Wilderness Rhythms

Scripture Text: 1 Samuel 23: 14-17

14David remained in the strongholds in the wilderness, in the hill country of the Wilderness of Ziph. Saul sought him every day, but the Lord did not give him into his hand. 15David was in the Wilderness of Ziph at Horesh when he learned that Saul had come out to seek his life. 16Saul’s son Jonathan set out and came to David at Horesh; there he strengthened his hand through the Lord. 17He said to him, “Do not be afraid; for the hand of my father Saul shall not find you; you shall be king over Israel, and I shall be second to you; my father Saul also knows that this is so.”

David is one that spends a lot of time in the wilderness according to the Scriptures. He seems to always have issues. (You think?) Here, he is running, running for his very life. He knows that Saul is coming after him. So, he runs into the “strongholds of the wilderness”. Isn’t that interesting that this place that holds such danger, such peril, such forsakenness, is, here, a place of protection? David stays there, hidden away, as the wilderness surrounds him and holds him. I suppose given the alternative (you know, like when a really angry man with an army is chasing you), the wilderness appears to be a very attractive place. And it becomes easy to enter its wilds and close ourselves off to the world.

With all this talk about wilderness, it would be easy for us to think that the wilderness is a place for us to stay. Now, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes I would like nothing better than to close myself off and not have to deal with my part of the world. Sometimes, I would love to just stay in my room for days on end and write. But even though God calls us into the wilderness in certain seasons of our lives, the wilderness is not meant to be our permanent home. The wilderness is not a place where we put down stakes and plant roots. The wilderness is not a home; it is an encounter. It is the place that pushes us. If a wilderness begins to offer us solace, we have, sadly, tamed its wilds.

I’ve thought again about those early Desert Mothers and Fathers, who spent the better part of a lifetime wandering in the wilderness, communing with God, and writing the tales. But they did not live in the wilderness as a home; they did not tame it enough that they could close themselves off. Imagine them moving in a way that their feet never really touched the ground.

When you think about it, the Bible is a story of movement. God creates life and just as quickly pushes it into the wilds. The creatures wander for a time and then they begin to plant their feet and build walls and boundaries. So God, with loving hands, pushes them farther out into the world. They wander and then they begin building walls and boundaries of a different kind. So, God pushes them out into the world again, telling them to go and wander, to find a new way.  The Bible is a story of the rhythms of God driving us into the world and our building of walls and boundaries. Then God drives us out and we build walls and boundaries.  It happens over and over and over again. It is no different here. David is driven into the wilderness and then decides, “you know, I’ll stay awhile and let it offer me solace and protection”. It did not last long.

Lent, like the wilderness, is not meant to be our home; it is meant to be our way of life. Because when we wander in the wilderness, we are free, we are vulnerable. University of Houston’s Dr. Brene’ Brown tells us that connection begins by allowing ourselves to be seen; in other words, being vulnerable, leaves us open to encounter. If we quit wandering and sit down and plant our feet and build a home that is not meant to be, that is not ours, we close ourselves off to change, to encounter. We close ourselves off to God. So, if you feel the need to stay where you are, to build a home, to wall yourselves off, at least find an opening so you can see the sun and breathe the air and know that God is always there.

Our true home is in the present moment.  The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth in the present moment. Peace is all around us–in the world and in nature–and within us–in our bodies and our spirits. Once we learn to touch this peace, we will be healed and transformed. (Thich Nhat Hanh)

Grace and Peace,

 Shelli

The Home We Have Inherited

wandering-arameanScripture Passage (Deuteronomy 26: 1-2, 5, 10-11)

When you have come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, 2you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name… 5you shall make this response before the Lord your God: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous… 10So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.” You shall set it down before the Lord your God and bow down before the Lord your God. 11Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house.

