At the beginning of 2016 we took a few weeks to do some essential ‘soul care’. Now that summer is in full swing and many of us are taking time off for holidays, it’s a perfect opportunity to check up on the ‘state of our souls’ in our two-part summer soulfood edition.
Remember the story of the river keeper? In his book Soul Keeping John Ortberg says that your soul is like a river that keeps you alive, refreshed and well, and that you are the river keeper who’s job is to keep it clear and uncluttered. Throughout the bible we are charged to keep tending to our souls, to keep our connection with God and to understand that we are more than just blood, skin and bone. As C.S. Lewis once said, you don’t just have a soul – you are a soul, you have a body!
A paradox of the soul is that it is incapable of satisfying itself, but it is also incapable of living without satisfaction. You were made for soul-satisfaction, but you will only ever find it in God.
Over the next few weeks at Woodies we will be looking at 4 brilliant Psalms that have been used for soul searching for thousands of years. Psalms 84, 46, 103 and 1. They are a rich place to graze as we take the opportunity that summer brings to recharge our relationship with God and take a look at four pillars of a healthy soul life: prayer, solitude in part 1 and gratitude and the bible in part 2.
Psalm 84: making space for prayer
v1 : How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord
It is the life blood of a relationship with God. Our prayer life: fragile, fickle, sometimes rich always challenging. Someone once called it ‘the slender nerve that moves the muscles of omnipotency!’* King David in a time of great suffering acknowledges a deep longing for the presence of God in the temple courts and speaks of the possibility of ‘going from strength to strength’ in our long journey with God. Is it possible that the journey of pursuing God through thick and thin, through success and failure, through droughts and storms could be the very thing that forges steel into our souls, maturing us to a place where we can truly steward the breakthroughs that we long for and seek in our prayers? Even those that cross through the valley of suffering, who find God in the midst of pain, David encourages, can become a source of refreshment and strength to others.
v6 : When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs
Summer Soulfood challenge:
- Create an actual prayer space in your home (with your kids?)
- Make room for prayer at the same time each day.
- Start a new prayer practice.
- Read a book on prayer.
- Make some mid-year resolutions around soul-care.
- Pray in tongues every day for a week!
It is not necessary to be always in church to be with God; we can make a private chapel of our heart where we can retire from time to time to commune with Him, peacefully, humbly, lovingly; everyone is capable of these intimate conversations with God, some more, others less; He knows what we can do. Let us begin—perhaps He is only waiting for a single generous resolution from us.
Brother Lawrence 16th C
*Martin Farquhar Tupper
Psalm 46: seeking solitude
v. 10: “Be still and know that I am God.”
Seeking solitude is not a popular pastime. This is an age agitated by long silences and driven by the nervous energy of FOMO*. And yet psychologists tell us, we need solitude. Solitude gives us the opportunity to regulate and adjust our lives and to face what we have become in the frenzy of life. In Psalm 46 God calls us to a place of stillness where we become aware of one thing above all others – the presence of the Great God that made the universe. Be still, He says. Know that I am God. The context of this singular call is the reassurance that there is a refuge for us humans in turbulent times, our God is a ‘very present help’ in times of trouble. How our world needs to heed that call and find its way into the stillness of God and his healing presence.
* fear of missing out!
Summer Soulfood challenge:
Nurture an atmosphere in your life where God can speak – practice silence, go for some long walks, make appointments with God where you both talk and listen. Appreciate nature – stand by the sea! Play silent games with your children, and teach them that alone doesn’t mean lonely. Throughout the summer repeat often the words of verse 10 ‘be still and know that I am God’.