Monday, July 30, 2012

As The Deer Pants for Water (reprise)

It is late July.  The hot sun scorches the earth.  The brittle grass browns and breaks.  Moisture-starved leaves yellow and flutter to the ground.  The baked earth, cracked in every direction, cries for rain.  Insects buzz in erratic dances—nothing else moves.  The stifling heat rises in nearly invisible waves.

Safe in her thicket, the deer stirs.  She must drink.  Gingerly, she ventures to the brook to quench her thirst.  Frequently, she pauses to sniff the air, sensing wolves and other predators lurking nearby, eager to taste her flesh.  They too must drink, so her danger heightens as she nears the life-giving water.  In spite of the danger, her extreme thirst drives her to the stream, for she pants for water.  She must drink.

On a hot summer’s day we guzzle glass after glass of cold, refreshing water, attempting to slake our thirst. If our souls truly pant for God the way the deer pants for water, what would we do?

O God, give me a thirst for You.  Make the thirst in me so strong I must satisfy it. Give me the discipline to drink deeply at your never-ending stream.

Psalm 42:1 & 2 "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God."

Friday, July 27, 2012


I slept through it. The rain. After 25 days of 100 degree plus weather and extreme drought conditions, I slept through it. True, it wasn’t a heavy rain, but how I would have loved to stand in the refreshing liquid life, savoring the cool drops on my parched skin and deeply breathing the clean, clear air.

When I walked out the door at 8:30 in the morning, the sidewalk was wet and the dry grass no longer crunched beneath my feet. The rain-starved ground had guzzled every drop of moisture, leaving a springier cushion beneath my feet.

Driving across town that morning, I noticed the clouds. Instead of a clear blue sky with a scorching yellow sun, layers of white, gray, and black clouds dotted the sky, allowing filtered sunlight to shine down in gentler rays on the over-heated landscape.

In several spots around me, I eagerly watched gray streaks on the horizon, evidence of life-giving rain falling nearby, providing relief to yet another drought-stricken plot of baked earth. As I looked earthward, I noticed that the grass and trees around me already looked greener. Perhaps the green intensified because the sun’s light shone less fiercely, perhaps because the world’s dust and pollution had washed away in the rain. Either way, after such a long time of excessive heat and lack of moisture, my eyes greedily gobbled a green feast.

Just as the water from heaven falls on the earth and makes it green, so too the Spirit falls on mankind, making each of us an oasis in a land of spiritually thirsty people.

Father, let me be wide awake, ready to receive your life-giving Spiritual rain. May my soul drink deeply enough to allow the excess to spill over and water other dry souls.

Isaiah 44:3 “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.”

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Working with Your Hands

One pastime from which I derive much pleasure is making things with my hands.  To take a piece of yarn and make an afghan is very satisfying.  It is amazing that a flat piece of fabric becomes a dress, or colored thread makes a beautiful picture.  After I finish making something, I take great pride in it; it is something I carefully, lovingly made with my own hands.  Perhaps you, too, know the satisfying feeling that comes from creating something beautiful.

God must feel that way about making all of us.  What a beautiful thought!  God, a master craftsman (Jesus was, after all, a carpenter) has knit me, has made me.  From bits of nothing, He created something, a human being; He created me; He created you.

“My frame was not hidden from you, when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:15, 16).  Just as I can look at a skein of yarn and “see” the finished afghan, so God could see me before my body was formed.  Just as I know every stitch that went into an afghan or an article of clothing, God knows everything about me and has known it since before I was born.  And notice, unlike my sometimes-feeble attempts at craftsmanship, the Psalmist’s words say that I was “skillfully wrought.”  Made sloppily?  No.  Made imperfectly?  No.  Made “skillfully.”  Like me, is God proud of his craftsmanship?  I think so.  God made me and made you “skillfully,” so we should be pleased and proud of ourselves; each of us is special and each of us is made exactly the way God wanted us to be. 

How often we complain about ourselves:  I wish I looked like this person, or had his talents or her wisdom.  When we question the way we look, the way we think, or the talents we have, we are questioning God.  When we criticize ourselves, we are sinning against God, our creator.  We are saying that His handiwork is not good.  Does that mean I’m perfect?  Of course not.  It means I am made exactly the way God intended me to be.

