The Fire of Love

Luke 11:33-36

Richard Rolle (1290-1349) writes, in his The Fire of Love, about the spiritual flame that feeds the soul: “I cannot tell you how surprised I was the first time I felt my heart begin to warm. It was real warmth, too, not imaginary, and it felt as if it were actually on fire. I was astonished at the way the heat surged up and how this new sensation brought great and unexpected comfort. I had to keep feeling my breast to make sure there was no physical reason for it.

“But once I realized that it came entirely from within, that this fire of love had no cause, material or sinful, but was the gift of my Maker, I was absolutely delighted, and wanted my love to be even greater. And this longing was all the more urgent because of the delightful effect and the interior sweetness which this spiritual flame fed into my soul. Before the infusion of this comfort, I had never thought that we exiles could possibly have known such warmth, so sweet was the devotion it kindled. It set my soul aglow.”

When I came to faith in Christ at a Billy Graham Crusade in Boston, Massachusetts, I felt this flame within me. It was as though I was on fire and all the spiritual detritus within me had been burned away. I felt the embers flash into flame again, when on a Cursillo weekend, I sensed a call to the ministry. This time the fire was accompanied by light that seemed to surround me and encompass me. I entered seminary, and in my first preaching class, my professor, Gwyn Walters, told me he could feel the fire within me when it came through, as a “fire in my belly,” as I expounded on the Word of God.

Like Rolle, I have also moved through times when I felt “spiritually frozen…missing what I had become accustomed to…[feeling] myself barren.” Disappointments and overturnings in my life obtruded into my soul warmth, disturbing and quenching the flame. I was comforted then by Rolle’s assertion, that the flame, once kindled, is “irremovable” because it has taken hold of the heart.

Rolle notes us that no mortal could survive the heat at its peak if it persisted. “We must inevitably wilt before the vastness and sweetness of love so intense and heat so indescribable.” Yet at the same time, we long for more of this “honeyed flame;” we long to be “held in thrall with those who sing their Maker’s praise.”

The soul warmth within me continues to bring comfort and enlightenment and an overpowering sense of the presence and love of the living God. The fire still burns steadily and, often, fans into flame.

Have you experienced the “fire of love” as described in this post? Would you be willing to share your experience with me? I am working on a chapter about soul warmth and spiritual fire and would appreciate your input. Please respond in the comments below or email me at Thank you, in advance, for any assistance you are able and willing to provide.

Christ is Building His Kingdom with Earth’s Broken Things

Christ is building His kingdom with earth’s broken things. Human beings want only the strong, the successful, the victorious, the unbroken, in building their kingdoms; but God is the God of the unsuccessful, of those who have failed. Heaven is filling with earth’s broken lives, and there is no bruised reed that Christ cannot take and restore to glorious blessedness and beauty. He can take the life crushed by pain or sorrow and make it into a harp whose music shall be all praise. He can lift earth’s saddest failure up to heaven’s glory.
–J. R. Miller
Adapted from today’s Streams in the Desert

Hold Us Up Against Our Sins

Father in Heaven! Hold not our sins up against us but hold us up against our sins so that the thought of You when it wakens in our soul, and each time it wakens, should not remind us of what we have committed but of what You did forgive, not of how we went astray but of how You did save us.—Søren Kierkegaard

Excerpt from The Prayers of Kierkegaard.

Sketch of Søren Kierkegaard. Based on a sketch by Niels Christian Kierkegaard (1806-1882), in the public domain.


Holding Up the Life of Another Before God

From Douglas Steere’s book, Prayer and Worship, comes this excerpt on intercessory prayer:

When we hold up the life of another before God, when we expose it to God’s love, when we pray for its release from drowsiness, for the quickening of its inner health, for the power to throw off a destructive habit, for the restoration of its free and vital relationship with its fellows, for its strength to resist temptation, for its courage to continue against sharp opposition—only then do we sense what it means to share in God’s work, in his concern; only then do the walls that separate us from others come down…”Prayer is incipient action,” and these clues are the lines along which the molten freedom of the person in prayer is to be cast. “Mind the Light,” reads an inscription on a sundial. Come under holy obedience.

