Petrichor

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We are given no signs from God;
no prophets are left,
and none of us knows how long this will be.  –Psalm 74:9

How long has it been since your last experience of Petrichor?

Petrichor is, essentially, the smell of rain.  It’s a combination of bacteria being released from dry ground, and the smell of ozone, and the oil from certain dry plants.(Wikipedia)

It’s a wonderful, fresh scent.  The scent of new beginnings.  Starting over.  Purity.

The scent of God-presence.

I love that scent, and I’m happy to say that we’ve had so much water this spring, here in South Central Kansas, that I’ve smelled Petrichor on a number of occasions.

But I’ve had my dry spells.  Long, spiritually barren spans when hope wasn’t to be found, and emptiness was punctuated by parched coughing spells. I’ve had moistureless nights when it seemed everyone around me was lost, too.   No signs.  No prophets.  No scents.

I’ve tried seeding clouds with my tears, to no avail.  I’ve tried dancing and chanting and praying, and still the dry spell continued.  And then…

Petrichor.  Named after combining the Greek words for “rock”, and the “fluid” that runs through the veins of the Gods. (Wikipedia)  It reminds me of God in the dessert, saying…

I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.”  –Exodus 17:6a

None of the Israelites mention any fragrance that accompanied that miracle.  Perhaps they were too thirsty to pay attention. I wonder, did the water God sent smell like Petrichor?  I like to think so.  I think God sends Petrichor in remarkable and commonplace settings, in great floods and bare sprinkles.

And sometimes, yes, God even sends the agonizing dry spell. Why? Is it to test us and torture us with dust and heat?  Or is this all part of the natural rhythms of God’s created systems?  Water follows dust, wet follows dry.  I tend to think of Petrichor as no more possible to predict than any of God’s other rhythms.

We’re moving into the dry months, I know.  I will try to find God in the wilderness, in the dust.  But somedays, as an act of hope, I plan to raise my head towards the sky, and sniff, and declare the thrill of my createdness:

Hallelujah, it smells like rain.

 

Have a great week,

Mitch

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BAREFOOT!  A collection of my favorite devotions from over the years, complete with study questions.  Perfect for individual reflection or group discussion.  Get yours on Amazon!

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Going Freestyle

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So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?” Exodus 15:24

Let me tell you. Olive Garden will refill your iced tea quicker than you can drink it.  Carlos O’Kelly’s has gigantic 32oz tumblers that they’re more than happy to fill with Diet Mountain Dew.  A Route 44 Arnold Palmer from Sonic never fails to hit the spot.

Good stuff, one and all, but these can’t compare to Freestyle.  It’s been around for about a decade, I’d guess, so there’s a good chance you’ve seen it.

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It is, as I like to call it, an amusement park for thirsty people.   And I am a thirsty person.

Freestyle boasts 100+ drink options, and I’ve likely tried them all. The possibilities are only limited by the room my internal organs can set aside for liquid.  Let’s see…

I’ll start with something fruity and exotic, maybe Dasani sparkling cherry&Minute Maid lemonade&Fuze unsweet tea.  Ahhh.  Then something a little more traditional:  Coke Zero&Barq’s crème soda.  Nice. And then, something in the flavored ginger ale oeuvre.  Freestyle is a marvel of the modern world.

I should mention, however, that there is no Living Water button on the Freestyle.  So if you’re looking to meet a spiritual thirst, you may be out of luck.

Where today can somebody get their hands on Living Water?  The Hebrews complained about it enough so Moses gushed some out of a rock.  Jesus offered some to the woman at the well.  And whoever wrote the 23rd Psalm sounds like they got good and quenched.

What about us?  It’s funny, but when I think about Living Water, a spiritual experience of the Holy Spirit, Freestyle seems just too….Freestyle to me.  Too much flexibility, and sugar and aspartame and caffeine and weird stuff I can’t pronounce.

When I think about whetting my whistle with Living Water, interesting places spring up in my mind:  1)  Drinking from a Garden Hose, as a kid.  2) That 1-in-a-thousand drinking fountain with the perfect combination of temperature, pressure, and arc.  3) Cool water from a mountain stream, drunk right from my cupped hands. None of those places were labeled “Living Water”…but I just knew.

