaurants. He introduced me to his friends who were in a different world than mine.

On Boxing Day, all those years ago, my brother and I were at our grandmother’s house. I remember being a bit of a grouch and not wanting to join in the usual annual family crokinole tournament. I overheard him ask Grandma, “Sheesh. What’s the matter with her?”

“Nothing,” Grandma said. “She’s just in love.”

I was a bit annoyed and then I realized, Oh my goodness! She’s right! I miss him and I would rather be with him than with my family on Christmas! Oh, no!

The “Oh, no!” was because I knew this demanded a response and would change my life and mess with my plans.

It did. But in a good way.

We’re still together and we still talk and talk on long drives to visit our grandchildren.

In the Bible God often uses the image of the bride and the suitor -in Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Hosea, and again in Revelation where He talks about returning for his bride.

I remember singing this old carol with a small ensemble in a concert once and the bass protested that He had no idea what the words meant or how it related to Christmas. Men sometimes have difficulty with the whole concept of being the object of God’s pursuit. Some of them become quite angry at songs they call “Jesus is my boyfriend songs.”  My husband says it’s because men like to see themselves as the one who initiates. (I think the Lord obliges and uses other human experiences like Father/son and  shepherd/lost sheep as well.)

The bride image is one I understand though. I hear the Lord throwing little pebbles at my window in the night and softly singing, “Come away with me.”

This ancient Cornish Christmas carol, “Tomorrow Will Be My Dancing Day,” reminds me that everything he did, from laying down his right to be recognized as the king of the universe, to washing the feet of his disciples, to laying down his life and conquering death was to pursue us and invite us to dance with him -because He is in love with us.

 

Tomorrow shall be my dancing day;

I would my true love did so chance

To see the legend of my play,

To call my true love to my dance;

 

          Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love,

          This have I done for my true love.

 

Then was I born of a virgin pure,

Of her I took fleshly substance

Thus was I knit to man’s nature

To call my true love to my dance.

 

          Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love,

          This have I done for my true love. 

 

In a manger laid, and wrapped I was

So very poor, this was my chance

Between an ox and a silly poor ass

To call my true love to my dance.

 

          Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love,

          This have I done for my true love.

     

Mother and Child

Mother and Child
Mother and Child
Hooked rug by Margaret Forsey of Newfoundland

Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.

Mary did you know that your baby boy will make a blind man see?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.

The blind will see, the deaf will hear and the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the mute will speak, the praises of the lamb.

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am.

-Mark Lowry

 

Upon a Midnight Clear

IMG_0465 steeples moon ch

Yet with the woes of sin and strife The world has suffered long; Beneath the angel strain have rolled Two thousand years of wrong; And man, at war with man, hears not The love-song which they bring; O hush the noise, ye men of strife And hear the angels sing.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load, Whose forms are bending low, Who toil along the climbing way With painful steps and slow, Look now! for glad and golden hours Come swiftly on the wing. O rest beside the weary road, And hear the angels sing!

For lo! the days are hastening on, By prophet-bards foretold, When with the ever circling years Comes round the age of gold; When peace shall over all the earth Its ancient splendors fling, And the whole world send back the song Which now the angels sing.

 

-from “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” by Marcus Tidmarsh

May the Peace of Christ be with you today and always!

And a very special blessing to a friend of Jesus (and friend of mine) who, just this week, donated a kidney to someone she doesn’t even know. Many, many blessings on you!!!! You are already famous in heaven!

Rise Up. Go.

On Track
On Track

I would like to know the eternal repercussions of every decision before I make it. I want to figure out every possible permutation and be prepared for it. (Maybe that explains my tendency to pack too much.) Change is not easy for those of us reluctant to let go of the past before we grab on to the future.

Sometimes, when we pay attention, we can hear the promptings of Holy Spirit, but then we want a complete itinerary -with an accompanying accurate weather report. Sometimes the only instruction He gives is, “Move. Get out of the driveway.”