Here is the unformed side of life’s relationships—the letters to be written, the friends to be visited, the journey to be undertaken, the suffering to be met by food, or nursing care, or fellowship. Here is the social wrong to be resisted, the piece of interpretive work to be undertaken, the command to “rebuild my churches,” the article to be written, the wrong to be forgiven, the grudge to be dropped, the relationship to be set right, the willingness to serve God in the interior court by clear honest thinking, and the refusal to turn out shoddy work.

Yet we need more than the intimations. We need spiritual staying power to carry them out…Holy obedience to the insights, to the concerns that come, that persist, and that are in accord with God’s way of love is not only the active side of prayer, but is the only adequate preparation for future prayer.

Sunday’s Palms Are Wednesday’s Ashes

Sunday’s palms are Wednesday’s ashes as another Lent begins;
Thus we kneel before the Maker in contrition for our sins.
We have marred baptismal pledges, in rebellion gone astray;
Now returning, seek forgiveness; grant us pardon, God, this day!

We have failed to love our neighbors, their offenses to forgive,
Have not listened to their troubles, nor have cared just how they live.
We are jealous, proud, impatient, loving over-much our things;
May the yielding of our failings be our Lenten offerings.

We are hasty to judge others, blind to proof of human need;
And our lack of understanding demonstrates our inner greed;
We have wasted earth’s resources; want and suffering we’ve ignored;
Come and cleanse us, then restore us; make new hearts within us Lord.

-Rae B. Whitney (1991)

I had intended to post this on Ash Wednesday, but just located the lyrics today. Though a tad late, the words remain good ones for reflection, prayer and action during this period of Lent and beyond.



Converts to Christ Who Are Not Disciples of Christ

Richard Foster writes: “Perhaps the greatest malady in the Church today is converts to Christ who are not disciples of Christ–a clear contradiction in terms. This malady affects everything in church life and in large measure accounts for the low level of spiritual nutrients in our local congregations. To counter this sad state of affairs, we must determine that, regardless of what others do, our intention is to come under the tutelage of Jesus Christ, our ever-living Savior, Teacher, Lord, and Friend.”
Dallas Willard reminds us that: “Nondiscipleship costs abiding peace, a life penetrated through by love, faith that sees everything in the light of God’s overriding governance for good, hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging of circumstances, power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil. In short, it costs exactly that abundance of life Jesus same He came to bring (John 10:10).”
In Devotional Classics, in which both of these quotes are found, it is noted that Jesus instructed His followers to obey everything that He had commanded (Matt. 28:16-20). A good exercise, in this period of Lent, would be to go through the gospel of Matthew to list all the things Jesus commanded us to do. The results would make up a mosaic of what the basic Christian life should look like according to Jesus.

Under Pressure

JAMES 1:1-12

The author of James, whom we believe to be the half-brother of Jesus and leader of the Jerusalem council (that we read about in Acts 15), wanted the church to grow up into the beautiful picture and pattern that God had set before it. He wanted the church to live out with enthusiasm the lifestyle of which it was capable, and he wanted those who called themselves followers of Christ to have the Word of God written upon their hearts.

So the Holy Spirit inspired James to write an “Instruction Manual” for the daily living out of the Christian faith. His premise was that we must not only speak the Christian faith for everyone to hear; we must live out the Christian faith for everyone to see and feel. For James, this faith depended not only on outward expressions (words and actions) but also on how far those words traveled on their inward journey to the heart.

So let’s dig in and see what truths we can unearth for our journey as we look most especially in this entry at chapter 1, verses 2 to 4 and 12, where James acknowledges the presence of tests, troubles and trials in the journey of faith.  Those verses are rendered in this way in Eugene Peterson’s translation of the Bible: The Message.

