Soul-Care from the Cave

Soul-Care from the Cave

David was no stranger to caves. But this cave was more than a place of shelter for a tired shepherd boy. It was a place where he would learn resilience- how to relate to God in times of deep loss and confusion. How to steady his feet on God's promises and forge ahead with hope. Here are some ways we can learn, like David, to practice soul-care in the cave:

Silence and the Coaching Session

Silence and the Coaching Session

In the natural world, the quietest places are often the deepest places...the deep sea, deep into the woods, a deep cavern. These can be frightening places to explore, involving a fair amount of risk and uncertainty. In the same way, navigating silence in the coaching conversation may feel risky and uncertain. However, as coach and client embrace silence, we allow God to take us deeper into those places of discovery.

The Payoff of Persistence

The Payoff of Persistence

A little more persistence could be just what we need to make steady progress toward our goals and dreams. Often, the assumption is that doing more and going faster are the answers. Persistence with payoff, however, must be grounded in the substance of restreflection, and a good dose of play from time to time.


Read: Jeremiah 23:23-24

Scripture Focus: Genesis 28:15-16

Big life change can often bring about a sense of confusion or feeling lost. When the familiar things in life are replaced by the unfamiliar, God can seem distant and unconcerned. That was certainly how I was feeling two years ago after moving to the bustling metropolis of Istanbul, a city of over 15 million people.

Me, my wife and our two children had moved into a small apartment in a bustling part of the city. It was at the crossroads of two busy streets. The traffic noise was like nothing I had ever experienced, and it seemed to be constant throughout the day and night.

The call to prayer rang out from several different mosques in our neighborhood. I was feeling a bit lost and distant from God. I was thousands of miles away from the spacious house I had been living in for the past seven years, complete with a large garden and fruit trees. Unfamiliar surroundings. New sights and sounds. I was beginning to wonder, “Lord did I hear you right? Are you really in this move?”

Just then I heard God’s whisper through the scriptures, “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” (Jer. 23:23). I realized that He was encouraging me to trust Him with the change and uncertainty I was feeling. I could never escape his sight and his presence, even in this faraway and unfamiliar place. In fact, during the days and months that followed, His nearness became more real to me than it ever would have been if I had chosen to stay in my comfortable surroundings.

Thought for the Day: God is nearby in faraway places.

Prayer: Lord, help us to trust you with the uncertainties of transition. In lonely and uncomfortable surroundings, may you be our constant companion and ever present help.

Choosing Wonder

I still do a lot of writing the old fashioned way, by hand. I realize that must sound very archaic, and it's one of the reasons why most of my musings don't turn up in this much-neglected blog!  I just completed my last entry for this year in my journal, simply because there were no more empty pages!  Time to start a new one. The following contains my ramblings from today's entry as I reflected on the events of  Matthew 4....

I wonder if the devil came in some physical form when he came to tempt Jesus...

I wonder if angels have ever come to "attend" to my needs...

I wonder if Zebedee was ever angry with Jesus for taking his two sons and leaving him with all the work...

I wonder (and pray) if there can be a new move of God's power to sweep over modern day Syria, multiplying thousands upon thousands of Christ followers...

It just seems fitting to close this journal with questions, since mostly that is what I have for my Lord.  The events of this year have once again confirmed my inability to figure things out, to have the answers.  Too often, my questions come out of frustration and doubt.  I'm reminded, however, of the potential to flip these moments into wonder.  The Advent season is a great time to begin this practice, to leave the questioning and complaining behind (Chances are, we won't find the answers anyway!) and turn them into wonder.  My prayer today is for expressions of wonder to permeate my being as I celebrate the first advent of Christ and look forward to his glorious return.

Peace for a Warrior

Peace. What a distant memory when you're in hiding, fearing for your life.  The young man went to extremes to stay under the radar of the oppressive Midianites.  He sheepishly went about threshing wheat in a winepress. No worse than his brothers who were hiding out in mountain caves, Gideon reasoned. The last time Gideon knew any semblance of peace was...well, he can't remember.  If he needed anything on that day, he needed some peace. He needed assurance.  "The Lord is with you mighty warrior.", said the angel.  The second part of the messenger's greeting kind of threw him off.  He didn't feel like much of a warrior, but his spirit resonated with the first part, to which he questioned, “Pardon me, my lord...but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?"

