Mystery seeds of 2020

(This is an unscheduled interruption of our Dwelling posts. I had to get this out of my head — and into yours.)

Strange packets of seeds that people have never even considered ordering are appearing in mailboxes around the world.

Supposedly, the packages originated in a foreign country. And, adding to the puzzle, they may not even be labeled as seeds but as jewelry. In this season of quarantine and isolation, when we can’t even ship packages overseas and our domestic mail is facing serious obstacles, these packages that seem to have been dropped on us from nowhere are mystifying. The USDA is trying to discover what they are, if they pose a danger, who sent them, and what the best course is in handling them.

Let’s not be mystified, though, about other seeds that are being slyly dropped into our lives today.

These seeds are, beyond any doubt, dangerous—deadly, even. The packages may have attractive labels. But we cannot, dare not, must not plant them and let them take root. Let’s name and nail the sender: the enemy of our souls and our faith. The purpose is to grow robust crops of fear, anxiety, anger, quarreling, resentment, harsh words, rage, slander, self-preservation, division, criticism, and hostility. Invasive species, these crops are meant to choke out love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

If these seeds are dropped at your door, DO NOT PLANT. Give them no soil to take root. Hand them over to an Authority who knows what to do with them.       

Listen. And dwell.

During my morning walk, my phone dinged to announce the Verse of the Day on my Bible app. I took a quick glance at it.

Psalm 28:7. Hmm. These are words I could use in a Dwelling post on my blog, I thought.

When I was home again, I sat down to write.  

But when I opened my Bible to review the verse and write a blog, I unconsciously reversed the numbers in the Scripture reference. Instead of Psalm 28:7, the Verse of the Day, I opened my Bible to Psalm 27:8. 

And here is what I read:

My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “LORD, I am coming.”

How could I possibly resist or ignore Him? Instead of jumping into composing a new blog, my Lord and I talked.

We dwell in His shelter when our hearts hear His constant invitation to come and talk—and we respond and go to Him.

I have to confess that I don’t always react in this way. Sometimes I hear Him but I ignore His invitation and go running off, doing or thinking something else. Or sometimes I even give Him excuses. “Yes, Lord, I want to talk with You—but first I have to make this one phone call.” Or run to the store for a few things. Or check my email.  

Listen today, and you will hear Him say, “Come and talk with me.”

Dwell in His shelter. Those who live there find rest.

Let your heart say, “Lord, I’m coming.” And go, talk with Him. Don’t dawdle. Run!

Father, Lord Jesus, and Guiding Spirit, my heart hears You. I’m coming!

 

 

Alternate Dwelling Places

So, where have you been dwelling? Did you take inventory of your thoughts this week? It is our thoughts that take us to the places we dwell.

Writing about dwelling, I was prompted to pay attention to the paths I allow my thoughts to travel — and the places where those thoughts take me. On the day I wrote this, some of the places my mind was dwelling included:

The violence and ugliness in our country’s streets. Anxiety about the future. Fretting about paying bills. Wondering about health issues. Lubec, and feeling sorry for myself that I’m “missing out on my dream.” Thinking critical thoughts—of both others and myself.

No, it wasn’t pretty. They were not happy or pleasant places of dwelling. And certainly not peaceful or joyful or uplifting. And I was in a gloomy state.

Yes, I had also spent time with my God. But as I examined the paths down which I’d let my thoughts run during the day, I realized that I had spent far more time dwelling in those other places than I had spent in the shadow of His wings.

In Colossians 1:6, Paul wrote that the Good News was bearing fruit everywhere, changing lives, “just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace.”

For me, the most powerful way to find His shelter, to move in close under His wings and find His grace, is through the Good News in the Scriptures. There we find the truth about who He is, who we are to Him, His kindness and mercy, His plans, and the hope He gives. The longer I dwell in the Good News, the more I am changed.

The Scriptures give me God’s gentle responses to each of those gloomy places my thoughts had dwelled. His alternative dwelling places. Do some of the following statements seem impossibly, even foolishly, simplistic to you? My only reply is this: This is what our God says. 

Worry about the future—I hold your days in my hands. I hold YOU in my hand. You’re very precious to me. Don’t worry. Don’t be afraid. I’ve got you. I’m here to help you.

Fretting about paying bills—I know what you need. I will supply all you need. I will take care of you.

Wondering about health issues—I am your strength and refuge; I work for good in every situation; even if you walk through the fire, I’ll be with you, you will not be destroyed.

The nation’s chaos—I know what’s going on. I am still the Almighty, your God. I have not changed. My plans have not changed. My kingdom of justice and peace is coming. And in the meantime, you, my daughter, are to be a channel of my light, my love, my grace in the world while you are there.

Feeling sorry for myself— (Oh! I’m ashamed that I have dwelt there. He delights in giving me everything He has—and I was feeling sorry for myself? Really, Elaine?) Remember who you are to me. Live in gratitude. That’s one of the “pleasing sacrifices” you can give Me. It will change your life, too.

Critical thoughts: You are my masterpiece, in whom I am doing a work. And, by the way, remember that I am also working in that other person you’ve been so critical of.

So there it was in front of me. The choice: On which side of the dash am I going to dwell?

As Colossians 1:6 says, God’s wonderful truth changes my life.  

***

I wrote the above several weeks ago. During the intervening weeks, in these days when we see trouble every way we turn, one of the His truths that has opened up greater depths for me is Psalm 46:1. It’s one of those verses we know so well and have heard so repeatedly that we often don’t grasp the richness of it—until we live it.

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.

And Nahum 1:7 adds this: He is close to those who trust him.