What about you?  Where have you found Living Water?  I suppose it doesn’t have to be water, we’re really talking about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but my thirstiness ties the two notions together for me much like the scriptures do.  So where you do you drink of the Spirit?

I realize that what my life needs is to be Structured, more than Freestyled.  That doesn’t mean I’ll give up the occasional Lemonade&Raspberry PowerAde&Mello Yellow concoction.  It just means that, deep down, I’ll pay attention to my thirst for the singular, elemental, spiritual guidance of God most of all.

It comes in just one flavor:

Holy.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Remember that you are baptized

 

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Do you renounce
the spiritual forces of wickedness,
reject the evil powers of this world,
and repent of your sin?

I do.

Do you accept
the freedom and power
God gives you
to resist evil, injustice,
and oppression
in whatever forms they present themselves?

I do.

Do you confess
Jesus Christ as your Savior,
put your whole trust in his grace,
and promise to serve him as your Lord,
in union with the Church which Christ has opened
to people of all ages, nations, and races?

I do.

According to the grace given to you,
will you remain faithful members
of Christ’s holy Church
and serve
as Christ’s representatives
in the world?

I will.

. . . . .

Remember your baptism
and be faithful.

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H2Okey Dokey

top-brandsMaybe I’ll have a bottled water taste test.

I could blow like $20 on bottles of Dasani, Aquafina, Smart Water, and all the other ones out there, and sample each one, and rank them by preference.

It just seems like with all those options out there I ought to have a favorite.  I mean, what if it turns out the Fiji bottle shape is head and shoulders ahead of Evian’s?  What if Ozarka’s taste blows Voss out of the…ahem…water?

And what if filtered water out of my fridge beats them all?

Wow, there sure are a lot of factors complicating things for a couple hydrogens and an oxygen.  Hmm.

I mean, do I really need to pit different containers of H20 against each other? Honestly, I don’t know exactly what my water taste test would achieve, except to thoroughly hydrate me, which I suppose would be nice.

It’s WATER.  And this bottle may taste a little different then this bottle, but maybe I don’t need a favorite.  Maybe I can just be glad to have it.  Maybe I can just drink it.

When Jesus offered a woman a drink of Living Water he did not worry about what electrolytes were added or if if was condensed from clouds.  He did not offer it in a particular package or at a certain temperature.  In fact, the whole point of his Living Water metaphor was that it was elemental.  It was quintessential.  It was beyond ranking or preference or promotion.

It was as simple as this:   You have thirst.   Here is Water.   Drink.

Ahh yes. That takes me back to the good ole days when water just showed up in drinking fountains or garden hoses.  Water was from the tap or a pitcher in the fridge and that was about all you could say about it.

Remember then?  You have thirst.  Here is water.  Drink.

Yeah, no bottled water taste test for me.  I’ll stuff all the bottles in my fridge and drink one when I’m thirsty.

Call it a spiritual thing, but for me I just want water to be water.

I want my water with a little mystery.  Variety.

Elemental.  Quintessential.

That sounds just H2Okey Dokey to me.

 

Have a great week,

 

Mitch

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The Winter Stream

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I took this picture on my recent flight from Kansas to North Carolina.

Look at all those tiny boxes.  Each of them a mile-wide pasture.

From the air, you can clearly see the structure and order that humanity superimposes onto creation.  And it’s beautiful in of itself.

But what is truly breathtaking to me is the river.

* * *

When I was 10, we lived in the country, outside a little town called Saline, Michigan.

Winters there were pretty heavy duty.  We’d pull on our snowmobile suits, build snow forts, go cross-country skiing.

Snow was everywhere.  White like the surface of the moon.

One year, out in front of the yard, in the large ditch by the dirt road, the snow began to melt.  There were still big piles of the stuff everywhere else, but as the sun passed overhead on that late winter day, a single stream of water began to form.

How can I describe the magic of this next part?

There in the ditch, the tiny stream pushed back the snow, and wound its way back and forth around tiny trees. stones, and discarded brush.  My friend and I watched it work, and nudged the dirt here and there to help it expand and stretch.

There in that desolate-white landscape, we were staring down at something that was Alive.

It was revelatory for us.  Almost incarnational.

