Soul Drought and The Lord of the Dance

I’m preaching on Psalm 1 this coming Sunday and not feeling at all like a tree planted by God’s living water. There’s some soul drought going on. Do you have days when you can perceptively feel the heaviness in the air, even the cosmos? These are the times that the poem “Footprints” is helpful. It reminds me that when I have felt the most tired and alone and I’m upset that there’s only one set of footprints on the beach, that’s exactly when the Lord carried me.

We go through life thinking that we and God are walking hand in hand and see two pairs of footprints. Suddenly we notice there’s only one set and we wonder where God went. We have all been there. Whipped, tired, and worn. If another shoe falls, we don’t have the strength to pick it up. We need Jesus to carry us. Unfortunately, I often teeter into a melancholy and find myself unable to get moving again. I want Jesus to keep carrying me.

That’s not the life most of us want. We want God’s help when we’re powerless, but we prefer joy. Someone said it this way, “Joy is not the absence of suffering. It is the presence of God.” I think it’s more than that. It’s more than Jesus carrying us through tough times. It’s more than hanging in there. We want to do more than survive. We want to thrive!

This is when I most appreciate the variation on the “Footprints” poem. It fulfills Psalm 30:11, “You (Lord) have turned my mourning into dancing; you have removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.” I don’t know if you’re ready to hop out of the Lord’s strong sheltering grip and get on with Life with Jesus by your side, but read this and see if it describes where you are or want to be:

“Imagine you and the Lord Jesus are walking down the road together. For much of the way, the Lord’s footprints go along steadily, consistently, rarely varying the pace. But your footprints are a disorganized stream of zigzags, starts, stops, turnarounds, circles, departures and returns. For much of the way, it seems to go like this, but gradually your footprints come more in line with the Lord’s, soon paralleling His consistently.

You and Jesus are walking as true friends! This seems perfect, but then an interesting thing happens: Your footprints that once etched the sand next to Jesus’ are now walking precisely in His steps. Inside His larger footprints are your smaller ones, safely you and Jesus are becoming one. This goes on for many miles, but gradually you notice another change. The footprints inside the large footprints seem to grow larger. Eventually they disappear altogether.

There is only one set of footprints; they have become one. This goes on for a long time, but suddenly the second set of footprints is back. This time it seems even worse! Zigzags all over the place. Stops. Starts. Deep gashes in the sand. A disordered canvas on the sand, as both sets of footprints go every which direction. You are amazed and shocked. Your dream ends.

Now you pray: ‘Lord, I understand the first scene with zigzags and fits. I was a new Christian; I was just learning. But you walked on through the storm and helped me learn to walk with you.’

‘That is correct,’ says the Lord.

You continue, ‘… and when the smaller footprints were inside of Yours, I was actually learning to walk in Your steps; followed you very closely.’

‘Very good. You have understood everything so far,’ says Jesus.

‘… when the smaller footprints grew and filled in Yours, I suppose that I was becoming like you in every way.’


‘So, Lord, was there a regression or something? The footprints separated, and this time it was worse than at first.’

There is a pause as the Lord answers with a smile in his voice. ‘You didn’t know? That was when we danced.’”

Maybe today is a day that you need Jesus to carry you and that’s fine, might even be necessary. Maybe today’s a day when you want to walk hand in hand beside Jesus with two sets of footprints. Frankly, what I’m feeling is to get up and go, and stop wallowing in this soul’s dark night. I need a dance partner today – Jesus. I want joy; to thrive, not just survive! What about you?

Kicked to the Curb by Daylight Savings Time!

Daylight Savings Time has hit me hard this week. It has kicked me to the curb! Maybe it’s because it followed directly on the heels of Appointment-making Week as a DS and I’ve had 22 meetings since Sunday with church leaders and clergy where a pastoral change is anticipated. There have been other meetings, too. When I woke up yesterday morning to the darkness and rain, I did not want to get out of bed, but I made it. This morning I’m in an antihistamine induced fog from the pre-spring pollen brought on by the blooming rain, pun intended. On top of that, there have been more than a couple of those phone calls this morning that every DS, pastor, business person, and whomever gets from someone and you’re left wondering, “What in the world was that about?”

Maybe it’s me. Heck, I’m certain it’s me that’s fuzzy today, but it is really scary when it seems to be contagious. I don’t think there’s a full moon out, but it feels like it. I’ve met or dealt with more than my share of folks who seem to be suffering from what I call “full-moon-itis.” Just as the moon affects the tides, do you ever wonder if it pulls on some people’s brains, stretching them a little farther than necessary from their spinal cords resulting in a peculiar lack of clarity and good sense? It’s even worse when, like today, it’s a mutual lunar pull toward the abyss of nonsense. This just might be one of those days when I just need to go home! We’ll see.

