As part of my practice to review the previous year, I look back over the books I completed, I read through my journal entries, and I do a spiritual review using the Fruit of the Spirit.  I also take a look back at some of the topics and events that prompted me to write over the previous twelve months.  You may have already read some of these, but if not, the links will take you to each story.

 © Copyright Adrian Phillips and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

© Copyright Adrian Phillips and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License

I began last year in the Psalms, considering whether the imagery in some of the psalms are more pedestrian than we take them to be.  In Praise of Emails and Errands examines one of these psalms and asks whether or not we can find spiritual significance in the mundane, seemingly trivial chores of life.  This turned out to be somewhat of a theme for me this past year: Finding God in the everyday rhythms of life.

The Psalms, as a whole, turned out to be another theme as well.  In The Courts of God, I look at the imagery of being in the presence of God.  It should be no surprise that the same idea was being conveyed.  A person need not go to the Temple or other buildings to find God.  Wherever we find ourselves throughout the day, that space can become sacred space.

RoccoLast March we got a new dog, a one-year-old German Shepherd.  In Dog Training, I am reminded how much dogs can reflect our own emotions and energy levels.  Having a dog is like have a living, breathing barometer in the room giving me constant feedback on my own state of mind.  I will often find myself uttering something to the dog in frustration, only to hear the echo of God’s voice saying a similar message to me.

In May, I did a bit of housecleaning on my blog.  I combined the contents of another blog onto this site.  As a result, there is much new content related to my book, Ten Essential Words, on this site.  For a full index of that content, check out the Top Posts page.

I have already discussed the books I read, along with some of the posts that relate to my reading.  In December, I took time to reflect on all the transition that last year brought and reaffirmed my desire to be more present in each moment.  In Gift of the Present, I explore yet another reoccurring topic from last year: that of the past, present, and future.

As the holidays turn into a busy beginning to a new year, I hope you take some time to reflect on the past, live in the present, and trust God for your future.  Thanks for allowing me to share my own musings with you.  Please click the ‘Sign Me Up’ button on the home page to follow along this next year.  Not all content is posted to Facebook.

Peace and Blessings!

Advertisements

As you read through the Psalms, there is a reoccurring image that is fascinating to me when properly understood.  In several different Psalms, King David (or psalms ascribed to him) writes of longingly wanting to spend time in the house of God.  This is, of course, a reference to the tabernacle of God, and what would eventually become the Temple, built by his son, Solomon.

One thing I ask of Yahweh, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of Yahweh all the days of my life.

What is interesting about this image is the reasoning behind David’s desire to be near the house of God.  In the Old Testament, we are taught that the presence of God dwelt in the physical tabernacle of Israel.  Whether wandering through the wilderness or settling in Jerusalem, a constant sign of God’s nearness was the tabernacle.  The tabernacle would eventually be replaced by a permanent structure – the Temple in Jerusalem – and this was a sign that God literally lived among His people.

Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts!

So to be in the courts of the Temple was to be close to God, to be in the inner courts was to be very close, and to be just outside the holy of holies in the inner temple (only the high priest could go this far) was to be even nearer to the presence of God.  Even today, if you take the wall tunnels tour in Jerusalem, one of the most sacred spots is the part of the wall closest to where the holy of holies would have been –  sacredness being determined by proximity.

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Yahweh Almighty!  My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of Yahweh.

So King David can write that it is better to spend one day in the courtyard of the tabernacle than to spend a lifetime in his palace room, or any other place for that matter, because the courtyard represented being in close proximity to God’s presence.  To be away from the Temple was in many ways to be separated from God’s presence.

Better is one day in your courts than a thousand in my own room.

He can even write that he is jealous of birds who have made their nests in the walls of the Temple Mount or perhaps even the Temple structure itself, because of their nearness to the presence of God.

Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young—a place near your altar.

What strikes me about this imagery of being near to the Temple and in the courtyard of God is that with the giving of the Holy Spirit, proximity to God would no longer be an issue.  Through the Spirit and prayer we are able to drawn near to God without ever leaving our couch, home, office, or car.  King David would be very jealous!

Yet one way we can misapply this image today is to substitute the church for the Temple.  In these Psalms, when the Temple is simply swapped out for church, the implication is that we have to go to church – a physical building – in order to be near to God.  A worship service may lift our spirits and help connect us to God, but a building is no longer a barrier.

So as you go throughout your day, what are you doing to stay connected to the presence of God?  Where ever you find yourself throughout the day can become sacred space.  Where ever you are, you can enter into the courts of God!

Person praying at the spot closest to site of the Temple.

Person praying in the tunnel at the spot closest to site of the Temple.

 

The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy. You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it. You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops. You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance. The grasslands of the wilderness overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness. The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing.

– Psalm 65

I was reading this psalm the other day, which praises God for watered lands, abundant crops and hillsides dotted with flocks.  It struck me how easy it is to view a psalm like this as a spectator, perhaps driving through farmland taking it all in from the comfort of my car.  I remember driving from the Dead Sea to Jerusalem and seeing sheep scattered across hillsides.  It was a perfect scene – and easy to give praise to God in that moment.

But what is really taking place in this psalm?  In an agricultural society sheep on the hillsides and grain in the valley represented the mundane and difficult work of a farmer – early mornings tending the sheep, caring for sick animals, plowing fields, praying for enough rain to bring about a harvest.  The observations of the psalm above represent a brief respite from constantly working the land to both give thanks to God and to ask God for blessings on your labor.

 © Copyright Adrian Phillips and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

© Copyright Adrian Phillips and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

It struck me that while it may be easy to read this psalm as I would appreciate a photo of such a scene, the intent was to take a brief break from your labors from time to time and give thanks to God for these blessings.  Would such a psalm today speak of full email inboxes and project deadlines?  What about the ability to fill the cart at the grocery store and getting the oil changed in the car?  Can we lift our heads from our work throughout the day and thank God for jobs, errands, and the comforts of modern life?  In doing so, we may also remind ourselves of the spiritual value of the mundane, be it at work, at home, or at school.  The mundane can take on great spiritual significance when we pause to allow God to water our efforts.

It may not be as romantic as a hillside scene dotted with sheep and a valley full of wheat, but I wonder if it strikes closer to the intent of such a psalm?