Caring for the Soul…

     Do you remember the first time you saw the ocean? Perhaps you grew up near the sea and can never remember a time in your life when it wasn’t part of you, but that wasn’t my experience. I grew up in northeastern Montana. I grew up seeing beautiful “amber waves of grain” but very few bodies of water.

     My first view of the ocean was shortly after my 18th birthday. It’s a vision I’ll always remember. My family was on a rare vacation, traveling down US Highway 101, along the Pacific Coast. We were around Crescent City, California. At the crest of a hill, the ocean lay before us. Nary a cloud floated in the sky that day. The sea seemed perfectly still. It was impossible to distinguish where the azure sky stopped and the cerulean sea began.

     Ever since that day, being nearby the ocean is always a time when I feel refreshed, restored and revitalized.

     Recently, I read this poem by E. E. Cummings, a 20th century American poet who often wrote his poetry in lower case. The winsome words reminded me of how being by the sea satisfies my soul.

“maggie and milly and molly and may”

-E.E. Cummings,

“maggie and milly and molly and may

went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang

so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles, and

milly befriended a stranded star whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing

which raced sideways while blowing bubbles: and

may came home with a smooth round stone

as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)

it’s always ourselves we find in the sea.”

     It’s important for our souls to be refreshed, restored and revitalized periodically. It’s important to once in a while ‘find ourselves.’ However, whenever or wherever that may be.

     This morning I was listening to the Daily Audible Bible, something I like to do while walking on the treadmill or riding the stationary bike. This week Brian, narrator of the DAB, read a portion of Matthew 14 from The Voice, a modern-day translation, which reads like a story. There are so many facets of this story, and I’m going to extract only one. I hope you’ll take time to read the full account.*

     Jesus had received the devastating news about the death of his friend, John the Baptist, and his soul needed a break—probably to process and grieve. Verse 13 says, When Jesus learned what had happened, He got on a boat and went away to spend some time in a private place.

     Instead of getting the alone time his heart craved, what happened to Jesus next is like what so often happens when our souls are worn out and need a rest. More pressing needs spring up. Rather than getting a much needed break, we put on our ‘big girl’ shoes and do what we gotta do!

     We fold those mounds of laundry that have languished far too long in the laundry basket.

     We fix dinner for our hungry—oftentimes grumpy, seemingly ungrateful—families.

     We stay late at work to meet a critical deadline.

     We smile and say a quick prayer under our breath instead of snapping at the surly store clerk.

     We take the time to snuggle, read a story and say a bedtime prayer with our child instead of settling down with a bowl of popcorn to watch the Downtown Abby episode we recorded last Sunday.

     Jesus, like we often do, put aside his personal preference to do what he needed to do that day. Instead of shooing them away, verse 14 tells us,  Though Jesus wanted solitude, when He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, and He healed the sick and the lame.

     Then, as if that weren’t enough, he provided food for the massive, hungry crowd!

     What really caught my attention though, as I listened to this story today, was what I heard in verse 23.  Then, after the crowd had gone, Jesus went up to a mountaintop alone (as He had intended from the start). As evening descended, He stood alone on the mountain, praying.

     Jesus was purposeful about pursuing the refreshment, restoration and revitalization his spirit craved.

     Recently, I realized I needed a time of soul care, and I took a week away from my busy work schedule to rest. I’m in a season of life when I’m able to do that, although that certainly was not the case most of my working years. My part time job as Care Connect Director at my church is often demanding, but I’m privileged to have a good deal of flexibility for which I’m grateful. When I go into my supervisor’s office and say, “Hey, Rod, I’m not burned out, but I am depleted,” he gets it, and he honors my need to take care of me.

     My week off was a treasure. I returned to work ready to go once again, doing the work I know God has called me to do during this segment of my life journey. The remainder of the story in Matthew 14 leads me to believe Jesus also received what he needed during that time of prayer on the mountain in order to return to the tasks he knew he’d been called to do.

     E. E. Cummings wrote,

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)

it’s always ourselves we find in the sea.”

     No matter the season of life in which we find ourselves, it’s never self-serving or wasteful to insist on times of ‘soul care.’ I think it’s safe to say that during periods of prayer or personal meditation—even if only a few snatched minutes here and there—God will meet us. In God’s presence we’ll find refreshing. Here’s my prayer today for you and me:

Heavenly Father, thank you, that

Whatever we lose (like a you or a me)

It’s always ourselves we can find in Thee!

Listening on YOUR Journey:

  • What are the annoying stressors with which you are dealing at this stage of your life journey?
  • Even though it may not be possible for you to spend a day by the sea or pray quietly on a mountaintop, where can you go to take care of your soul?
  • What refreshes, restores and revitalizes your spirit?
  • When will you take time to purposefully pursue that refreshment, restoration and revitalization?

May your soul be cared for well this day…

Sue Reeve

(Taking a brief break from the matter of Grace to which we’ll return next time!)

* The Daily Audible Bible (DAB) is a downloadable app. It’s the only app I’ve ever spent money on, and the 99 cents it cost was well worth all 99 pennies! Also, you can read the Bible in many different translations and versions by going to https://www.biblegateway.com/

C:\Users\Sue\Desktop\Hawai'i Select\Sunrise - Sunset select\04172015_18477.JPG

The Pacific Ocean at Sunrise in Kauai, Hawaii. The sea at its finest!

3 thoughts on “Caring for the Soul…

  1. Love this, Sue. Great reminder, and great questions to reflect upon. I have been feeling the burnout pressing in lately. So much so, that I didn’t even want to grab my camera this weekend when my hubby asked if I wanted to go take some pictures. I just wanted to stay on the couch, with a blanket, quiet. He asked if I was ok as I rarely turn down a drive to take photos. I said yes, I just needed to not have to do anything for an afternoon. Taking photos usually is a soul refresher for me but it seemed like another task when he asked.

    I feel the same way at the ocean! I just booked three nights oceanside, as I need that refresher! It’s five months off but my soul is longing for the waves, and the reconnection time that only the ocean shores give my soul.

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