In the meantime, I will do my best to not react but respond. I even have a few standard statements to remind me to chill out. One is “I have no opinion.” Of course, I have one, but I try to stay objective and actively listen. Basically it’s a phrase that allows another person’s ideas to run their course and hope that sanity returns. Another non-anxious response to ponderous situations is, “That’s interesting.” When said I try to make sure I don’t twitch, raise an eyebrow, or move my head in any direction. No exclamation point. If I move anything or even blink, invariably I’ll hear words put in my mouth later, “The DS said….” My last resort retort is “Fascinating…” if what I hear is really a doozy. Again, don’t move anything!

Of course, I just revealed the default language that I often use to keep my wits about me. By the way, what you will never want to hear from me is “How nice!” Some of you probably know the source of this phrase. Please hear me say very carefully that this is not a preachable story, and if anyone is offended, please blame it on my condition.

It comes from a story of two Southern Belles sitting on the veranda of a grand home. Anyway, the two women are sitting there sipping their mint juleps. One woman is named Darlene and the other is Dessie Mae. Darlene proceeds to tell Dessie Mae all the wonderful things that her husband, Billy Bob, has done for her. She exclaims, “Look at the 5 carat diamond Billy Bob gave me. It wasn’t my birthday or anniversary. He just said, ‘Honey, this is for you!’” Dessie Mae responds by saying, “How nice,” which really sounds like, “How nyce,” in her elongated southern-accented lingo. Anyway, Darlene continues with her accolades for Billy Bob by saying, “Dessie Mae, do you see the red corvette convertible under the magnolia tree? Billy Bob just dropped the keys in my hand one day and said, ‘Honey, this is for you. I thought you would look good in red.’ It wasn’t my birthday or anything. Billy Bob is such a dear.” Dessie Mae responded by saying, “How nice.” Then Darlene said, “Dessie Mae, you know what else he did? Last year he sent me on a ten-day cruise, bought me a bunch of gowns, didn’t go with me, and said, ‘Honey, you have fun and dance with whoever you want to. You deserve it!’ It wasn’t my birthday or anything like it.” Dessie Mae responded once again, “How nice.”

Finally Darlene said, “I’m sorry, Dessie Mae, I’ve been going on and on about everything that Billy Bob has done for me. Has your husband ever done anything like this for you?” Dessie Mae replied, “Why, Yes! Last year he sent me off to charm school and now instead of saying ‘Up …..,’ I say, ‘How nice.’”

I don’t know what your day is like today, but please don’t make it worse by saying “How nice.” I pledge, even in my condition, to listen intently, offer appropriate responses, and work my way back into the land of the living. You can only blame so much on the time change, sleep deprivation, and the full moon. I need Jesus and to follow his admonition in Matthew 10:16 to be as “shrewd as a serpent and as innocent as a dove.” I also need to heed Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath…”  It’s fascinating, and I really mean it!

Holy Spirt or Holy Spirit


Have you ever felt so tired that you feel like a bug smacked on a windshield, or as flat as a frog run over in the road? That’s how this Friday is hitting me. Its been an emotional week, anxiety then great news about Narcie, charge conferences every night with some tensions and a lot of celebration, phone calls to pastors/churches about their connectional giving, and the usual swinging door cacophony of people who don’t like something about their pastor or something else. I have had consultations all week with clergy and that has been so good. Sharing prayer, support, and visioning for the future – good stuff, but I’m beat. I used to get up in the morning and walk for a hour praying my way to strength for the day. I’m too busy/tired to do it right now.

We’re planning on going to see Narcie, Mike, Enoch & Evy, plus Josh and Karen this afternoon, spend the night coming back to Columbia tomorrow to go to the USC-Furman game with my brother, preach a church anniversary Sunday am followed by 3 charge conferences and a new Hispanic/Latino church start meeting. Whew! When will there be a let-up? So much for Sabbath, but we must have time to reflect and worship or we don’t have anything to offer this hurting world. Every minister that I’ve talked to has shared their fatigue, some with tears, some with excitement tinged with fear of running out of gas. Some have been all smiles. What has made for more smiles than miles? It seems that the clergy who are taking care of themselves through exercise, time off, date nights, or some kind of Sabbath are the ones who are still smiling.

In reading lately about how many more Americans are below the poverty line right now tells me that they need the Gospel’s message of hope now more than ever. If we’re beat or beat-up then we aren’t the voice of hope. They’re going to go to the upbeat church with the upbeat music with the upbeat sermon. If we aren’t full of the Holy Spirit then we won’t have anything to offer. I’m afraid I resemble a Holy Spirt more than Spirit. So, I am running on empty, but ready to relax and recharge. Got to, have to, must get some nourishment from God if I’m going to be an effective witness for Christ. May God’s grace win your heart this weekend and not the tyranny of the urgent. I’m going to start prayer-walking again in the morning.