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.”

Consider it a gift when tests and challenges come at us from all sides? A gift? Yes.


After James introduces himself as a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, he immediately tackles–head on–the reality of “troubles” in the Christian journey. Notice that James doesn’t say “if” troubles will come; he says “when.” He presupposes that every human being, including the Christian, will experience trials, troubles and temptations in life.

As we look at this reality, we also find — in verse twelve – an assurance that we can survive trials and that, through them, we can become even stronger and more sensitive to the troubles of others. As believers, we understand that we cannot avoid times of darkness–they will come. But we also understand that darkness is always followed by light, the cross gives way to the crown, death is defeated by resurrection.

The Christian life is not easy–and because of that–it is never boring. Every athlete knows the reality of no pain–no gain. Without pain, our performance level never reaches beyond the mundane. We experience victory only as the product of discipline.

A few decades ago, Methodist preacher Ralph Sockman, said, “In life there are three types of troubles: The troubles we can avoid, the troubles we cannot avoid and the troubles we must not avoid.” When looking at our troubles, remember it’s all a matter of perspective.

Zig Ziglar tells the story of a general who found himself completely surrounded by enemy troops. Instead of panicking or surrendering, he simply turned to his soldiers and said, “Men, for the first time in the history of this military campaign, we are in position to attack the enemy in all directions.” Perspective.

Again, the Christian faith doesn’t deny the reality of troubles. But, according to James, our faith gives us the power and perspective to focus not on the trouble but on how best to use our troubles for growth. James calls us to face troubles without yielding to wallowing in self-pity.

At the age of 67, Thomas Edison watched helplessly as his treasured laboratory burned down. Staring at the blaze, he said to his son, “Go get your mother and do it quickly. She will never see a spectacular fire like this again.” As a family, they watched his life’s work go up in flames.

Edison handled this disaster in this way: He went to bed, got a good night’s sleep, and called his staff together early the next morning. Glancing around at their despairing faces, he announced: “We will begin again. It will be better.”

The next day he was walking with his son near the site of the fire. He picked up an old photograph of himself that the fire had charred on all four sides. He said to his son, “The fire destroyed the outside–but not the inside.”

This is exactly what James is getting at in verse four when he writes, “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete–not lacking anything.” Thomas Edison lacked a building for a while–but he did not lack the right perspective to deal with this adversity. He yielded his life to those things that mattered the most.

Victor Frankl, who was a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp, wrote a magnificent book about his experience entitled, Man’s Search for Meaning. In that book he shares this, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of all human freedoms, the freedom to choose. Each one of us can choose how we will face the troubles of life. We have the power to choose our attitude in any given set of circumstances.” He concludes, “If anyone has a why to live–they can endure any how!”

Some years ago, I attended a conference at which one of the speakers was a man who had been imprisoned in China for preaching faith in Christ. He told the story of his time in a work camp where he had been placed in charged of cleaning the cesspool of human waste. To clean it, he had to walk in it. And he said—with a smile—that he came to love that cesspool and came to think of it as a garden because His Lord walked with him there. And he could sing Christian songs and shout out passages of scripture and no one was going to come close enough to stop him. His comfort came from His Lord, the Bible that he’d internalized, and Christian music. His most oft-sung hymn? “In the Garden.”

“I come to the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses. And the voice I hear, falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses, and He walks with me and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”

James reminds us that true faith in God not only abides in trouble, but is actually strengthened by it. So one point to make this morning is that in this life we must face the fact of trouble. Even a cursory review of the Bible reveals that many of God’s servants–from Noah to Moses, to Amos, to Jeremiah, to Daniel, to Paul on and on—ALL experienced moments of trouble and trials in their journey to do and to live out the will of God in their lives. Our faith gives us the power and the perspective not to focus on the trouble, but to focus on how best to overcome the reality of trouble.

