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wasteland

“Some wandered in desert wastelands,
    . . . hungry and thirsty,
    and their lives ebbed away.
Then they cried out to the Lord . . .
    and he delivered them . . .
 Let them give thanks to the Lord  . . .
 for he satisfies the thirsty
    and fills the hungry with good things” (Psalm 107:4-9).

Fear clinches her stomach. Emptiness rises like bile to burn in her chest. She staggers through weeks and months as if trudging across endless sand dunes. Daily stress rises to sear her skin like desert sun rays. As she parts her lips, the dry world of her wasteland burns into her throat. With a gasping plea, she at last musters a simple prayer. Help me, Lord.

The blaze persists. Dunes still overwhelm the view. Yet, her escape has begun.

She wriggles outstretched fingers toward the sand-walled horizon, anticipating mist from an unseen waterfall. With a dry, cracked hand, she picks up a branch for a staff. Peace floods into her spirit, soothing away the thirst of emptiness and fear. Her pace quickens. She might not sprint, but she now marches. To the streams she knows from within her. Where answered prayers have begun to lead her onward.

Ever felt lost in the wasteland? Hunger and thirst roil from physical needs, spiritual angst, or both. From health problems or financial devastation to inner storms of depression and stress, life can leave us feeling stranded in a desert-like existence. When despair overwhelms us, we recognize our inability to escape on our own strength. We can either succumb to its ravages or cry to the Lord for help.

A heartfelt prayer, no matter how simple or weak, vaults to heaven. God hears. And the escape begins.

The wasteland will not vanish in a moment, but you will gain resources to sustain you. Peace and hope nourish the soul, equipping you to march toward something beyond your view. A fresh draft of God-supplied faith empowers you to take the next steps. The cross beam becomes a staff to steady you on the way to fulfilled hope. God’s answer to your prayer for rescue has come, even as you await the answer of full deliverance.

Our miraculous answer to prayer is thriving, not only after our deliverance from the wasteland, but also during the journey of our escape.

What’s your miraculous answer to prayer today?

cactus (2)

Ruach gusted from the Creator’s lips into soulless forms on the earth. Life billowed into flesh and gave significance to the carcasses. Darkness shattered the perfection of Eden. Creation turned from its direct connection to Pure Lifebreath and distracted itself in a clamor to gasp for its own survival. The earth staggered and suffered in its putrid marshes of paganism and humanism while a remnant lifted their heads for the lilt of the Father’s breeze. After salvation dawned upon the world, new life rushed into a cloistered group of terrified disciples. Pneuma, as their language described it, set their breath ablaze with the advent of the Holy Spirit among believers. Revival whooshed across continents with unceasing demand.

An ongoing need to inhale fresh Spiritbreath persists. The breath of God alone begets life. Without His wind in our souls, we deflate to a gasping existence on dead calm seas.

We all need refreshment. In this stale pit of tragedy and confusion, our shoulders sag after so many miles of care. The norm can easily fade to drear and our words begin to lack flavor. Without a gust of divine breath, we suffocate in the dismal valley. We must seek His presence continually, and ask Him for renewal.

Florida’s sticky heat clutches at my chest as a constant reminder of my own Pneuma dependence. Our tropical summer waxed on for an extra month. The peak of hurricane season had passed, but the rains continued to pelt us. Nineteen inches drenched our September lawn. Temperatures wavered between eighty-eight and ninety-three, but steam hung in the air long after dusk. I attempted a prayerful walk around my neighborhood one evening. After less than a mile, I fought for breath.

Focus on circumstances had recently mired my soul in the doldrums and I struggled to keep moving in the work before me. Hot, sticky despair daunted my steps. Gloomy skies stretched beyond their due season. I pleaded for breath. I searched the heavens for a gust of Spirit to raise my flattened soul. And when I asked, ever faithful God demonstrated His goodness and breathed Pneuma into my spirit. Much like a gust of fresh, autumn-like air.

This weekend’s front gusted away the humid doldrums with a cool, refreshing wind. I snatched a sleeved blouse from the closet and leapt outside. Grins bloomed across the landscape–in passing cars, along the sidewalks, and throughout church. We held Sunday school outdoors to celebrate the occasion. Sighs floated on the breeze with contented remarks such as, “It’s so nice.”

