“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.
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.
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).
“Affliction may be lasting,
but it is not everlasting;
a sting, but with a wing;
sorrow shall soon fly away.”
Hi, friends. I’ve been thinking about this laconic reminder, written for those who wonder if the storm you’re weathering is ever going to relent. From the pen of Thomas Watson (1652), it has captured my imagination — to know the Father’s providence established that any testing in the lives of His children will be bounded by time. Now and again, hearing truth we believe expressed in a fresh new way animates our hearts to trust Him through the waiting.
“We mistakenly look for tokens of God’s
love in happiness. We should instead
look for them in his faithful and
persistent work to conform us to Christ.”*
How like us to often confuse what is easy with what is best; to settle for crumbs of fleeting felicity when we can instead feast at His table and, like Mary, sit at His feet choosing the “main course” (Luke 10:42, MSG), “the good part” (NASB). But choosing the good part isn’t always a smooth path and our human bent naturally pulls away from embracing discipline or obedience or trust when it comes at the price of our happiness. We are, after all, inclined to look for time saving, pain avoiding ways to do just about everything (spoken as someone who, when given the choice, is all about simplicity). But I’m learning that, while this approach serves so well to effectively expedite a myriad of temporal tasks, in the holy work of heart work, there are no shortcuts, no alternate routes. It’s a lifelong journey, and one that often uncomfortably stretches us and asks that we embrace the long view of things.