Troubles are part of our growing up and maturing.

In View from the Zoo, author Gary Richmond tells about the birth of a giraffe: “The first things to emerge are the baby giraffe’s front hooves and head. A few minutes later the plucky newborn calf is hurled forth, falls ten feet, and lands on its back. Within seconds, he rolls to an upright position with his legs tucked under his body. From this position he considers the world for the first time and shakes off the last vestiges of the birthing fluid from his eyes and ears.

“The mother giraffe lowers her head long enough to take a quick look. Then she positions herself directly over her calf. She waits for about a minute, and then she does–what would seem to be–the most unreasonable thing. She swings a long, pendulous leg outward and kicks her baby, so that it is sent sprawling head over heels.

“The struggle to rise is momentous. Finally, the calf stands on its wobbly legs. Then the mother giraffe does another most remarkable thing. She kicks it off its feet again. Why? She wants it to remember how it got up. In the wild, baby giraffes must be able to get up as quickly as possible in order to stay with the herd where there is safety. Lions, hyenas, leopards, and wild hunting dogs all enjoy young giraffes, and they’d get them, too, if their mothers didn’t teach their calves to get up quickly and get on with it…”

Now, humans are not to train their children in quite the same way – we’re not to kick our children or throw them as, I was saddened to read one week, a couple did with their toddler. But we can relate to the need to not do everything for our children; we need to let our children face their own challenges. Before our daughter acquired the ability to walk she had to crawl, and then she began the process of getting up and falling down until she learned to keep her balance. We encouraged her through all the falling downs and getting ups. We still do that today though she’s now married and has children of her own.

The Christian life is not all sunshine and lollipops. It is not hope without a struggle. On the other hand, it is not a struggle without hope. The Christian journey is hope in the midst of the struggles; it is a story of strength resulting from our healthy response to struggles.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, “Muscles never develop and grow unless they push against a great force that will force the muscles to grow and become stronger.”

Tim Hansel was a young man who was severely injured in a climbing accident. He shared some wise insights in a publication titled, “You Gotta Keep Dancing:”

“Next to the genuine fatigue of pain, possibly the most energy-depriving thing I know is self-pity when you are facing a troublesome moment in life. I know, from first-hand experience, that this is one of the greatest wastes of my time and emotions, but yet I confess my vulnerability to it.

“My greatest need at these moments of my life when I am facing trouble is for people who will listen to me compassionately but then firmly and gently encourage me out of such dreadful behavior. It is important that people don’t join me in my self-pity party but love me into remembering what I can do and must do. Most of us have enough excuses to last a lifetime. The sooner we let go of them and get on with living, the better off we are.”

I agree with Tim that feeling sorry for ourselves–when we’re in the midst of challenging and troublesome moments of life–never accomplishes anything worthwhile. Pity parties are wastes of time. Let God lift you when your down.

In Genoa, Italy, after World War II, an artist was commissioned to build an eight-ton statue of Jesus Christ. Unlike other statues of Christ throughout the world, this one was not put on a high hill overlooking the city. Instead, it was lowered into the depths of the bay where the battles had taken place. Lowered into the depths, the depths where many sunken ships laid silent and where the lives of men who had given their lives in battle rested in quiet memory. They called the statue “The Christ of the Deep.”

It is a beautiful picture of the ministry of Christ reaching into the depths of the human heart to raise the spirit to new and higher levels of strengthened stability when we face those troublesome moments of life. Trouble often forces us to look to God for strength, new insights, new directions and His blessed assurance.

When we are faced with troubles and trials that exhaust our human strength and abilities, it is then we reflect the honesty of the psalmist and we cry out to God for strength and stamina to endure the problems we are facing.

Now none of this is to say that – when faced with trouble, trial or challenge — we don’t sometimes need to vent with and seek the counsel of our friends. This is also not to say that we should be spending time beating ourselves up if we’ve fallen down and are having some trouble getting up. No, it’s about not wallowing in self-pity. It’s about the work to get up when you’ve fallen down. It’s about facing your fears and coming to victory.

