Tag Archives: Even Among These Rocks: A Spiritual Journey

Psalm 1:1-3

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with the mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.

Psalm 1:1-3

Dear God, I came across a translation of this well-know passage this morning in the Steven Purcell book Even Among These Rocks: A Spiritual Journey. But he didn’t have these words. He had a translation from somewhere between the 8th and 3rd centuries, B.C.

Certainly, verse 1 is the most different, but it does kind of fit. I guess the ultimate goal in being Christlike is that point where you are beyond greed (I’m not there yet), beyond hatred (I’m not there yet), an no longer nourish illusions (I’m not 100% sure what the translator means here, but I don’t think I’m there yet either). I also like the next part: “But they delight in the way of grace and keep their hearts open day and night.” Nope, not there yet either. I’m closer today than I was yesterday. I’m closer this year than I was last year. I’m closer now at 52 than I was at 42.

I was reading an article last night from Christianity Today about deconstructing faith. That’s become a hot button topic lately and I don’t want to do into it too deeply here, but there were a couple of quotes from the author, Kirsten Sanders, that stood out to me:

“Truth about God isn’t always easy, however. Faith that begins in earnest commitment sometimes must advance through a period of slow questioning, of confusion, of switchbacks and labored ascent.”

I wasn’t thrilled when I first learned that my knowledge of God would always be incomplete. I felt, for a time, unmoored. Like many seminary students, I had been praying for years to a God who I had pictured as being just like me, only larger, through difficult days of uncertainty and loneliness. I loved that God and know that he loves me. Rather than only feeling closer to the God I loved, I learned that there was a clear limit to what I could know. I would need to learn to love God in the dark.

I think there is an inherent discomfort for all humans in just how small and insignificant we are. There is a limit to our abilities–a limit that you do not have. You are omnipotent, and we are not. You are omniscient, and we are not. I think the key to being at peace and sinking into a life beyond greed, hatred, and illusions is getting to a point of complete surrender that we are simply not you and there is a part where we need to accept our ignorance and sink into your grace.

Father, help me get better today at getting beyond greed, replacing hatred with grace and mercy, and rejecting illusions. I confess that I will not get all of the way there today. I’m sorry for that. But help me to at least move along in my journey.

In Jesus’s name I pray,



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“I want! I want!”

Dear God, I was going through the Lenten book Even Among These Rocks: A Spiritual Journey by Steven Purcell this morning and I came across this picture. It so lines up with the spirit I am getting from the masses in our country right now. Conservative or liberal, rich or poor, young or old, these words seem to be ruling the day: “I want! I want!” And the ladder to the moon seems to emphasize the idea that we will not be denied. Of the image, Purcell wrote: “William Blake’s simple etching illustrates the point that sin is neve the solitary escapade of desire that we imagine it to be, but more fundamentally the rejection of our relational identity. The ladder depicts an apparently innocuous ascent. Where the ladder will lead is perhaps immaterial. What is at stake are the relationships which are affected by his act. What we see in Blakes etching is how movements away from our neighbor and toward our own desires in the spirit of ‘I want, I want,’ neglect the communal image of God impressed on our being.”

I was listening to a podcast this morning that was taking a thoughtful view of trans girls/women competing with girls and women in athletics. While I don’t want to get into the specifics here, there does seem to be a theme in the story of someone deciding they want something for themselves at any cost forgetting, neglecting, or intentionally ignoring “the communal image [you] impressed on our being.” Where is loving your neighbor as yourself?

Of course, this is just one example. There are those, both conservative and liberal, who want ultimate political power so they can control their enemies. There are some who want more and more materially regardless of what it costs others. There are others who want to experience all of the carnal gratifications the human existence has to offer.

In his temptations in the desert, Jesus resisted all of the temptations to impress Satan and break relationship with you. He loved you with all of his heart, mind, and strength. As he left the desert, he loved his neighbor as himself. And he taught us to do the same. Help me to do the same today. Help me to love you. Help me to love others. Be glorified through me for your glory’s sake.

In Jesus’s name I pray,



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Matthew 4:1-11 — Pursuing the Desert

1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry.

During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”

But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say,

‘People do not live by bread alone,
    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say,

‘He will order his angels to protect you.
And they will hold you up with their hands
    so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’”

Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’”

Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.”

10 “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say,

‘You must worship the Lord your God
    and serve only him.’”

11 Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.

Matthew 4:1-11

Dear God, I heard a great sermon on this passage last week, and now, sitting down to spend time with you this morning, I picked up a book by Steven Purcell called Even Among These Rocks: A Spiritual Journey I opened to a page on this passage. What Purcell wrote about it is worth putting here:

Throughout biblical and church history the people of God are frequently found living in the desert. The desert is the geographic setting of the Exodus, Christ’s temptation and home to the desert fathers of the fourth century. But the desert has also been used to symbolize the geography of the human heart. With desert metaphors we are able to express the barrenness, aridity and vulnerability often felt within our souls. Many people have purposefully entered the desert in order to submit themselves to physical as well as spiritual conditions that expose the soul. On the other hand, many of us find ourselves in spiritual deserts against our wills. Nevertheless, the effects are the same: The desert exposes and lays bare. In it we are tempted and suffer as Christ was tempted and suffered. The significance of the desert experience, chosen or not, is that by if God is able to reveal the true condition of the human heart. The wild, trackless and vulnerable experience of the spiritual desert exposes our personal vulnerability to all sorts of evil and our absolute dependence on God’s grace. As the first steps of Christ’s ministry began in the desert, so too our Lenten journey home begins there. Having accepted Christ’s invitation to follow him, our journey has begun.

As I am going through Lent, as I go through deserts both chosen and unchosen, I cannot help but wonder what you would like to “expose and lay bare” for me.

I was talking with a friend yesterday, and his comment to me was, “I can tell you are really hurting.” I accepted it as truth at the time and I sat with it all day. Yes, I am hurting. I’m not doing well right now. A friend asked me recently how I’m doing and I told him I’m about a “6” on a scale of 1-10. Most of my life is good, but the parts that aren’t are incredibly painful. That is the desert I didn’t choose. But now I’m going through Lent and a specific kind of desert that I did choose. A denial of myself out of respect for what you did and to also use it to reveal what you are “exposing and laying bare” for me to see.

Father, I suppose this is the thought I will sit with today. What are you exposing and laying bare. How are you making my desert count for your glory–not only for me, but for others as well? The first thing I have to do is re-enter this discipline of spending this kind of time with you every day. Ironically, I think listening to the daily Bible-in-a-year podcast has somehow taken me from this discipline of worshipping you. So while I would still like to keep that up, I think I have to do this first. I have to spend this time with you. I love you. My hope is in you. My faith is in you. My only certainty is in you. It is not in my wife, my children, my parents, my job, my country, or my world. You are my only hope. I will rest in you today.

Oh, and one more thing before I finish this prayer. I was with some pastors this week through our local ministerial association and the Seventh Day Adventist pastor talked about the Sabbath. The part of the conversation I internalized was that it’s more than talking about having a restful day. It’s about having a restful and restorative day with you. It’s allowing you to minister to me through my worship of you. He talked about taking his day off each week and using that as his Sabbath. As he was complaining to you about his week, his job, etc., he heard you say, “Leave all of that behind. Today, just be with me.” So as I figure out what to do with a weekly Sabbath and my desert, help me to find some time to leave it all behind and allow you to restore my soul through me just being with you.

In Jesus’s name I pray,


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Posted by on March 19, 2022 in Matthew


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