 

See, the problem with this whole Lenten wilderness excursion is that we’re really not ready, right? But have you ever considered that the problem might be that we’re TOO prepared. I mean, maybe we’ve overpacked, dragging what we think is ours, what we think defines us along this dusty road. Maybe we’re so walled off with our own preconceptions of who we are, who God is, what Jesus can do for us, how this whole journey will end up, that we’re not paying attention at all to where we are going or what God is trying to show us along the way.

 

Look around. We are not the first to travel this way. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s not an overly well-worn path, but there is a faint pathway that someone carved out long before we came along. This is not our pathway. This is not our land. This is not OUR country (arguing political pundits aside). This is not OUR church. We inherited what we have. It was handed down to us from those that came before. And it is ours not to possess, not to settle, but to hold, to hold for a season in time. What we have, all that surrounds us was entrusted to us for our care and our use (not for us to USE UP, just for our use.)

 

This Lenten journey is a reminder of not only where we are headed but also from where we have come. It is a way of our acknowledging that we are not self-made as we would like to think, that all that we are and all that we have is not only from God but IS God’s. But the passage also reminds us that we have time to digest all of that. God doesn’t expect to have all of this figured out or to be fully formed in faith. God is not standing at the doorway to our home like a holy ticket-taker. God is waiting for us to offer the fruits of what God has given us back to God. And then, together, we will celebrate the glorious bounty that belongs to us all. The journey is one that calls us to remember who and whose we are, to remember the place we began, to remember that that walked this path before, and to welcome those that are yet to come. Maybe Lent calls us to let go so that we will realize that what we are holding is not ours to possess.

 

 

Complete possession is proved only by giving. All you are unable to give possesses you. (Andre’ Gide)

 

Thank you for sharing your Lenten journey with me!

 

Grace and Peace,

 

Shelli

Where Righteousness is At Home

Overhanging trees8But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. 9The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance…. 13But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.  (2 Peter 3: 8-9, 13)

God will come when God will come. We’ve heard that over and over. But, granted, this life of faith is at times frustrating and often just downright difficult. How do you keep holding on to a hope when you often see no progress at all? How can we continue to be forced to wait for whatever it is for which we’re waiting? Because, as the passage says, we are promised a new heaven and a new earth. We are promised that all of Creation will be recreated. We are promised that, once and for all, righteousness will have a home. Righteousness, then, will be the norm. Righteousness will be an everyday thing. Righteousness will be that place where at the end of all our wandering, at the end of all our frustrations, at the end of the difficult days and the hours when you feel like you can do no more, we will enter our sacred place and be invited to pull the covers of righteousness over our heads and feel like things are the way they should be. So in this Season of Advent, we learn to wait. Good things cannot be rushed. The plan for God’s Kingdom was not made hastily and it cannot be just thrown together because we are getting a bit impatient with the whole ordeal. So, what do we do in the meantime? We live as if it’s here. We live righteousness. We give it a home. The Holy and the Sacred is not unattainable. In fact, if we just open our eyes, it is spilling into our lives even as we speak. God does not sit back and watch us squirm and strain until all is said and done. Rather, God gives us glimpse after glimpse and incarnation after incarnation and waits with infinite patience for us to respond. Look around…there are more burning bushes and parted seas and even waiting mangers in holy grottos than we can ever possibly imagine. As the writer of this passage maintains, it is that Holy Patience, that Waiting God in which we find our salvation. And so if we live as if the Holy and the Sacred has completely filled our lives, righteousness will indeed have a home and we will no longer be waiting for salvation.

But the part that we can’t forget, is that after righteousness has found us and soothed us and covered us, the next morning invites us to enter again and bring the home that we’ve found into our lives and into the world. See, the covers were NEVER meant to stay over our heads. Living righteousness is about being whatever it is for which you’ve waited and waking up and living it, whether or not the world seems to notice.
Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass.. it’s about learning to dance in the rain. (Vivian Greene)

 

Grace and Peace,

 

Shelli

(Sorry I’ve gotten thrown off the last few days…life happens…back on track, hopefully! :))