Finally, James reminds us that troubles force us to look to God for His assurance and direction. In the midst of adversity we learn to rely on God.

The story is told of a major corporation that was experiencing great difficulties with its large computer system. They had a number of repairmen attempt to fix the malfunction but they had no success.

Finally, they called in a seasoned veteran who had helped build the system at the factory. He looked at the computer for a few minutes and then took a hammer and softly tapped it in three different places. He then handed over his bill for the service call: $10,000.

The company protested the bill because the man had only given the computer system three taps with a hammer. The man responded, “The taps cost a total of a dollar but it will cost you $9,999 for my knowing where to tap.”

When we are faced with troubles and trials that exhaust our human strengths and abilities, we cry out with the psalmist to God for strength and stamina to endure. Only God knows where to “tap in” to our lives to bring us correction and renewal when the circuits of our lives are overloaded and burned out.

When Satan tempts us, it is to bring out our worst. When the Almighty tests us, it is to bring out our best and to make us more godly. James writes in verse 12 (as translated by Eugene Peterson in The Message): “Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.” The New International translation of that verse renders it this way: “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.”

James himself moved from being a doubting, disbelieving younger half-brother of Jesus to a prominent church leader because of his willingness to tackle the problems the church at Jerusalem experienced while trying to “grow up” into the people of faith God wanted them to be. And by tackling the church’s problems, James himself also grew up in the Lord.

A story is told of two brothers who were watching a circus parade but from different perspectives. One looked at the parade through a hole in the fence. First he saw the ringmaster pass, then a clown. Then he saw a ferocious tiger and jumped to the conclusion that the ringmaster and the clown were sure to be eaten by the tiger. The problem was that looking through a little hole in the fence, he couldn’t see the “big picture.” He couldn’t see that the tiger was in a cage. He couldn’t see that the ringmaster and the clown were protected from danger.

The other brother could see it all–because he stood on the roof of a large building looking down on the whole parade. He saw the “big picture” and knew everything was in order.

James knew that without this “big picture” perspective toward life, our tendency would be to count our problems, rather than to count it all joy. As Christians we are called not to try to avoid our problems, but to face them, to learn from them, and to turn the rest over to Christ. The old spiritual sums it up: “Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen; Nobody knows but Jesus.”

If Jesus knows, that is what matters most of all. He knows where to tap our hearts and minds. He knows how to test us and train us up so that we can “grow up” in Him and live victorious in Christ. Let us spend our lives counting the joys, not the troubles and let us allow troubles to do a good work in us so that we may be built up in strong character, spiritual maturity and a well-developed faith. Amen?

Let us pray: Lord, we know that there is nowhere we can go where You are not and yet often we go about our days without ever giving a thought to Your presence, essentially turning a deaf ear to You, paying no attention to you, overlooking you, discounting you, neglecting you, ignoring you. We do so at our own peril. You are an ever-present help in the midst of troubles. You love us with a love that never lets us go. May we love you and demonstrate our love for you by using the times of discipline to move to greater depths of faith in you. These things we pray in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

I pray that you may embrace the week ahead, being diligent in your labor, kind to your neighbor, generous to the discouraged, patient with your families, loyal to your Savior. May you study the scriptures, be faithful in prayer and in all things trust the Lord.

NOTE: What I have shared here was written from notes that I have accumulated over the years. I believe portions of this message came from the writings of Eric Ritz. I apologize in advance for any omissions of attribution I may have made.

The End of Night? From The Starry, Starry Night to the Overpowering Street Light

Grand Canyon National Park Star Party. NPS Photo.
Grand Canyon National Park Star Party. NPS Photo.