I rolled back my sagging shoulders and drew in long drafts of rare autumn. Blues saturated the heavens, where the birds soared and dove to immerse themselves in fresh air.  I closed my eyes to offer prayers of gratitude. How magnificent is the Lord, revealing His creative glory in a breath of wind! Thank You, Father, for much-needed refreshment .

The temperatures will rise again mid-week. Humidity lurks in the near forecast, too. When the tropics settle over me, I can now face each day with the energy of revived breath. Pneuma alone renews the spirit. Thank You, Father, for a gust of Ruach to refresh my stagnant soul each time I ask.

How long will you gasp before calling for the LifeGiver to breathe refreshment into your soul?

 

“Send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.” Psalm 104:30

“Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2
He sends his command to the earth;
    his word runs swiftly…
 He sends his word and melts them;
    he stirs up his breezes, and the waters flow.” Psalm 147:15, 18

I peered over the kitchen sink to check my herbs. Spider mites crawled over the remains of yesterday’s sprouts. A few hardy gnats swarmed among the carcasses of their siblings, which I’d doused with organic weaponry two days before. I emptied the last of my seeds into the not-so-jiffy pots and pried them from the tacky sill. With a sigh, I carried the remains outside. I laid them to rest on the deck between my dead squash and withering tomato plants, offering each doomed plant a parting spritz of insecticide.

So much for growing food. I should have known better. Though farming stretches back several generations in my family, the inheritance didn’t make it into my genes. Instead of nurturing life, my fingertips beget as kiss of death on all things green. I sometimes pity new plants when I bring them home, since few survive longer than a month. A quest to provide drives me to keep trying. With my counseling practice losing money and writing career mired in the doldrums, I had hoped to create something fruitful for my family.

Weeks after the herb funeral, I strode past the wilting houseplants on my dining table to gaze at the overcast day outside. A burst of green drew my attention to the abandoned jiffy pots. Was that…basil? The herbs gleamed with the sheen of a recent drizzle. Nearby, fresh growth sprouted from the tomato stalk. My plants thrived after I got out of the way.

Discouragement burdened my soul and I buckled under its weight. Fatigue dragged my body to the couch. As I closed my eyes, a silent plea rose from my soul.

 I need You, Lord. Let me rest in You.

I longed to be held with divine tenderness while supported by infinite strength. I sank against the cushions, imagining God holding me against His chest. Only His embrace could be softer than a cloud and reinforce with more power and strength than the musculature of a grizzly bear.

A ray filtered through the window sheers and caressed my cheek. I opened my eyes to breaking sunlight. The grey clouds had dissipated. From the dark, pungent confirmations of my ineptitude, a fresh thought sprouted in my mind.

I can’t grow anything, but God can make anything grow.

Only He begets life. Our participation offers relationship, but the Lord alone wields the power to bring life. And He can resurrect things we’ve left for dead.

I closed my eyes for a few more minutes, resting in the Son’s light. I’m praying for the Lord to make me grow in His ways. And, if He wills it, to grow whatever He likes through me–green or otherwise.

 “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me” (John 15:5).

“Consider how the wildflowers grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! If that’s how God clothes the grass, which is in the field today and is thrown into the furnace tomorrow, how much more will He do for you—you of little faith? Don’t keep striving for what you should eat and what you should drink, and don’t be anxious. For the Gentile world eagerly seeks all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be provided for you.  Don’t be afraid,little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:27-32).

“’The kingdom of God is like this,’ He said. ‘A man scatters seed on the ground; he sleeps and rises—night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows—he doesn’t know how. The soil produces a crop by itself—first the blade, then the head, and then the ripe grain on the head” (Mark 4:26-28).

 

She tumbles out of bed and staggers for a light switch. A bedraggled creature squints at her from the bathroom. She recoils and gasps. When the fuzzy head mimics her retreat, she recognizes her reflection. She hopes the shower will renew her motivation to start the day, but there isn’t enough water in the city to freshen her attitude.

