“Let not your heart be troubled.
I sat under the oak tree and listened to the wind move through the branches—the soft sound soothing to my weary soul. A memory of a difficult time in my life had taken over me and I needed some time and space to myself.
“You don’t live there anymore,” God said as He sat down next to me. “Remember, you gave that trauma to me a long time ago.”
“I know I did. But it’s back. I can’t seem to shake the feelings around it,” I answered.
“I made your heart whole. You’ve been healed from the past.”
“Why am I feeling this way, then?” I asked.
“Align yourself with Me,” God whispered, “and the past will stay in the past.”
“How do I do that?”
“Find me in everything around you.”
I looked out over the meadow and saw the wind moving through the tall grass. A flock of birds, high above, were making their way to the horizon. The sun’s warm fingers rested on my arms. Off in the distance, a deer and her fawn moved silently through the trees.
“I’m here with you,” God said. I nodded as tears found their way down my face. God gently picked me up and carried me back to the cottage. “Let your heart be full of Me—my love and my grace.”
I wiped my eyes and walked into the kitchen, into the present moment, the past now comfortably behind me.
A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.
“She’s fine the way she is,” God said to me as I sipped my morning coffee. “You don’t need to give her any advice.”
God had caught me thinking of my friend’s quirks that get on my nerves—quirks that I think she’d be better off without. “But she’s so fearful,” I argued. “She’s always trying to control everything.”
“It’s her life. Let her lead it,” God said gently. “She doesn’t need your advice. She’s happy in her own way. One of the most loving things you can do as a friend is to listen to her and accept her just as she is. That’s the mark of true friendship—listening to and loving people for who they are. Just as I listen to you and accept you for who you are.
“But can’t I try to influence her for the better?” I asked.
“If you want to inspire people to grow and improve, do so my being a good example. That will be more powerful than any words you say,” God answered. “Unasked for advice puts people on the defensive. It doesn’t help them.”
“I’ll do my best to listen to others and to accept them where they are on their journey. I’ll try to keep my thoughts of how they should think, feel, or act, to myself.”
“Love them as I love you,” God said gently.
I swallowed the last of my coffee and let His words fill my heart so that I could be a better friend. Listen. Love. Rinse. Repeat.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…”
To escape the heat, I drove to the Yuba River to swim. It was a bit of a hike over dry grass and weeds, uphill and down, but finally, I made my way to the swimming hole. People of all ages were in the deep, clear water of the Sierra snowmelt. I waded in, the cold of the water taking my breath away. Slowly, I adjusted to the temperature and began swimming with the others. A large rock in the middle of the river served as a diving board; young boys cannonballed off if it, laughing and shouting to one another. I thought of the Maidu Indians who used to live here along the Yuba’s banks—living in a time more attuned to God’s rhythms.
As I swam to the deeper reaches of the river, I prayed silently to God: “Dear Father, thank you for this natural beauty you’ve created for us.” A lone hawk circled overhead, its dark wings in stark contrast to the brilliant blue sky. I tread water for a while, looking at the majestic surroundings. “This is true medicine, God,” I said. “Whatever ailed me today is gone. I am at peace.”
“I’m glad, Sparrow,” God whispered through the trees, the sound so sweet and gentle that tears came to my eyes.
I swam back to where I could stand up in the water. I stood for a long time, soaking in the tranquility of the afternoon until the sun began her march towards the other side of the world. As I hiked my way back to my car, in the shadows of sunset, I reached out and took God’s hand.
“I’m with you,” God said.
I nodded. “I know,” I answered. We walked the rest of the way in silence, my heart full.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
“You’re in charge,” God whispered as I opened the refrigerator door to look for something to satisfy my hunger.
“In charge of what?” I asked as I opened the crisper and reached for a shiny red apple.
“You’re in charge of the colony.”
“Colony of what? I’m not a Pilgrim,” I playfully pointed out. I took a bite out of the apple, its crisp flesh giving way as I sunk my teeth into it. I wiped the drops of juice from my mouth with the back of my hand.
“You’re in charge of your body,” God explained. “It’s a colony. You must lead it carefully so that it serves you well. Eat well. Rest. Don’t stress. And don’t let it boss you around.”
“What do you mean by that?” I asked.
“Don’t let it convince you to be a couch potato, or to feed it junk food, or to ignore good hygiene. It can try to convince you to do things that aren’t in its best interest.”
I held up what was left of the apple. “I’m doing my best to make good choices,” I said. “See?”
“Yes. I see. Now, go for a walk and get some fresh air and some exercise,” God said.
“But I have a lot of work to do on the computer,” I answered.
“You’re in charge,” God whispered.
I pondered His words. Every day I make choices that are either for my body or against it. I really am in charge of the colony and I need to do a better job as a leader. So I tugged on my tennis shoes, tied the laces, and pushed open the front door and went for a long walk. My work could wait. My body is more important.
“If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.
If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides.”
~1 Peter 4:11
The sun had a few more moments to hang in the sky, so I threw on my hat and tumbled out the door for a quick walk. It had been a long day of listening to people’s suffering. My heart and head needed clearing. A gentle breeze blew past me, pushing my hat off of my head. I reached to pick it up when I heard God’s gentle whisper.
“Noah was faithful,” He said.
“Noah trusted me to build the ark, even when there were no signs of rain,” He explained.
“What’s that got to do with me?”
“I want you to serve me with the same faithfulness. I want you to do my work even if you can’t see the reason why or see the fruits of your labor,” He explained.
“You drive a hard bargain,” I said. “I’m often tired.”
“I know you are. I’ll give you the strength,” God said warmly. I walked in silence the rest of the way, pondering God’s words.
I thought about how we are all asked to do God’s work in some way. The art of ark building—heading God’s call—is simply having faith. It means that we don’t rely on our own understanding, but instead, we rely on God. I finished my walk just as the sun turned out her light for the night. I sat in the dark of my garden for a few minutes before heading on into the house. “I’ll need your help. I can’t do it on my own,” I whispered.
God put His loving hand on my shoulder. That was the only answer I needed.