Nov 23 2011

The Gift of Rain

As I write these words it’s raining outside.  That is quite appropriate in light of the words of the particular Psalm I’ve been thinking about here lately.  In Psalm 65 David says “You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly.  The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain,  for so you have ordained it.  You drench the furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops.” (vs. 9-10)  Clearly the Psalmist wanted to offer God praise and thanksgiving for the gift of rain.  Most of us take rain for granted and at times even complain when we have too many rainy days in a row.  Perhaps we should remember here that David lived in an arid region.  People who live in deserts cannot take rain for granted.  Neither should we.

The rain that interferes with our outdoor activities and causes things to be “messy” remains one of God’s wonderful and priceless gifts.  Without the gift of rain there wouldn’t be food on our tables.  Without the gift of rain our rivers and lakes would dry up.  Without the gift of rain there would be no life.  The Psalmist recognized this.  In the remainder of Psalm 65 he adds, “You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance. The grasslands of the desert overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness.  The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing.” (vs. 11-13)

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day.  I suspect that you, like me, have much to give thanks for.  Like most everyone else I will give thanks for my family and friends, for my health and home, for food to eat and clothes to wear.  I will give thanks for my country and the freedoms we enjoy.  I will offer thanks for my salvation made possible through Jesus Christ and for my church.  Taking my cue from the Psalmist, this year I also intend to give thanks for the natural elements God has given to sustain us.  I will give thanks for the rain and water, for the air that we breathe, for the rich earth or soil, and for the sun and its light.  These basic elements are the foundation of our lives.  They are also all gifts of God.  So let us “shout for joy and sing.” And, yes, by all means, let us also give thanks!


P.S.  Rob and I would like to wish all of our readers a happy and blessed Thanksgiving.  We are very grateful that you take the time to read!

(Both of the images above were taken in the Tremont area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.)

Nov 16 2011

A Feather on the Breath of God

Over the past few days I’ve been reading a delightful book called Water, Wind, Earth & Fire: The Christian Practice of Praying with the Elements by Christine Valters Paintner.  As you can tell from the title, the book explores ways that the traditional four elements of nature can be used to enhance our prayer lives.  I have only read thus far the section on “wind” but I am finding this book to be filled with lots of useful information and suggestions.  I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve found helpful.

To begin with, Paintner says “The metaphor of air or wind offers us a variety of ways to understand our experience of God: as life-breath, as inspiration, as enlivener, as directional guide, as powerful force, or as the current that supports flight.”  She also says, “The element of wind invites us to ‘open our souls to Being,’ which means opening ourselves to a God who flows in directions we cannot predict.  This element invites us to a radical posture of surrender in releasing our hold on our plans and making room for God to blow us in the most life-giving direction.  As a metaphor for God wind reminds us that God’s ways are not our ways.  The invitation of wind requires of us a detachment from our own longing to control the direction of our lives and a simultaneous surrender to Spirit to allow ourselves to be carried to places of growth and newness.”

I remember from my studies of Greek and Hebrew that both languages use the same word for both “wind” and “spirit.”  I have not, however, given that much thought to how we might use the wind or air we experience on a daily basis to make us more mindful of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives each day.  We actually have a chance with each breath we take to be reminded of the Spirit that sustains guides and nourishes us.  In meditation people are encouraged to pay close attention to their breathing.  This makes perfect sense.

I found the following suggestion by Paintner to be particularly helpful.  “Begin each day by intentionally setting aside your plans and offering a prayer asking for direction from the flow of the Spirit present in the wind.  Notice during the day where this guidance wants to take you.”  This is a simple practice that could have a profound impact on our lives.  We might envision ourselves as “a feather on the breath of God,” as Hildegard of Bingen once suggested, and then seek throughout the day to allow God’s Spirit, God’s Wind, to move us wherever God thinks best.  Jesus once told a man named Nicodemus, “The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)    I encourage you to ponder anew the words of Christ and to offer a prayer that you will be as open to the movement of God in your life as a feather is to the sometimes gentle and sometimes forceful prompting of the wind. 


(The top two pictures are intentional blurs taken to illustrate the movement of the wind.  I chose the bottom image to symbolize how we never know where the wind or God will lead us.)

Editor’s Note: Rob’s father passed away a couple of days ago.  Please remember he and his family in your prayers.