“It is said that in some countries
trees will grow,
but will bear no fruit
because there is no winter there.”
Leave it to Bunyan (1628-1688) to make what appears obvious into something so much more. I’ve had such a tree. An apple tree. Two years in a row with record warm winters meant there weren’t enough necessary chilling hours to produce fruit. Still looking every bit like an apple tree, it didn’t yield anything. It never broke dormancy.
Confession: I’ve been that tree as well. What is it about times of abundance and ease (let’s clarify; there’s nothing wrong with either) that can cause our hearts to slip into spiritual dormancy? Times you’d think would naturally produce a bumper crop of mature fruit as temperate goodness characterizes most days, are instead often marked by stunted growth.
On a sweltering summer day twenty-some years ago, my husband was on our back porch just outside the kitchen door struggling to repair an old, worn out lawnmower which had stopped working mid-way through what was already his least favorite task. Feeling equally worn out, dripping with sweat, and clearly frustrated by his failed attempts to fix it, his face and body language told the story. I was busy cleaning and noticed our three-year-old daughter standing inside the door, intently watching him and saying something in a soft voice under her breath. Curious, I walked up close enough to catch her words — “Good job, daddy; good job“. Everything in me melted. Unmoved, she quietly repeated her encouragement till a while later he was able to get the mower started again. He looked up to notice her face pressed against the glass, and with a quick smile and a thumbs up, went back to work, completely unaware of the love and pint-sized empathy extended to him from the other side of the pane. As she stood there, I realized her heart was ten sizes too big for her tiny frame.
Hello, friends — how have you been? As summer wanes here in my little corner of the world, it’s nice to check-in with each other if only to be reminded through all the seasons of life, we’re not alone; particularly when experiencing the kind of testing everyone’s journey takes them through at some point in time. If there’s something I can come along side with you to pray for, please drop me an email. You’ve heard me say this before but I think it’s worth repeating: one of the most beautiful things about this commonality?
It doesn’t matter how similar
or vastly different our stories
may be in their particulars,
we share the same
fundamentally human need —
to know God is both present
and passionate about everything
that touches our lives.
Especially in times of adversity.
How are you, friends? I’ve been slowly working my way through summer reading goals only because there’s a select group of books worth the extra time. I’m not great at recall, so note taking is my best friend and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it!
If you’re anything like me, you find encouragement in the lives and stories of people who, even as they weather life’s storms, can say without duplicity: “You’re a good, good Father”. These are the Jobs of the world, seeking shelter in the never-changing faithfulness of God, knowing we don’t just set our sights on a desired outcome but rather on the promise that He is working everything for our good and for His glory (Romans 8:28). Being convinced He uses all things, testing and blessing, as the mold by which we are “conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29), these men and women are confident that through thick and thin, He will be faithful to complete His good work in them as they abide in Him. (Phil. 1:6). More than platitudes, this is the rock solid hope for every child of God. Each of us is meant to follow in the footsteps of Job, unfaltering in trust and even worshipful in suffering (Job 1:21).
But, let’s be honest — it’s not always easy to embrace this upside-down thinking, especially when it’s so very different from what we’re told “living our best life” should look like. It is a mystery of grace.
“We take comfort,
however, that mystery
is not a synonym
Turns out, these ordinary people show us with extraordinary example what it genuinely means to live, regardless of everything implied by comparison in those little squares on IG! This beautiful life, showered in goodness and often visited by hard stuff, is far too layered and abstruse to ever really fit on our itty-bitty screens .
And so, meet William Cowper. But before you start reading and decide mid-way to stop because his story seems heavy, I want to say the purpose of this post is ultimately to introduce you (or re-introduce as may be the case) to poetic truth at its best! So, keep reading — I think you’ll be glad you did.
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
In my last post, we looked at a one-sentence prayer from John Owen, chock-full of encouragement and guidance. It’s the kind of food for thought we’re drawn to here at Readplenish. To find a permanent place of rest has been the longing of every human heart since we were driven from the garden (Genesis 3:24) This desire for and promise of rest is a theme whose thread runs unbroken through Scripture, stitching its way along exile and covenant, flood and new beginnings, captivity and exodus, brokenness and restoration, waiting and fulfillment. Sounds like a familiar pattern? You may recognize it as our story too. The cry of of His people throughout millennia has been “Come, Thou long expected Jesus!” We’ve always known He is “the very Sabbath of our souls” (1).
“Be revealed to me as the
only fitting and suitable place of rest
where my soul is truly satisfied.”
/ Part I /
Good morning friends! I can’t think of a more illuminating way to begin a new day than to soak up this prayer from the pen of John Owen and make it our own. What Marie Kondo is to all the unnecessary stuff that clutters our closets and drawers, Owen is to words on a page. His are carefully edited thoughts, leaving us with only the truly important. Here is depth and beauty packed into a single sentence, waiting to be opened up and applied. Let’s dive in!
“Be revealed to me …”
A prevalent blind spot as Christ followers in the twenty-first century is that we often possess a less than humble, teachable heart. We’ve heard so much, read so much, debated so much, and concluded so much that the notion of quietly listening and allowing His word to instruct us can be challenging at times. Acknowledging our childlike dependence on Him to make known and disclose who He is is the best place to start. After all, our lives are transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2) This also encompasses an experiential knowledge of God’s mercy, love, faithfulness, sovereignty, goodness, trustworthiness, kindness, holiness — all His wonderful attributes — cultivated in times of both blessing and testing.