Knowing I have been made exactly the way God wanted me fills me with love and humility.  It gives me confidence that I would otherwise lack.  It also gives me a sense of great responsibility.  God gave me a certain personality and certain gifts for a reason.  As a child of His, it is my responsibility to recognize and appreciate the abilities He has created in me; it is my responsibility to dedicate my gifts to God and to use these God-given gifts to glorify my maker.

Oh God, creator of the universe, forgive me when I criticize your handiwork.  Help me to have confidence in who I am, not out of boastfulness, but because I know you lovingly made me as you wanted me and you are pleased with your work.

Psalm 139:13 "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb."

Friday, July 20, 2012


Before my morning walk I guzzle 16 ounces of water, trying to adequately hydrate before walking in the heat. On this 20th day of July, we’ve already had more than 20 days of 100 degree or higher heat. Even though much of my walk is shaded, I slather on sunscreen and head out the door. Walking on the nature trails is relatively cool—the trees’ dappled shade provides a respite from the sun’s merciless heat.
As I walk, I notice the plant life around me. The trees still stretch their leafy canopies over the pathway, but signs of stress abound. Patches of yellow dot the overhead branches, and dry, brown, crunchy leaves litter my walk. Even though their roots reach deep underground, the trees struggle to find water in the unending heat and drought. Other than a brief sprinkle yesterday, I can’t remember the last time it rained.

The undergrowth shows evidence of the hot and dry conditions. Some of the once deep-green grasses have faded to pale, washed-out green. Those are the fortunate plants. Most are now brown and dried; the ones near the path crunch and crumble beneath my feet, becoming one with the dirt path.

When I reach the cement bridge over the little stream, I notice the creek has shrunk to half its normal size. Gone are the bubbling waters cascading over the rocks. Now the stream moves sluggishly along its path, exposing half of its muddy bed. Surely everything around me is parched and cries out for water. All the life around me waits for life-giving rain.

As I head toward home, I feel sweat dripping onto my neck. I too am parched and anxious to drink more water. Even though I stopped at a water fountain halfway through my walk, my mouth is dry and my thirst urges my feet to move quickly toward home and water. Unlike the forest plants and trees, I can turn on the faucet and quench my thirst whenever I choose. Nature must wait for rain.

So if I can quench my thirst whenever I want, why do I allow my soul to become dry? I can drink deeply from spiritual waters as often and as much as I please. Why do I allow my spirit to become thirsty? Just as I must replenish the water lost while walking, I must replenish my soul with Christ’s living water and not allow my soul to be parched.

Father, remind me to drink deeply and often from your living spiritual water.

Psalm 107:8 & 9 “Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.”

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Listening to the Stream

At first glance, the stream appears motionless, its shallow green waters merely reflecting the overarching canopy of green. But here by the bridge, rocks litter the stream’s bed, and its water comes to life. Its meandering impeded, the stream ripples, bubbles, and rushes. The currents ripple and swirl around the rocks and fall over submerged stone, plunging to a lower level, leaving bubbling foam at the base of the mini-waterfall. I sit by the side of the stream listening to its gurgling, allowing the water’s chaos to soothe my soul.

God’s spirit flows through my life like a stream. At times it moves so quietly I scarcely notice its motion. But once life’s difficulties obstruct my way, I take more quiet time to listen carefully for God’s spirit rushing through my life. When I sit quietly, watching and listening, I have eyes to see and ears to hear His spirit moving in my life.

Lord, help me to be inwardly still during crises and during calm times, that I may better acknowledge you and your work in my life.

Psalm 46:10a “Be still and know that I am God.”