For nearly a year now, I’ve had the privilege of living and working in Grand Canyon National Park. In late June, I was among some 1,100 attendees participating in one of the four nights of the 24th annual Grand Canyon Star Party. Astronomers from across the country, operating nearly 50 telescopes that were set up behind the Visitors’ Center, invited folks to get a glimpse of the planets in our own solar system as well as nebulae and star clusters sitting millions upon millions of light years distant from us.

The evening took me back to my childhood in Massachusetts where I spent many, many nights out under the stars looking up at a resplendent Milky Way. I am heartbroken to note that, if I were to return to the town of my birth today, it’s more than unlikely that I would catch even a fleeting glimpse of that Milky Way. Eight out of ten Americans today won’t ever live where they can see their own galaxy, their own solar system. More than two-thirds of Americans and Europeans no longer experience real night—that is, real darkness—and nearly all of us in the world live in areas considered polluted by light.

16131044In Episode 31 of On the Road with Mac and Molly, I chat with Paul Bogard, author of The End of Night, about the disintegration of what is natural into what is artificial. In this critically important book, Paul opens our eyes to how much we lose cooped up, as we are, under a perpetual glare.

At one point in the book, Bogard tells of a visit to the Museum of Modern Art in New York where, he suggests, one can see “real darkness.” There, he notes, fifty million people each year pass by a painting of “a small, dark town, a few yellow-orange gaslights in house windows, under a giant swirling and waving blue-green sky.” In The Starry Night, painted by Vincent Van Gogh in 1889, we see our world “before night had been pushed back to the forest and the seas, from back when sleepy towns slept without streetlights.” The Starry Night is “an imagined sky inspired by a real sky much darker than the towns we live in today.”

The Starry, Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh, 1889.
The Starry, Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh, 1889.

In a letter from the summer of 1888, Van Gogh described the night sky he saw overhead during a visit to a French beach: “The deep blue sky was flecked with clouds of a deeper blue than the fundamental blue of intense cobalt, and others of a clearer blue, like the blue whiteness of the Milky Way. In the blue depth the very stars were sparkling, greenish, yellow, white, pink, more brilliant, more sparkling gemlike than at home—even in Paris: opals you might call them, emeralds, lapis lazuli, rubies, sapphires.”

Street Light, Giacomo Balla, 1909.
Street Light, Giacomo Balla, 1909.

For most of us today, when we can see stars, most of these appear to be white so the idea that stars come in different colors seems wildly impossible. But, Bogard insists that if one were to “gaze long enough in a place dark enough that stars stand in clear three-dimensional beauty,” one would “spot flashes of red, green, yellow, orange and blue.” When Bogard made the visit to MoMA, he was in search of not only The Starry Night but also Giacomo Balla’s Street Light, a painting, dated 1909, that is so little known that the museum doesn’t even keep it on display. While Van Gogh’s painting depicts, what Bogard calls, “old night,” Balla’s is a painting of “night from now on.” Bogard notes: “In both paintings, the moon lives in the upper right corner, and for Van Gogh, the moon is a throbbing yellow presence pulsing with natural light. But for Balla, the moon has become a little biscuit wafer hanging on for dear life, overwhelmed by the electric streetlight. And that, in fact, was Balla’s purpose. “Let’s kill the Moonlight!” was the rallying cry from Balla’s fellow Italian futurist, Filippo Marinetti. These futurists believed in noise and speed and light—human light, modern light, electric light. What use could we now have of something so yesterday as the moon?”

Paul Bogard
Paul Bogard

In his book and in Episode 31 of On the Road, we travel with Bogard around the globe to find night where it still lives…showing exactly what we’ve lost, what we have left and what we might hope to regain. We hear how the loss of night is not only a loss of beauty above us. More light at night does not, as some insist, ensure greater safety and security; properly designed light at night does. Exposure to artificial light at night has been cited as a factor in health concerns ranging from poor sleep to cancer. Light pollution is also threatening the health of the world’s ecosystems as everything from reproduction cycles to migration patterns are adversely affected by artificial light at night. But there is hope. Light pollution is one kind of pollution we can readily fix. And, as the jacket cover of the book proclaims: Bogard’s “panoramic tour of the night, from its brightest spots to the darkest skies we have left gives us every reason to flip the switch—tonight.”

