Dessert and difficulty

Remember these words from Psalm 23? “Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” and “You prepare a table for me in the midst of my enemies.”

This doesn’t sound like a great deal does it? Rod and staff? Those sound like weapons. We have to eat surrounded by enemies? This is a good thing?

These words let us know that following God isn’t about a life of ease and plenty. It is a life of work and hardship. But it’s also a life of being refined. We are being improved through the difficulties that God gives us. They aren’t tests or punishments. They are how God shapes us and molds us into being better people. This way when it comes time for the separation of the wheat and the chaff, we will be the wheat. God is refining us into gold.

God chooses us, but then we have to choose God. And when we choose God we’re choosing this life of being shaped by God. When the psalmist tells us “You prepare a table for me in the midst of my enemies”, it means that in the middle of a bad situation you will flourish and be well provided for. But you have to be in a bad situation. It doesn’t mean that you get the feast without the fight. You don’t get the desert without the difficulty.

Know that whenever you’re in a bad situation, one that feels impossible, know that God is with you and that God is cheering you on. God wants you to rise above it and get stronger because of that bad situation, not in spite of it. God is using it to strengthen you in the same way that anyone who wants to get stronger muscles has to pick up heavier and heavier weights.

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Poem – Be bread.

How is bread made?

How much are we like bread?

We have yeast in us.

We are made from elements from the earth.

All that our mothers ate,
all that we eat, makes up our bodies.

Yet there is more.

Bread has to rise. Once all the ingredients are there it has to wait.
It has to sit still and grow.

Then it gets punched down, kneaded,

And then it rests again.

And punched down, kneaded.

And then it gets baked,
put into the furnace, the cauldron,
to transform it
into its true nature, it’s purpose.

Be bread.

Bread that doesn’t sit and wait,
isn’t pushed down, isn’t challenged,

isn’t heated up in the stove of conflict

Isn’t bread,
isn’t of any use to anybody.

Especially itself.

Be bread.

Stumbling block, or stepping stone?

My craft room is the wrong color. When it got the house, it was teal. I quickly painted it fern green. I find green soothing. It is something of a neutral color for me, a default. But then I realized that I wasn’t using the room. It has great light. It has a lot of space. But I wasn’t spending any time in there. I was storing my beads and fabric and paint in there, but not using them there. I’d take them to other parts of the house, usually the living room, and work there.

It has taken me ten years to get back into that room. It was yoga that did it, and it is yoga that teaches me about it. I feel that I’ve wasted a lot of time not using it all this time, but I often feel that. I suspect a lot of that comes from the fact that my parents died young. I don’t want to be wasteful of time, or to assume that I have a lot of time. I think that wanting to have lived a meaningful life is common to most people, and it is hard to have lived a meaningful one if you’ve frittered it away. I’m trying to be mindful. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes it seems there are a lot of unnoticed things that thwart me.

I needed space to do yoga every morning. I needed a space that was big enough for a yoga mat and for me to be able to do some side twists. I have a tiny house. It was what I could afford at the time. Plus, a small house (hopefully) means not accumulating a bunch of stuff. So, this means that the living room is not really big enough. There is room for the mat, but not the side twists. The same is true in the bedroom. I’ve got plenty of room on the porch, but it is outside and I don’t want to be stared at while I’m doing yoga. Actually, I’m very self-conscious about being outside at all, but that is another story.

So I put the mat in the craft room, and I made myself do yoga every morning. I realized that I didn’t want to go in there. Yoga is teaching me to look adversity head on – to not run away from it. Study it. Dig down to the roots. Why am I feeling this way – like I want to run away? Why don’t I want to be in this room? The first and deepest impression was that it was the color. Too dark. Not energizing. It is calming, but a little too much. Now, there is a lot of light from the north – the light is great for painting in the morning. But it just didn’t strike my eyes right, and the color wasn’t inspiring.

I got a book called “Sacred Spaces”, about how to make sanctuaries wherever you are. One of the sections was on feng shui. I determined that something more like a sea-blue, or slate-grey-blue would be better. It would be a pain to drag out everything in that room and repaint it. So I made some suggested amendments to the room. More blue pictures. Seashells. I made a point of closing the closet so the mirror showed. Either it helped, or I thought it did, because I was more likely to want to be in there.

But I’m leaving the walls. Part of it is that I feel that removing all difficulties actually can be a problem. Having an obstacle, having something that annoys me, actually wakes me up. It strengthens me. It keeps me conscious.

I’ve noticed that if everything is fine, I don’t push myself. I don’t stretch or grow. And I don’t pray. When everything is going fine, I don’t seek God nearly as often.

Turns out I’m in really good company. Plenty of people throughout the Bible did that. When things were going bad, they called on God. When things were going great, they forgot about God. Have a pain in your back that you are worried about? Pray. When it stops hurting, you stop praying. Normal.

God likes to hear from us. God wants to be connected to us. It is sad that we often only remember to pray, to connect with God, when things aren’t going well. What would happen if we treated our friends like this? If we only call them when we have something to complain about, the relationship isn’t going to last. God wants to have a relationship with us.

So maybe we should be thankful for the obstacles, and the pains, and the things that annoy us. Maybe they are our rescue. Maybe instead of being stumbling blocks, they are stepping stones.

I’ve decided not to repaint that room. I’ve decided it keeps me mindful of how to be calm and present amidst adversity.