Heart and Soul

But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Deuteronomy 4:29 NKJV

But from there.

There is where we find ourselves. At the least, feeling stranded in our homes. At the worst, embattled by the fight for life against a spreading illness.

I just can’t speak to the latter. The reports leave me speechless. But from there, I must not be voiceless. I can pray fervently for loved ones on the front lines. I have to call out for God’s help.

And I cry out: Pray with me.

While we wave to the delivery people — pray with me.

While we wash and spray and mask — pray with me.

What do we pray? Pray to seek God.

And pray to seek God with all your heart and soul.

You might not be all that familiar with the interiors of your heart and soul. They may seem too rundown to explore safely. Or they may seem to be too cluttered to be of use.

But from there is a place to start. From a heart and soul dependent on daily routine, mirroring a calendar jammed with notes and appointments that aren’t relevant anymore, now that much of your world has closed down around you. From a heart and soul given little attention in day-to-day life, that may seem too fragile to comprehend the strain and stress of others around you. From a heart and soul that you may not have spent much time wandering through, not while there were trends and goals to chase.

As you pray to seek God with all your heart and soul — in whatever shape they may be — seek to find His face, and seek to find His hand.

Why God’s Face?

If we find ourselves experiencing a sense of isolation as we pass each other wearing masks, that experience may actually derive from a pre-existing condition: our lack of intimacy with God. We may know God only by rumor. Maybe we know Him by brief introduction, and over the years, we’ve fallen out of touch. One way or the other, we can find ourselves unfamiliar with God.

But from there, seek God’s face so that you can discover the joy of God smiling on you, singing over you, seeing you. (Numbers 6:25, Zephaniah 3:17, Genesis 16:13, Psalm 16:9,11 NIV)

Seek God’s face, so that your face will begin to turn to His. So you can begin to fix your gaze on Him, since we tend to walk in the direction that we’re looking. Seek God’s face, so that you will know how to approach God.

As you approach, God is drawing near to you, and to your need for peace and joy.

I keep my eyes always on the LORD. Because He is at my right hand, with Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Psalm 16:8 NIV

Why God’s Hand?

If we find ourselves constantly monitoring the news for signs that people in charge are acting to relieve the concerns of this situation, we will find that good efforts are being made.

Still, if we measure these leaders by their responses to this crisis, at some point we will eventually find them faltering, and our anxiety will rise. For example, when nonessential businesses remain open, it seems economic concerns have outweighed public health. When we read that hospitals continue to lack protective equipment for staff, we may begin to see inaction in addressing the lack of resources. At these points, anxiety becomes dismay.

But from there, seek God’s hand, because He acts in righteousness and in power unlike anyone else.

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 NIV

Unlike people at any level, God is immune to incompetence. He possesses the unlimited power of Creation, intervention and communication. (Psalm 8:3-4, 1 Kings 19:11-12 NIV) And unlike people at any level, God is immune to corruption. He acts in compassion and grace, reserving just judgment for a future time. (Psalm 103:8, 1 Peter 2:23, Numbers 23:19 NIV)

Our hearts and souls remain in need. But from there, it is God that we must seek.

In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3 NIV

My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord;
In the morning I will direct it to You,
And I will look up. Psalm 5:3 NKJV

The Sharpest Sword

I had seen what it could do. Now it was my turn.

We were at a festival that celebrates the Renaissance period of history, with food and events that match the theme. While chewing on a huge turkey leg and watching a jousting match, we’d gotten a fresh surge of energy, and now we were exploring the shops.

My husband had admired the range of swords, and a worker at the shop invited him to try out his favorite. Behind the shop were bundles of reeds standing up in water barrels. They’d been soaked overnight, and the thick bundles were now dense and heavy.

First, the shop worker took aim. And swung, slicing in one steady, fluid movement. He showed us the swiftly dissected bundle, and reviewed what made the sword so effective and efficient. After giving us a lesson on careful use, he then handed it off to my husband, who readily did the same.

Sword

Now I had the sword in my hand.

I’d been fed. I’d been taught. The sword was sharper than we could have imagined. All I had to do was understand what it could do, and then choose to use it.