Friday, July 6, 2012

One Teaspoon at a Time

Years ago I watched a construction crew dig the foundation of a house. Sitting on my front porch while my children played, I saw the big digger drive up over the curb into the empty lot across the street. The man in the yellow hard hat climbed out of the digger and consulted with other men in hard hats who’d arrived in trucks. After walking around the lot and talking together for a few minutes, the first man climbed back into the digger. The big engine roared to life, and the driver pulled a lever. The huge bucket on his digger reached down and bit its teeth into the earth. As the man pulled more levers, the earth-filled bucket swiveled and dumped its contents into a dump truck. Bite after giant bite of earth filled the waiting dump trucks. The filled dump trucks drove away full and returned empty, ready for more dirt. Within a couple of hours a large rectangular hole, the foundation for a new home, appeared in the empty lot.

 If that foundation had been dug with a teaspoon…it would have taken years, rather than hours to dig it. If dozens of people all wielded their teaspoons, digging the soil and dumping it into the truck, it would still have taken far more than two hours to dig that foundation. As crazy as it sounds, though, a foundation could be dug that way.

I have to admit that my mind sometimes works in strange ways. Last week, when I helped deliver meals to the homeless, I thought about how difficult it would be to survive outdoors in the merciless 100 degree, humid weather. But my mind also skipped ahead a few months, and I wondered, How difficult would it be to survive in the streets during the winter? Can you imagine shivering in an icy wind all day and all night?

I want to do something to help, but there are so many people. We fed 70 and know there are more homeless in our community than that. I want to crochet an afghan, make a fleece blanket, and purchase some good, used winter clothes. But how could I offer an afghan, a blanket, and a coat to a few people while others, shivering nearby, watch?

That’s when I thought about digging a foundation with a teaspoon. I’m only one person, and have neither time nor resources to keep the homeless warm or to get them off the streets. But I have a teaspoon: I can crochet one afghan, I can make one fleece blanket, and I can buy one used coat. This will make a tiny dent in the soil of discomfort for the homeless. But what if many others, all wielding their own teaspoons, joined me in this endeavor? Together, with our tiny teaspoons, we can accomplish much.

I’ve asked others who knit or crochet to make some 8 inch squares. If enough people knit or crochet squares, we can sew them together and create many warm afghans! With our teaspoons, with our small gestures, we can dig a hole big enough to make a difference. Are you ready to dig with your teaspoon?

Proverbs 19:17 “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done.”

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Least of These

Even at 10 am this late June morning, the air is hot and heavy with moisture. Today’s expected high is 106 degrees. Fortunately, I sit in the park, surrounded by huge, leafy green canopies. The cottonwoods, oak, and sycamores provide some protection and relief from the sun’s rays.

All around me I hear Spring’s mating calls: the cardinals sing, hoping to attract a mate. Cicadas' harsh calls sound from my left, then the answering calls echo to my right. I sit on a bench under the shade of a wooden gazebo, soaking in the calm atmosphere.

My mind drifts. Instead of enjoying the beauty and quiet of Lemon Park in Pratt, Kansas, my mind drifts back a few days. I’m in downtown Wichita, on a Sunday evening in 100 degree heat. Here, too, I’m seeking shade, but for a different reason.

With six gentlemen friends, I seek shade not for myself, but for others. We’re on a quest, seeking the homeless. Surely, on this hot day, they seek relief from the oppressive heat in a shaded spot or grassy, tree-lined park.

My friends and I aren’t disappointed. We find the homeless trying to keep cool in sheltered spots: under the Kellogg overpass, in the shade of a gazebo in Old Town, and in the shadows of the downtown library. We offer our small gifts—a sandwich, a bag of chips, a cookie, a pack of gum, some toiletries, and a bottle of water. They seem such a small gifts. We chat for a few moments with each group. Invariably we are thanked, often with a sincere, “God bless you.”

Then we climb back into our air-conditioned vehicles and search for others who are hot, thirsty, and displaced. The irony of our finding some respite from the heat in an air-conditioned vehicle does not escape me. The 70 or so people appreciate the gifts, but our gesture seems so small, like using a teaspoon to dig the foundation of a house. But we will continue to dig that foundation, providing what we can. One sandwich and one water bottle at a time, we’ll provide small gifts for our brothers. One small gift is better than nothing.

Mark 12:29-31 “The most important [commandment] …is this… ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Matthew 25:40b “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did your for me.”