"Go in the strength you have...:", said the angel.  Then the sacrifice, then the consuming fire, then those words, "Peace! Do not be afraid..."

Gideon didn't need an altar to remember this peace encounter., but he built one anyway.  He didn't need the law when grace finally came.  But he fulfilled the law anyway.  God knew exactly what Gideon needed that day.  He needed an awareness that he was on their  side, an assurance that He had not abandoned them.  And that He had a plan.  God always has a plan.

With that awareness came a confirmation of God's abiding presence and the peaceful assurance which followed.

Prayer: Thank you God for your peace when I'm feeling lost and fearful. I find hope and assurance in your presence today.

Quoted scriptures taken from Judges, chapter 6.

Be Prepared

I once took my two oldest children on a camping trip in the Central Asian country where we live and work.  We hiked to our destination with a load of supplies, carried on several donkeys borrowed from the villagers.  In this rugged part of the world, donkeys are a common mode of travel, hauling people and supplies on sheep trails through the mountainous terrain.  If the saddle bags are uneven or crooked they will most likely spill over on the way and cause the donkey to stumble. One of our donkeys had a difficult time making it up the mountain because we didn’t take the time to load the saddle bags correctly. We struggled on our journey because we failed to prepare well. An ancient Persian proverb states, Bori kaj ba manzil nameracad.  The translation:  An unbalanced load will not reach its destination. The proverb suggests that it is important to begin a journey with good preparation if we want to reach our destination.

Our destination today is to be more like Jesus. That makes me think.  Am I prepared to reach my destination?  Have I spent time with God in prayer, Bible study and meditation on His Word?  I Peter 4:13 states, “…prepare your minds for action...” (NIV).  As the scripture suggests, good preparation precedes wise action.

Thought for the day: Good preparation precedes wise action

Prayer:  Lord I want my life to reflect the image of your Son, Jesus. Thank you for hearing my prayer and helping me to be prepared for action today.

Hope in Small Beginnings

Our arrival in Dushanbe, Tajikistan on Thanksgiving Day 1996 came and went quite uneventfully. A small beginning. Two single colleagues, Mike and Dave, met us at the airport to help collect our luggage and speed us away to the little two room apartment which would become our temporary home. They invited us to accompany them to a Thanksgiving dinner hosted by the American Embassy that evening. We declined, jet lagged and exhausted from the long journey and not in the mood to say anymore hellos just yet.

We did greet a little mouse who had taken up residence in our apartment. The goodbye would follow a few days later, upon successfully securing a mouse trap and some cheese. We were also greeted by the government tanks which patrolled up and down the main street just outside our window. We learned they were “protecting” their citizens from opposition forces. Why did that not feel comforting?

Hunger eventually set in. It was time to bravely explore our new little world outside our apartment building. We thought about what we had missed, having chosen not to attend the Thanksgiving feast hosted by our friends at the U.S. Embassy. That was one of the few times we would be invited to share a meal which our tax dollars had helped to put on the table. We eventually learned that they always imported big, juicy Butterball turkeys from the U.S. for this special occasion. That was a hello we probably should have taken advantage of!

We ventured outside and located a little shop where we discovered some ramen instant noodles. Just add hot water! We ate our humble meal, just the three of us, accompanied by our unwelcomed roommate, the mouse. A wave of gratitude did not sweep over me in that moment.

As I reflect on our first day in Tajikistan as a family, it represents something of a small beginning. God has something to say about small beginnings: 

Who dares despise the day of small things...
— Zechariah 4:10

For this family of three, the broader context of our small beginning was a significant life/work transition. It was a big dive, jumping off into the turbulent waters of this volatile, war-torn land. Our entry, however, lacked any big splash. We quietly slipped in while people were going through their daily routines, many struggling to survive another day. In olympic diving competition, less splash translates into a winning score. We would have a long wait before the results started coming in. For now, the looming question would be, “Can we tread water?”

