Music speaks to me. It sings the language of the soul, appealing to places in me that are hidden in inner labyrinths that get locked-up & stymied by exposure to the world. Scripture says that the Spirit of God inhabits the praises of His people, and He also rides on the musical currents of melodies & meanings into those deep places to draw us into what the ancient Christian writer Ignatius calls the “consolation” of God.
“Beyond surface emotion, consolation is the interior movement of the heart that gives us a deep sense of life-giving connection with God, others and our most authentic self in God. It is the sense that in some deep way all is right with the world, that I am free to be given over to God and to love even in moments of pain and crisis. Desolation is the loss of a sense of God’s presence. We feel out of touch with God, with others and with our most authentic self. In desolation we are off center, full of turmoil, confusion and maybe even rebellion.” (Ruth Haley Barton, “Sacred Rhythms” p. 112)
There are many alternatives to deal with the desolation we all experience…dulling its effect and running to evade it through diversion, substances, fantasies. But we are spiritual beings having a temporary physical experience; and as such, only our spiritual source can speak to those places in us that were designed for constant exposure to Him.
Spiritual music is extremely powerful, and a certain song has been ringing in repeat mode over the past couple of days. I won’t bore you with the lyrics in their entirety, but these phrases are what the Spirit has been whispering into my ears…opening me up from the inside-out like a rose in Spring:
”Spirit of the Living God
come fall afresh on me
come wake me from my sleep.
Blow through the caverns of my soul
pour in me to overflow.”
Yesterday, I went for a run in the trails on top of Cooper Mountain near the nature center. It’s a beautiful place, you should check it out sometime. As I ran, meditating on God’s character and presence, thinking about those words and laying my burdens before Him, I thought about the power of breathing….and the correlation between wind/air and the receptivity of olfactory organs (noses) to sense what is there. This thought started as I was thinking about the descriptions of the Spirit in scripture as a “wind.”
In terms of smelling, we are aware of scents because of their tiny microscopic particles that enter our noses and pass along the receptors that “read” them. There are about 5-million of these little receptors inside the human nose. Although this sounds like a lot, it’s nothing compared to the 300-million that give some dogs their amazing ability of smell. The vast surface-area inside a dog’s nose are contained in intricate folds & crevices that the air passes through. A dog relies on her sense of smell to interpret her world, in much the same way as people depend on their sight. Although this contrasting world view may be hard to imagine, know that your dog interprets as much information as you do. However, she does much of this by smelling an object or animal, not by staring at it. It’s similar with the Spirit.
The Biblical word for “spirit” in scripture is the Greek word “Pneuma,” which also means “wind” and from which we get our word for pneumatic. This gives deeper meaning to Jesus’ play on words with Nicodemus:
“Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8)
So what would it be like if we had a greater ability to sense the intricate, subtle movements of God’s Spirit? What if our spiritual receptors were more like a dog’s sense of smell than a human’s? Perhaps a better question: “Is it possible to increase my receptivity to the Spirit?” The answer is YES! This is what pursuing God is all about…becoming so in-tune with Him and so devoted to Him, that we become an extension of Him in the world around us. And the joy & peace & love that we receive and give to others is icing on the cake! What a beautiful God!
“Discernment in its fullness takes a practiced heart, fine-tuned to hear the word of God and the single-mindedness to follow that word in love It is truly a gift from God, but not one dropped from the skies fully formed. It is a gift cultivated by a prayerful life and the search for self-knowledge.” (Ernest Larkin)
“The capacity to recognize and respond to the presence of God in all of life is a spiritual habit and practice that keeps us connected with God’s larger purposes for us and for our world rather than being consumed by self-interest. As we become practiced at recognizing the presence and the activity of God, we are able to align ourselves more completely with what God is doing in any given moment, which is when life begins to get really exciting!” (Ruth Haley Barton)
“Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14: 23-26)
“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children; and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2)