A well known recommendation from poet Rainer Maria Rilke. It fell out of circulation for a while because Jacobsen’s prose was difficult to translate. This translation, however, by Tiina Nunnally has won awards and so far it’s been an enjoyable read and so incredibly deep. This was Jacobsen’s masterpiece written after he was diagnosed with chronic tuberculosis which he knew would eventually kill him. So it is a story of a soul really, a soul’s journey from childhood into adulthood pondering questions of immortality.
You can see I marked Isaiah 55: 9-13. I also placed some leaves from that Fall season two or three years ago that my daughter gave me.
But that little pen mark by verse 9: I marked it years ago when I first ventured to read the Bible. I thought these markings would distract me, so I made them as small as I could, but I love coming across them! They are precious, and I wish I would have marked more verses like this. That person I was a couple years ago (we should always be growing) found something sweet and significant in these lines. And now my attention is drawn again to them as it was my reading today, and I have spent all morning meditating on these verses (Lectio Divina), and it was a joy!
True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness and turned many [to a union with God].” (Malachi 2:6)
There is no doubt that to know God better, is to finally have peace. I never knew true peace in my life until I began to intentionally spend more time with God. I begin every day with study and meditative prayer. I take at least two walks a day to be in nature (my dog needs it too). And these walks helped me get into a routine with prayer because I used my walk time for centering. As I did it more I loved it so much I now incorporate prayer into my study time too. This has made me more receptive to love and mercy. But there are no words that could convince anyone, you simply must try it. Get out into nature with the intention of seeing God, and increase your prayer life (can start simply with gratitude), and see what happens–I’m guessing your spirit will fly and true peace will be yours.
“Sing, Daughter Zion; shout aloud, Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you never again will you fear any harm” (Zephaniah 3:14-15)
The last books of the Old Testament are the writings of prophets. The first part of Zephaniah is filled with terror, but then there is, of course, hope with faith in God. I look at a lot of these prophesies for cities and nations on an individual basis, in other words, instead of cities and nations, the words are speaking of an individual, of me, of you. And this book reminds me a lot of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. God said he would not destroy the towns if there was a good soul to be found within the city. This is the same of us. If there is just one good bit of us that is seeking God, (love), then we cannot be destroyed, because God lives in us. God won’t allow our complete destruction because it would be like destroying God. God wants to transform us, and many times God uses the pain we carry to do this. Have hope for the good bits, try to increase them, and look to the God within you.
“The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to tread on the heights.” (Habakkuk 3:19)
Habakkuk awaits the ruin of the unjust Babylonians. He complains twice to God that he wishes God would act now and “destroy” them. There are a couple of points here. First, as we all probably know, God doesn’t work on human time. God’s time is a mystery, but I CAN tell you that when I recite my prayers very slow, they feel much different than when I say them at a “normal” speed. I think when we slow down, something perhaps we’re not used to, it surprises our Spirit and we can then easily sense the difference. Like the intellect is finally giving way to the heart—and that is a special feeling. Second, sometimes the ruin of something allows for the growth of something better, we just have to be patient and eliminate ALL of our worldly expectations and allow God to move us through the fire.
“With the tongue, we praise our Lord and Father and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters this should not be. Can freshwater and saltwater flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” (James 3:8-11)
I often make the mistake of talking too much, not so much in large crowds anymore, but in small groups. I know and understand now why monks take an oath of silence. The more I talk the further away from my real self, my Godself, I seem to get. I feel more like myself when I am alone—when I don’t have to react, or entertain, or respond. I remember Joan Chittister said the same thing in her book ‘Called to Question’. I often come away from parties or small get-togethers thinking I must be two different people. A part of me likes to make people laugh and the other part likes silence and is serious and reflective. I often have trouble accepting my funny side, it feels slippery to me–like I say too much to please the ears of people and in these hasty, split-second moments, I seem to disregard God’s presence in my life and this makes me uncomfortable. I guess my conundrum right now is how to be myself and not hinder or stagnate my spiritual growth. And maybe I’m taking it too seriously. I have given up cursing other people, but it’s making a fool of myself that I sometimes regret, even though it makes me laugh. I know there is a way to be a balanced version of both. I pray I’m able to find that balance.
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this, is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” –(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
This first letter from Paul to the Thessalonians was misinterpreted. So he wrote a second letter (2 Thessalonians) to urge them to quit their idleness and get to work as some in the church had heard Paul’s first message and stopped working just to wait for the Lord’s second coming. They had become a burden to their church because the church had begun to support them. It is the same when the angels told the disciples to stop gazing at the sky when Jesus was lifted to heaven (Acts 1:11). They needed to take Christ with them everywhere they went as they worked and as they played. Study and prayer in solitude is an excellent way to center yourself in God, but then we must take God with us out into the world. And when we are out mingling with people, we learn a lot of lessons, more lessons, about ourselves especially, than if we were studying scripture alone all the time. It is one of the reasons group Bible study can be good, people learn more from others than from themselves. Who knows, you may be the eyes that group needs to see a verse interpreted in a different light.