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What Revives My Soul

Pain is good at getting our attention.  As C.S. Lewis has famously said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures. . . . but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”  Last fall, with megaphone-like resound, God returned my attention to His Word like never before.

I thought I knew just what I needed.  My soul was nearing the point of dangerous depletion after an intensely loaded stretch of ministry.  So to revive my now highly-numbed state, I planned out a long day hike along the cascading landscapes of New Hampshire’s White Mountains.  It would be just what I needed: a feast of fall foliage, an indulgence of the open air.  An only child’s paradise.  I had it pictured perfectly–just me walking along the mountain ridgeline, wide in wonder to the beauty of God…and my best hiking buddy, of course, our yellow lab, Howdy.

Everything was off to a killer start. Surging waterfalls, gentle streams, bursting color all smiled at us as we trekked with joy along the well-cut trail.  After an hour, we caught up to another hiker and his dog, and decided to hike part of the trail together.  As our dogs played, and the hiker and I conversed, I began getting a little worried for Howdy. The other dog was getting rough, so I decided to grab Howdy, and let this hiking duo go on ahead of us.  After all, this was supposed to be a solitary retreat. But in my efforts to free Howdy from the other dog, it happened.  I slipped, fell, and like many times before, dislocated my left shoulder.  Within seconds the pain set in maddeningly.  With the help of the other hiker I was able to pull my arm back in socket, but the damage was already done.  My perfectly planned day was over.  I would have to turn around, and return to my exhausted world with even greater frustration.

As I slowly made my way back down the trail, I noticed a beautiful clearing arrayed by birch trees bursting with exquisite color.  It was the perfect place to rest.   As I began sitting down, it struck me that I hadn’t actually stopped moving for a single second on my retreat.  Not only so, I realized I hadn’t looked to Holy Scripture either.  So I turned to Psalm 19 to hear Scripture’s testimony to creation’s anthem.  But in this text on God’s nature-song, I heard something far greater than anything I could experience on that trail. The painful noise finally became clear.

Verse 7 says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul” (NRSV, italics mine).  Or as The Message puts it, “The revelation of God is whole and pulls our lives together.”

It wasn’t just my shoulder that was dislocated that day, but my soul.  It had been pulled apart from my unending, deafening busyness, and I wasn’t even turning to the source to put it back together, Holy Scripture. While the created order is undoubtedly to be savored and enjoyed, only God’s Word can bring life that truly satisfies.  It is what revives my soul.  So often when we’re burned out we look for easy-fixes, like TV or Internet or even escape, to sooth our souls, but only God’s Word can truly provide what we need.

I got the megaphone-projected message loud and clear that day.  When my soul is feeling starved and pulled to pieces, I need look no further than God’s Word.  It is my soul’s feast; it is my socket, pulling everything together.

Overheard at Camp

I’m just back from a few days at Camp of the Woods in upstate New York, where 300+ Grace Chapel folks are enjoying a week of conversation, laughter, worship, teaching, outdoor recreation, and the beauty of our Father’s world.  Along the way I heard and overhead Camp staff and guests say some nice things about the GC family.

One of the music directors told me they had their most meaningful worship service of the summer the night the GC folks were in the house.  Their enthusiastic participation lifted the entire experience.

A seminar speaker noted the intensity with which our folks attended to her teaching, and the care and support they demonstrated for one another.

A staff worker marveled at the creativity and intentionality of the GC staff in providing a rich experience for their church family.

One of the Camp directors is hoping that our church could serve as a model for other churches of how impactful a week at Camp can be for a church community.

Like a parent overhearing someone talk about his kids, I felt proud to be part of such a wonderful church family, and grateful for the GC campers and staff who have helped to create such a wonderful tradition.  I know from experience that the faith-filled relationships and memories formed at Camp can last a lifetime!

If you’re looking for a vacation that’s more than just a vacation, make plans to join us August 9-16, 2014.  Who knows, maybe next year they’ll be saying something nice about you!

- Pastor Bryan