She chugs a triple venti on the way to work. After all, venti means ‘let’s go,’ right? Her heartbeat speeds up, and traffic grates on every raw brain nerve now pulsing with caffeine.

Coworkers and supervisors push and pull at her limbs for five hours. Invisible vines slither around her waist, tethering her to the desk chair through lunch. The afternoon hours tick along like an overplayed single on the oldies’ station.

At last the hour of freedom rings. She springs from the desk stocks and races to her car, only to sit imprisoned in traffic for the following hour. Despite its consistent failure to accelerate her commute, she commences the daily routine of arguing with drivers who cannot hear her.

Errands carve detours into the evening drive–take the kids here, pick up something for so-and-so, they said the charity meeting would only last an hour. . .

Chocolate bars and salty snacks glue slipping palms to the steering wheel. Soda bubbles perk open bloated eyelids. She trudges home and dumps herself into a puddle on the couch. Bagful of fast food in hand, she clicks on the ten-o’clock news. Thirty minutes of journalistic slant on the horrors of mankind settles into her thoughts with a thousand calories of fat and sodium. She nods off twice before turning the set off and dragging herself toward another restless night.

Do you know this woman? She doesn’t have time for wellness. She’s too tired to think about her unhealthy cycle. The creature in the mirror looks worse each week, and she thinks it must be time for a vacation. 

No one plans to live in these ruts. We all wish for happiness, energy, and fulfillment. Sometimes we resolve to make drastic shifts that we can’t maintain, and their failure returns us to the original routine. A wish without an effective plan becomes a regret.

If we can’t make effective plans, does that mean we’re stuck? Only if we aspire to optimize life on our own strength. Instead of resorting to a humanistic wellness plan, we need divine guidance. One Being embodies true wellness. God can inhabit each part of our day and infinitely enhance life’s joy, revitalization, and meaning.

She opens her eyes with praises to the God Who Sees her. She stretches and honors the Maker of her limbs. A smile greets her from the mirror. Silent prayers weave through her workday’s demands, and she takes a lunch hour walk with her Savior at least three times a week. The rush hour drivers don’t hear her praying for them, nor do they hear the joyful music and devotional audio books in her car stereo. Sometimes their gazes lock, and her grins prove contagious. The home-bound detours require less chocolate and soda. Bottled water reminds her of the wellspring of her soul and bagged fruit of the Spirit’s productive role in her life. She enjoys a salad while watching an inspiring film or reading scripture each night. Before it gets too late, she speaks the Words of her Soul’s Lover over her life and climbs into a restful night’s sleep.

“I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.” Psalm 3:5

“I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.”Psalm 16:7

“By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life.”Psalm 42:8

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being” Ephesians 3:16

“you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.” Colossians 1:10-12

 

I glanced at the movie pass offer, displayed on a banner across the bloodmobile.

I just used my last movie pass with my son the other day. Maybe it’s a good day to give blood. I feel healthy, after all, and so much of our community struggles with a cold right now.

I strode into the chapel for worship and prayed for guidance. At the close of the service, I exited the double doors to face the blue bus again. I tilted my head and studied the option.

A whisper descended into my mind’s weak ear. “Not now. Go get a cup of coffee.”

I rounded the corner toward the social hall. I could get some coffee, stand available for a divine encounter, then proceed to the bloodmobile. Halfway down the sidewalk, a boy scout held a posterboard advertisement for a pancake breakfast.

Pancake breakfast? I don’t eat pancakes. I can’t possibly go in there and just get a cup of coffee without getting the scouts’ breakfast. There also won’t be many opportunities to bless or encourage others, since they’ll all be seated at tables with food I won’t be sharing.

I whirled around.

I can get some diet soda while donating blood. That should serve me just as well as coffee.

A nagging uncertainty pricked at my spirit as I marched across the street. I peered inside the bloodmobile at the empty benches.

“I must’ve come at just the right time.” I grinned at the phlebotomist and ascended the steps.

Paperwork and vitals breezed along without issue, but the ease ended there.

“Just a little prick, now,” the technician said.

Familiar with the process, I nodded. “Hope there’s not too much scar tissue. I’ve given blood from that arm many times.”