Train engineers don’t need to worry about the myriad of options laying before them at every turn. It’s pretty much a matter of go, stop, pull over and rest and go again. They can trust that the tracks ahead of them will take them where they need to go and switches will be prepared for them. The train in this photo is on it way through the historic Crowsnest Pass. (That’s Crowsnest Mountain peaking around the corner there.) It makes provision for wheat and other commodities from the rich bread basket of the Canadian prairies to be shipped to the port on the Pacific Ocean. It’s path has been clearly laid. The train doesn’t need to forge new trails. It needs merely to start moving and follow the two lines of steel before it.

The story of Christ’s birth includes so many angelic interventions. It seems as if the information they gave was on a need-to-know basis. Different people had different parts of the story. In hindsight we can see the marvelous plan laid our from the beginning of time, but most people only had little bits of it to work with at the time. For some, the message was simply, “Go.” Joseph learned the importance of paying attention to God’s timing. His job was to protect the young woman who carried the most important message in the world. That’s why God chose a man who would listen and act on a message in a dream. He needed someone who knew how to trust.

Trustworthy people know how to trust.

When we trust God to lead us we can trust Him to have made a way for us before we get there. When He says go, we go. When He says stop, we stop. Good enough.

But first we need to leave the comforts of the familiar and  move. Rise up. Go.

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;

don’t try to figure out everything on your own.

Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;

he’s the one who will keep you on track. (Proverbs 3:5,6 The Message)

Mount of Thy Unchanging Love

Come Thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy, never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise

DSC_0017 Crowsnest Mountain light

Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy unchanging love

 

But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.

For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress.

(Psalm 59:16)

Oh Holy Night: Chante ta délivrance!

Midnight The Solemn Hour
Midnight
The Solemn Hour

I try to be positive. I really do. I usually appreciate any attempt at singing. Song is a free gift that can be enjoyed by anyone. But to me some songs are sacred, holy, set apart and meant to glorify God. They are not meant to be recorded by pop singers with no sense of phrasing, or breath control, who have inadequate diction and obviously no emotional connection to the lyrics, and then piped through the aisles of Stuffmart to create background noise for harried shoppers who don’t give a damn. I’ve threatened to go postal if I hear Santa Baby in the produce aisle one more time -but that’s just irritating. It’s hearing one of the greatest hymns/carols of all time massacred over and over that makes me want to plop down on the floor by the gift boxed baubles and weep.

(Rant over)

When I taught singing my students often asked if they could work on “Oh Holy Night.”

“Not for a few years yet,” I told most of them. “And when you do it will  in the original language.”

“Why?”

“Because your voice isn’t ready and because you have heard it so often in English you can’t hear the words anymore. Most versions drop half the lyrics anyway. I want you to study it, to translate it, to concentrate and savour every note and every word.”

Like songs that are sung year after year and have lost their flavour like chewing gum on the bedpost overnight, we can become so familiar with the goodness of God we cease to grasp the depth and height and width of it. We fail to comprehend the massiveness of His love. We take it for granted. We develop a sense of entitlement, as if God owes us freedom, and deliverance from slavery to sin. We fail to pay attention.

Translations that have to fit the meter and accents of a set piece of music are never entirely accurate, but here is another English translation of Minuit, Chretien. Listen to the words again.

Midnight, Christians, it is the solemn hour,
When God as man descended unto us
To erase the stain of original sin
And to end the wrath of His Father.
The entire world thrills with hope
On this night that gives it a Saviour.

People kneel down, wait for your deliverance.
Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer,
Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer!

May the ardent light of our Faith
Guide us all to the cradle of the infant,
As in ancient times a brilliant star
Guided the Oriental kings there.
The King of Kings was born in a humble manger;
O mighty ones of today, proud of your greatness,

It is to your pride that God preaches.
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!

The Redeemer has broken every bond:
The Earth is free, and Heaven is open.
He sees a brother where there was only a slave,
Love unites those that iron had chained.
Who will tell Him of our gratitude,
For all of us He is born, He suffers and dies.

People stand up! Sing of your deliverance,
Christmas, Christmas, sing of the Redeemer,
Christmas, Christmas, sing of the Redeemer!

Attend ta Délivrance Pay Attention
Attend
ta Délivrance

From the English version:

Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory evermore proclaim!
His power and glory evermore proclaim!

(Link to video in comments)