Dwelling in and Dwelled in

My mom was hit by many storms in her life. I cannot know for certain, but I imagine that one of the first things that blew in and unsettled life for her as a youngster was the realization that her family was not always in the favor of a frowning church. As she journeyed through the decades, storms rose, tossed her in turmoil and pain, and subsided. Some were more devastating than others. The last was a terminal lung disease; the suffering it brought was mercifully cut short when she died of a stroke. In the years between childhood and heaven, there were many times Mom needed a refuge and shelter.

Though the specifics might differ, that’s the story of most of our lives.

Months after Mom left the earthly realm, I found a small note on a crowded bulletin board in her kitchen. In her distinctive handwriting, the verse she had copied spoke to me:

One thing I ask of the LORD, this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.
Psalm 27:4

Mom knew something that I was only then discovering. She knew where she wanted to live.

Where have you been dwelling this past week?

Psalm 91
1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.

Those who LIVE in the shelter of the Most High… other translations use the word dwell.  I like to use dwell in this Psalm 91 promise. Dwelling is living in a place. Living. Not just passing through. Not just giving God a few brief thoughts as we race by. But dwelling.

Say the word aloud, slowly. It even has a deep sound, doesn’t it? It’s solid. Strong. It’s not a transient thing. It’s has roots that stretch into something dependable and unshakeable.

It withstands storms.

I don’t know at what point in life Mom discovered the one place she wanted to dwell, but she had found her shelter.

Jesus said life would be hard and we’d have trouble in this life. He doesn’t promise to block all the storms headed our way or to downgrade hurricanes to gentle breezes. He does promise, though, to see us through everything — storm, earthquake, fire, flood. Everything.  

How do we live/dwell in His shelter? Now, as many storms are moving into our lives, we need to know this.

                                                                                 ***

Let’s begin with our thoughts, because it is our thoughts that determine who we are and where we are going. Our thoughts determine where we dwell.

Think about what it means to dwell on something.

When we dwell, our minds are constantly there, always going back to that thought or image. You know what it’s like to dwell on a thing: You have had times when you’ve dwelled on that one thing you long for but cannot have—and the longing eats holes in your contentment. Or you dwell on worries about the future, or you dwell on wrongs someone has done to you, or you dwell on regrets of the past, or you dwell all day on a Facebook “confrontation.” You can’t leave it, put it down, or let it go. It’s always there, in your head. You’re dwelling.

And you’re also becoming. The thing you’re dwelling on is not only in your head, it’s soaking into your feelings and even your behavior. You’re becoming discontented and envious, or unforgiving and angry, or fearful and anxious, or self-condemning and a slave to guilt.  

We could even say that what you are dwelling on is dwelling in you.

As you dwell in those thoughts—and let them dwell in you—you are taken down certain paths. You know how that goes. We all know too well how dwelling on that one thing for too long has taken us to places we don’t want to be, made us into people we don’t want to be.

For this week, take inventory of the places your mind dwells. I did this for one day, and the list was a bit appalling. I’ll share with you next week.

This week, think about what you’re thinking about, and the time you spend there.

And tell your heavenly Father you want to dwell in His house.

 

Sheltering in the Shadow

I’m just so tired of it all. How many of us have said something similar–maybe even this week?  Whether it’s the battles we’re fighting daily, or turmoil within, or the chaos swirling in the world around us, it is exhausting us.

It’s ironic that one of the phrases of these times is “shelter at home.” We understand the intended meaning—stay at home to protect yourself from this virus prowling the world. But in these times, so much is going on both in the world and within us, that even “home” cannot offer sanctuary. For some, home might actually be the greatest battlefield, the place of least shelter.    

Is there any place of rest and refuge? As we face the tempest around us and within us, is there any hope of finding sanctuary?

Psalm 91:
1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.

In the last few weeks, one image from Psalm 91 has dwelled in my mind: living in the shelter of the Most High.

Our Creator God says He will give us the rest we long for. Living in His shadow brings refuge and safety even though the battle rages hotter than ever and seems endless.

This “finding rest” is not an escape mechanism, a desire to simply hide our heads in the sand. To the contrary, we know we are in a great battle; the Scriptures often speak of this and give us instructions and encouragement. The psalmist wrote that God trains us to do battle, to chase down our enemies and grind them to dust. That doesn’t sound much like hiding our head in the sand, does it? Paul writes of putting on the armor God gives us, fighting the good fight, and standing firm in the battle we must fight against dreadful spiritual forces and powers.  

No, there is no such thing as running away and hiding from it all.

But we all do need shelter, a place of safety, a sanctuary of rest, a refuge where our strength will be replenished.

What does it look like to live in the shelter of the Most High? How do we do that?  

I’ve been thinking about dwelling, and where I’m dwelling, and how I can dwell in His shelter—because I want that rest, refuge, and safety.

For the next few Saturday mornings, I’d like to share some of these thoughts with you. I don’t have all the answers, and even when I do “know” the truth, I at times drift away from the right path. I welcome any insights you’ve been given about dwelling in the shelter of the Most High. Please share with all of us in the comments as we go through this series.

To begin, we’ll first need to answer a hard question: Will we believe Him when He says, “Come to me, and I will give you rest and peace, healing and joy”?  

We must believe with a belief that is deeper than saying the words; it must be belief that moves us to action. Then we will go to Him and live there.

I believe Him. I believe He can and will deliver on that promise. So I want to find every way I can to dwell in His shelter.  

And if you don’t yet believe Him enough to seek His shelter, He always answers the honest prayer of Lord, help my unbelief!