Here’s a link to the show: and a link to a short clip of Paul Bogard introducing the book:

Living Stillness Born of Trust

Their strength is to sit still (Isa. 30:7).

In order really to know God, inward stillness is absolutely necessary. I remember when I first learned this. A time of great emergency had risen in my life, when every part of my being seemed to throb with anxiety, and when the necessity for immediate and vigorous action seemed overpowering; and yet circumstances were such that I could do nothing, andthe person who could, would not stir.

For a little while it seemed as if I must fly to pieces with the inward turmoil, when suddenly the still small voice whispered in the depths of my soul, “Be still, and know that I am God.” The word was with power, and I hearkened. I composed my body to perfect stillness, and I constrained my troubled spirit into quietness, and looked up and waited; and then I did “know” that it was God, God even in the very emergency and in my helplessness to meet it; and I rested in Him.

It was an experience that I would not have missed for worlds; and I may add also, that out of this stillness seemed to arise a power to deal with the emergency, that very soon brought it to a successful issue. I learned then effectually that my “strength was to sit still.”
–Hannah Whitall Smith

There is a perfect passivity which is not indolence. It is a living stillness born of trust. Quiet tension is not trust. It is simply compressed anxiety.

Not in the tumult of the rending storm,
Not in the earthquake or devouring flame;
But in the hush that could all fear transform,
The still, small whisper to the prophet came.
0 Soul, keep silence on the mount of God,
Though cares and needs throb around thee like a sea;
From supplications and desires unshod,
Be still, and hear what God shall say to thee.
All fellowship hath interludes of rest,
New strength maturing in each poise of power;
The sweetest Alleluias of the blest
Are silent, for the space of half an hour.
0 rest, in utter quietude of soul,
Abandon words, leave prayer and praise awhile;
Let thy whole being, hushed in His control,
Learn the full meaning of His voice and smile.
Not as an athlete wrestling for a crown,
Not taking Heaven by violence of will;
But with thy Father as a child sit down,
And know the bliss that follows His “Be Still!”
–Mary Rowles Jarvis

I have known this “utter quietude of soul,” this “living stillness born of trust.” The gift, bestowed in the furnace of emergency, was the power to be still, confident the Lord had me in His care and would bring all to a successful issue. This day, if cares and needs throb around you like a sea, be still and listen for what God would say to you.


Featured photo: Oxbow Bend, Grand Teton National Park, by D.F.G. Hailson.

The Melody Separated by Rests

Music rests

He withdrew… to a solitary place (Matthew 14:13).

There is no music during a musical rest, but the rest is part of the making of the music. In the melody of our life, the music is separated here and there by rests. During those rests, we foolishly believe we have come to the end of the song. God sends us time of forced leisure by allowing sickness, disappointed plans, and frustrated efforts. He brings a sudden pause in the choral hymns of our lives, and we lament that our voices must be silent. We grieve that our part is missing in the music that continually rises to the ear of our Creator. Yet how does a musician read the rest? He counts the break with unwavering precision and plays his next note with confidence, as if no pause were ever there.

God does not write the music of our lives without a plan. Our part is to learn the tune and not be discouraged during the rests. They are not to be slurred over or omitted, nor used to destroy the melody or to change the key. If we will only look up, God Himself will count the time for us. With our eyes on Him, our next note will be full and clear. If we sorrowfully say to ourselves, “There is no music in a rest,” let us not forget that the rest is part of the making of the music. The process is often slow and painful in this life, yet how patiently God works to teach us! And how long He waits for us to learn the lesson!–John Ruskin

Featured photo: Landscape, 1867, by Asher Brown Durand