We were caretakers of that stream up until darkness came, and we were called in for dinner.

* * *

Back in the airplane.

Take another look out of my window seat, above.

See that S-like line weaving its way across the middle of the picture?

When I saw it, some 10,000 feet overhead, I instantly remembered looking down at that winter stream, some 35 years ago.

I love how it winds its way across the landscape, charting its own course, crossing all boundaries.

It is clearly Alive.

Streams of living waters, Jesus said. Yes.  A living Spirit of God that nurtures and refreshes.

I wonder.  Is this how God views God’s self at work?  Staring down from on high?

Is this the perspective of Creation?

Lord knows I’m still just an ant,

but I have seen the winding snake, and the living water.

I have drunk deeply from the winter stream,

and I have believed.

* * *

Have a great week,

Mitch

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How Deep Is Your Love?

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Is your love shallow?  

Some rivers are little more than streams across the dessert.  Drizzles of water that spill aimlessly, and dry up too soon.

To love like this is to hardly love at all.

Is your love winding and twisting?

Some rivers curve around wildly, with no sense of direction, making it hard to stay oriented. Almost impossible to navigate.

To love like this is to love without focus.

Is your love a raging torrent?

Some rivers run fast and violent.  Sure, there’s the thrill of the white water, but almost too much too handle.

To love like this is to to love with no peace.

Is your love a lazy stream?

Some rivers take their time.  Floating along with barely a current, enjoying the scenery.

To love like this is to love with no passion.

Is your love deep?

Some rivers stand the test of time.  Carving out a legacy.  Majestic, mysterious and awe-inspiring.

To love like this is to love completely.

How deep is your love?

I’ve decided. I want the deep deep love of Jesus.

I want a river of life, pouring out of me.

Is this what you want?

If so, then let’s go deep.  Let’s seek God in our very depths.

Let’s be open to love with a direction and purpose, and a sense of reverence.

Let’s soak ourselves in passion and peace.

Let’s be nourished by water and the spirit.

And then,

Let’s make our marks on this world,

criss-crossing and creasing

and quenching the dry places,

until the whole world says:

“Ahhhhhhhh”

and “Amen”.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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There’s a hole in your bucket list

The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? –John 4:11

* * *

What if I told you there was a hole in your bucket list?

That’s right. All the unfulfilled wishes, hopes and dreams you’ve been carrying in your bucket…they’re slowly dripping out and drying up.

Like water draining out of a bathtub.

Would you panic? Would you rush out into the street to find a Karaoke bar where you could sing “Hey Jude” — because you always wanted to? Would you charter a plane to Nepal so you could climb Mt Everest? Would you get that tattoo of Conan O’Brien on your shoulder?

Or, just possibly, would you feel relieved?

Having a bucket list brings some pressure with it. All those years of “I never” gathered up and carried around. It gets heavy, you know, sloshing that bucket around everywhere. Or maybe it would be sad to see those “I wish-es” go down the drain. Maybe you’d be able to rescue a couple dear ones, as the others evaporate.

Would you be mad? Take a couple deep breaths before you answer, because I have this theory…

I think God put the hole in your bucket.

Scandalous as it sounds, I think God is doing us a real favor, making our buckets leaky.

See, dreams can turn stale and even brackish when they sit in one place for too long. They become baggage. Heavy and unmanageable.  Hopes and wishes are meant to be acted upon, to be lived out, not to be collected and harbored.

I’m convinced God knows the limitations of buckets, when it comes to our aspirations.  Buckets are for storing water — or dreams — and God wants to see our water/dreams flowing freely.

That’s why, one day at a well, Jesus offered a woman something called Living Water. It was the kind of water that has no need of a bucket. It was the kind that flows through the heart and soul. This Living Water is the Spirit of God.

The Holy Spirit is ever-flowing. Active, adventurous, passionate, transforming. It is the perfect companion for you and I as we pursue our dreams. It is not about stagnation. When we match our dreams with God’s power, love, and energy, we can accomplish a whole list of amazing things in God’s name.

The moral of this story?  If you have a bucket list, you might want to feel a sense of urgency about it. Live the dream now. Don’t store your hopes away. Live as if today is a fresh start for your dreams…

the ones that are ready to pour out of you.

Have a Great Week,

Mitch