There’s a sword that is so sharp it can divide bone and marrow, soul and spirit. You have this sword. And it’s been placed in your hand.

You’ll want to be fed first. The good news is that God’s Word is a sword, and at the same time, God’s Word is a daily bread. You’ll want to be fed with that daily bread. Meaning that you’ll want to taste and see that the Lord is good, first sampling what God has to say to you, and then coming to savor it. And then, when you’re ready to read more than a verse or two, and begin to choose larger portions, you’ll want to sit down to make a meal of it, and then another. You’ll become filled with His love and His wisdom for your life. And you’ll realize with each meal that the joy of the Lord is your strength.

You’ll want to be taught. You can get a lesson on careful use of the word of God, if you seek a conversation with God.

Your prayers may begin with seeking God’s intervention in the circumstances of your life.

As you pray, you will want to remember how God has already intervened in your life, and take time to be thankful. Not only will gratitude honor God as He is due, but thankfulness will renew your mind as to what God can and will do.

As you recall what God can do, God can reveal to you that what He has done reflects who He really is. As you seek to give God a role in your life, God can help you recognize that His role reaches beyond intervention, to sovereignty; that God was meant to be Lord of your life.

And as you realize, in greater and greater detail, who He really is, you realize that all of what He is, is what you need and want most. Realizing that God himself is what your heart is missing, your prayers can then become about seeking His presence – God himself.

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 KJV

Understand that God’s Word can divide soul and spirit – defining your spirit as your truest self, which is restored fully by your saving faith in Him; and defining your soul as your mind and emotions. Just as marrow gives life and function to the body’s joints, your thoughts and feelings were never meant to reign over your life, but to be given life and function by your spirit. Your soul, which needs daily healing and restoration, needs to be led by your spirit, which is the essential innermost substance of your existence. And your spirit by faith has a perfect connection to the perfect leadership of God’s Holy Spirit.

In Ezekiel 37, a prophet in ancient Israel shares his vision of what God will do with His people regardless of what state they are in. He gave an eyewitness account of divine restoration far beyond human capacity when God restored dry bones, in a valley of death. In Psalm 23, another prophet named David shares the relationship with God that preserved him and his life, regardless of the valleys he walked through. Here I share my witness to what God can do. I relay to you that hope is never lost, when you place your hope in God.

What happened when it was my turn with the sword? I said I was ready. And I focused – more on what I had learned, than on what was before me.

I took aim, and sliced steady. The bundle fell to the sharp sword.

Take your turn.

Return and Rest

Pasture     He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.

I smile, and breathe a deep sigh of ease, looking at a picture of my husband and younger son relaxing in our back yard.

It is surely one of those green pasture moments. My son is playing with his pecan-tree-branch walking stick and our fuzzy small dog. My husband is sitting on the porch steps, savoring every spoonful of his ice cream cup. And the sun sets slowly enough to illuminate everything.

And this is another green pasture moment. I sit on the plane, headed to vacation. Both sons sit behind us, still enjoying their reunion after the firstborn’s return from freshman year in college. Husband has his audio book and a nap. I have time to play with my phone, to actually change the wallpaper all by myself, to find the golden sunset picture. To be soaring here and there, all at once.

The next day I am praying to God, glad for rested sleep and strengthened body, the fullness of the day previous and the newness of the current day, letting thank you fill me until I feel it in my soles. This is green pastures too, taking a longer gaze at my Shepherd.

And in my prayer I trust him with the times He’s led me through and rested me from. As I pray, I am freed from wearying myself all over again when I remember them, and how they tried me.

And I trust him with the times He’s leading me to, where my soul will be called to remember Him and His green pasture. To return to rest not only in summer, but daily, and throughout each day. Not to commit entrance to his green pastures to memory, but to frequent His presence, to seek Him and enter fully into His rest at all times — instead of being stranded by the situation. To feast in His presence in the presence of my enemies: distraction, frustration, offense, pain, weariness and fear.

To become rooted there. Tended there. To be reminded that nothing in God’s green earth bears fruit from great concerted effort, but rather yields it.