“Let me get someone to help.” He turned away.

I glanced at the clear tube extending from my arm. “That’s strange.”

The woman who took my paperwork elevated my elbow and jabbed the needle deep into my arm. I winced at the unfamiliar pain level. Needles never bothered me before. The clock ticked past eleven, each passing minute increasing my tardiness to teach the eleventh grade Sunday school class.

“Give the ball a squeeze every few seconds,” he reminded me. “You’re almost done.”

Squeezing sent a jolt through my arm. That’s never happened before. 

When the donation ended, he instructed me to raise my arm for a few seconds. He cleared me to lower it and another technician tried to apply a bandage. Profuse bleeding ensued, so she told me to raise my arm again. That’s never happened before, either.

At quarter past eleven, I hustled to the far building. My sole remaining student waved to me from the classroom across the hall. I joined the other class and apologized. Despite dizziness, I engaged the students with my usual passion for the Word.

I considered running errands after church, but a tug toward home persuaded me to put them off until later in the afternoon. I checked on my son’s cough, worked on some writing, and clipped coupons with no further dizziness.

On my way to the first of my errands, I processed my experience aloud. “I don’t think I’ll give blood again for a long time.”

I considered several shades of thread at the fabric store, but struggled to decide in the poor light. I took two in hand and grabbed a third.

The thought sifted into mind. “Don’t buy a third. Two is sufficient.”

I glanced at the spool. God? My stomach churned. I should go. I replaced the third spool and headed to the check out line.

Customer service hailed me. “I can take you over here.”

As she retrieved my change from the drawer, a tidal wave of nausea overwhelmed me. I knelt and rested my reeling forehead against the counter.

“Do you need a chair?” Three associates rushed from behind the customer service desk.

“Yes, that’d be good. I’m just dizzy all of a sudden…”

“Sit up.”

“Have some chocolate…some Coke…”

I sipped the cola. My gullet resisted the tiny square of candy. “I feel sick…”

A trash can appeared beside the chair. I leaned my head into a dream…things to do…

A crowd of faces hemmed in the fluorescent glare. Linoleum chilled through my tee shirt into my spine and ribs. How did I end up on the floor?

“Are you all right?” A man smiled down at me. “Her color’s looking a bit better now.”

“The ambulance is on its way,” an associate said.

After the EMTs completed their review, my husband arrived from work to support me through the parking lot and drive me home. My son later helped retrieve my car. I spent the unsteady evening in bed.

My failure to tune into the Spirit cost time and energy for countless others. I felt silly and weak, a reminder of my utter dependence on higher strength. Each minor choice carries an  infinite stream of potential contingencies, and God alone foresees them all. When I am tempted to trust my own understanding, I pray His Spirit will bring my public fall to mind. For in my weakness, I must listen.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.” (Proverbs 3:5-8)

May the Lord reward my husband, the anonymous doctor who volunteered his attention, the kind associates at JoAnn’s Fabrics, and Hillsborough County Fire Rescue from His richest treasures of abundant blessings.

 

Rain nourishes the growth of bountiful leaves across the earth. Each world culture harvests, dehydrates, and threshes its own into an assortment of teas. A vast selection of aromas and flavors surround us, each providing a unique and valuable contribution. A cup of tea offers delight to be savored often as a part of life’s abundant joys.

Satisfaction beyond a sniff requires infusing dried teas with water and energy. Waterless tea remains impotent to soothe the senses or offer medicinal value. Tea’s value and effectiveness depends upon pure water.

When thirsty, we often reach for tasty options such as iced or brewed tea. Soon after imbibing these, we thirst again. If we drink water less often than other refreshments, our bodies suffer the effects of dehydration. Though teas and other liquids offer some benefits when blended with it, pure water remains the sole resource to hydrate our bodies toward optimal health.

Our souls thirst for love, healing, and identity. We often seek others grown upon the earth to ease our yearnings. When infused with the power and nature of the Spirit, people can provide delightful and refreshing benefits to our lives. Human comfort cannot replace Christ. Without the Lord’s refreshing presence, our souls lack vital hydration and thirst escalates.

“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water…whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  John 4:10,14

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