How are you feeling about your small beginning and the transition journey which has brought you to this place? If you feel like you're barely treading water, you're not alone. Small beginnings can be like that. They can also be pretty lonely in those pre-community, pre-friends, I-don't-feel-life-has-purpose days.  Thankfully, God offers hope through small beginnings.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
— Hebrews 6:19

He notices. He cares. And He can be fully trusted.

Have you recently executed a quiet entry into a new setting? 



Living near a river in a developing country for 16 years becomes something of a metaphor on life.  The river we lived near and which flowed through the middle of our city was called “Varzob”.  The literal translation is “Muddy River”, aptly named for its chocolate milk appearance at certain times of the year.  I think it gets a bad rap, and this is why:

At its source the river is pure, crystal clear snow melt.  From there it begins a journey down the mountains of Tajikistan, skirting its way through little villages, passing shepherds and their flocks of sheep along the way.  Can the river be blamed for what gets deposited into it along the way, causing it to earn its muddled reputation?  I’m sympathetic with the river.

The river was also the source of therapeutic mud baths for our children.  In our home, water from the tap was piped directly from the river.  So whatever the color of the river water during a particular season, that’s what came into our home. We would usually attempt to time the kid’s baths with whenever the water looked the cleanest.  But with small children, a good soak can only wait so long.  Once in a while they bathed in, let’s just say, less than clean water.  On those occasions we’d try to convince ourselves that mud baths were therapeutic!   With few exceptions, the kids never complained.  Except for the time when a little fish made its way from the river through the pipes and out the faucet of our bath tub.  The minnow actually survived the long journey and was spotted swimming around in the bath with the kids!  I quickly retrieved it and transported it outdoors.  Bath time continued.

On numerous occasions we would drain the tub and find a layer of silt and sand at the bottom.  No, the kids weren’t that dirty.  The river brought it to us.  Over the years the river would be an ongoing subject of conversation in our family and community.

The river accumulates and assimilates, making its deposits and contributions along the way.  Our lives are similar in the sense that they have a flow or direction to them.  And the direction of our lives matters.  We can be like the little fish which ended up in the bath tub.  It allowed itself to be pushed and shoved by the current, ending up in a somewhat precarious situation.  The current of culture is strong.  If we aren’t careful, we can find ourselves taking the path of least resistance.  We become assimilated into society to the extent that we are no longer distinguishable.  Not set apart.  Not peculiar.  A deposit.  But not an investment.

The path of resistance, however, is a journey worth taking.  It’s an upward climb, a striving against the current and dodging obstacles along the way.  It’s the forgetting of what’s behind and the straining toward what lies ahead.  It is attainable by faith, yet unseen and always just beyond reach.  We know this in our spirits, so we keep pressing onward.  Upward.

Mud and meandering minnows are not all the river has to offer.  The cool, clear waters of the river near its source in the snow-capped mountains are teeming with trout.  They thrive in these waters and wouldn’t dare let themselves be swept downstream into the murky, polluted water where the both the temperature and the oxygen level put them at risk.

There is another type of fish, however, which thrives down below in the muddy waters.  The Tajik name for this fish is “shirmohi”, which literally means “milkfish.”  Don’t ask me how it got its name.  I’ve always enjoyed fishing high upstream for the trout.   Occasionally I’ve been surprised to find a milkfish on the end of my line instead of the sought-after trout.  This fish is peculiar among its trout relatives.  It has left its native environment of the muddy waters down below, making the treacherous journey upstream to the cool, oxygen-rich waters where the trout thrive.  I admire that fish and the effort it made to search out something better.

I’m not sure what motivates that fish on its upward journey, but I do know what propels us upward.  Faith.  The writer of Hebrews defines it as being “sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Heb 11:1)   A conviction that there is something much better up ahead, unseen but nonetheless real.  The Spirit of God in us calls and coaxes us to grasp for the eternal.  And like fish swimming upstream, we make our way toward the natural (or should I say supernatural?) environment we’ve been created for.  Resistance doesn’t come easy.  But the rewards are great.