Category Archives: spiritual formation

strength and perseverance

it has been a windy season. most days our daughter-gift wakes up and asks if it is another windy day. or more likely, she makes a statement of it.

when we lived in southern California, it was news when the winds blew. sometimes Santa Ana winds, and other times from storms coming through the area. it always puzzled us how often downed trees made the news, downed by strong, but not devastating winds. I remember a co-worker once stating that her son had not slept all night because he was afraid of the wind.

in this land of four very distinct seasons the wind is not a headline-grabber by any stretch of the imagination. tornadoes, blizzards, thunderstorms, and severe weather in general, are part of life. we do talk about the weather here, and for good reason. it shapes us in ways we do not expect. a beautiful day, no matter the season, is cause to stop and enjoy, if only for a moment. a windy day, in our understated manner, will be called gusty. bitingly cold wind might be described as blustery. rarely do we consider our trees and worry about them toppling.

this difference between the stalwart northern trees and those of our California friends is striking. many of the trees making their way into the news were the same as the sturdy ones “back home.” so we researched. and talked to some who might understand our confusion. what we found was fascinating. and has implications on our spiritual lives.

for a tree, life in California is easy. lots of sun. a relatively temperate climate. few storms. it seems trees have little reason to work at sending their roots deep, so they spread wide. and trees topple in seemingly innocuous winds. the root system cannot tolerate much abuse and a strong gust will take a large tree down.

to survive the extreme seasons of the north, a tree must send its roots deep and wide. they must be strong. and they must persevere through the ever-changing weather. their wood is different, stronger, than an untested tree. a northern forest gives a wonderful picture of this strength and tenacity. the outer rim of a forest boasts the strongest trees, standing strong and mighty, facing the storms and protecting those in deeper. those inside, the protected ones, are not as strong. they will topple, much like those in California. their fortress of protection, when removed, leaves them vulnerable to the elements.

how like the trees we can be! how we often long for the easy California tree life! we pray God saves us from trial and testing, grateful for uneventful days, and breathing relief when tragedy is averted.

but in the trials, the windy, stormy times, He grows us. our roots in Him go deeper.

it is easy to feel abandoned to the storm. to wonder if He is punishing us or has forgotten our suffering.

maybe the better thought, the better question, is to ask which roots He is wanting to grow, where He might be strengthening our faith.

He does not send the storm to punish, but instead to protect. in those times we are not forgotten, as we might feel, but instead remembered, cared for, and nurtured.

even, and especially, in the storm.

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Filed under abiding, aches and lessons, being, life lesson, simple, spiritual formation

defining question…

there is a question that should be asked of everyone.

your answer to this one question, if honest, reveals more than almost any other.

I ask it frequently.

I wish someone had asked me more often.

how are you and Jesus?

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Filed under abiding, complex, simple, spiritual formation

the strong, quiet mirror…

have you ever met someone who undeniably knows Jesus, who serves as a mirror, reflecting Him? knows Him to the point their countenance and demeanor were almost surreal, yet the most genuine you’d ever experienced?

Mama Maggie Gobran is one of those people.

the depth of her humility was amazing.

she loves Jesus more than anything.

the children of Cairo’s garage dumps are forever changed, on many levels, for knowing her and being the focus of her ministry. thousands of lives have been saved. thousands more need help, especially as the Coptic Christians come under increasing persecution.

she blessed us, the thousands of conference attendees listening to her. through her words and presence, she blessed us. and as she left the stage, she knelt down, face to the floor, and asked God’s blessing over us. it was difficult to have the conference continue. listening to the next speaker, a loud, charismatic pastor, an internationally recognized figure, was almost painful after the few moments of her quiet speech.

the most beautiful part of her short talk? a deep, undeniable stirring of the soul that instead of whispering, shouted loud and strong, “I want to know Jesus like she does!”

oh, that I knew Him a tenth as well! would that others would see Him in me and He is seen in her!

I hear echoes of Saint Patrick, that Christ would be before, behind, above, below, within, and without me, that He would be seen and heard.

Mama Maggie gave us these words on the value of silence:

silence your body to listen to the words
silence your tongue to listen to your thoughts
silence your thoughts to listen to your heart
silence your heart to listen to your spirit
silence your spirit to listen to His Spirit

I will sit with this insight for a long time. as a contemplative introvert, silence is not difficult. but it can easily be pushed aside. the silence, especially when seeking Christ, is where the Spirit does much teaching. it is where we especially learn to abide. what a timely reminder, so wonderfully given.

have you ever experienced someone who drew you closer to Christ, who He shone through almost palpably, reflecting Him as a beautiful mirror?

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Filed under abiding, blessing, John 15, silence, spiritual formation