Saturday, July 18, 2015

Keepers of the Stream

There was once a town high in the Alps that straddled the banks of a beautiful stream. The stream was fed by springs that were old as the earth and deep as the sea.
The water was clear like crystal. Children laughed and played beside it; swans and geese swam in it. You could see rocks and sand and rainbow trout that swarmed at the bottom of the stream.
High in the hills, far beyond anyone’s sight, lived an old man who served as Keeper of the Springs. He had been hired so long ago that now no one could remember a time when he wasn’t there. He would travel from one spring to another in the hills, removing branches or fallen leaves or debris that might pollute the water. But his work was unseen.

One year the town council decided they had better things to do with their money. No one supervised the old man anyway. They had roads to repair and taxes to
collect and services to offer, and giving money to an unseen stream cleaner had become a luxury they could no longer afford.
So the old man left his post. High in the mountains, the springs went untended; twigs and branches and worse muddied the liquid flow. Mud and silt compacted the creek bed; farm wastes turned parts of the stream into stagnant bogs.
For a time no one in the village noticed. But after a while, the water was not the same. It began to look brackish. The swans flew away to live elsewhere. The water no longer had a crisp scent that drew children to play by it. Some people of the town began to grow ill. All noticed the loss of sparkling beauty that used to flow between the banks of the streams that fed the town. The life of the village depended on the stream, and the life of the stream depended on the keeper.
The city council reconvened, the money was found, the old man was rehired. After yet another time, the springs were cleaned, the stream was pure, children played again on its banks, illness was replaced by health, the swans came home, and the village came back to life.
The life of the village depended on the health of the stream.
The stream is your soul. And you are the keeper.*
A keeper is someone who is in charge of caring for, maintaining, or protecting something. For example, there are innkeepers, zookeeprs, bookkeepers, groundskeepers, housekeepers, peacekeepers, shopkeepers, gatekeepers and beekeepers.
You are called by God to be a soul keeper– the keeper of your soul. You are not the Captain, you are not in charge, but you have been charged as the keeper.
This is a challenge. Most people understand what it means to watch their weight or their waistline. We can count calories and debate over which new diet fad is the best. Should I adhere to the Paleo Diet or go Vegan? Should I eat kale or quinoa? Others are more interested in espousing their latest work-out regimen. Cross fit or Insanity? You get the idea. Everyone has an opinion, but is there a general consensus?
People ask themselves, Am I in shape. 
Often, the general populous has already concluded that they are not in shape, so the real question becomes, do I at least look like I’m in shape? After all, most don’t actually want to be in shape as much as they want to look like they are in shape. Image is everything. External appearances are the benchmark of status and success, beauty and significance. Or, so it seems.
We each have an outer life and an inner life. My outer self is the public and visible me. It includes my accomplishments, my work and my reputation among co-workers and peers. On the other hand, my inner life is where my secret thoughts, hopes and wishes reside. Because my inner life is invisible, it is easy to overlook and neglect.
We live in a culture that is enamored with self, but clueless of the soul. Ironically, the more obsessed we are with our selves, the more we neglect our souls.
Think about it. If there’s so much confusion around that which we can see, measure and analysis under a microscope, what about the areas of the human life than aren’t so visible, like our soul?
“What is running your life at any given moment is your soul,” writes Dallas Willard in his book Renovation of the Heart. “Not external circumstances, not your thoughts, not your intentions, not even your feelings, but your soul. The soul is that aspect of your whole being that correlates, integrates, and enlivens everything going on in the various dimensions of the self. The soul is the life center of human beings… The most important thing in your life is not what you do; it’s who you become. That’s what you will take into eternity. You are an unceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe.”
Our world gives an enormous amount of time, energy and resources to the effort of attending to our outer life. But, true life flows from deep within and sadly, few know how to attend to their soul. Consider these words given to us as instructions from God,
Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life.
-Deuteronomy 4:9
Perhaps this time of year, when folks are taking inventory of their lives, namely how many pounds they need to drop or the types of food they need to refrain from, it would be even more worthwhile to spend some time reflecting on what’s really important – our souls. “For what will it profit a man,” Jesus asked. “If he gains the whole world,
and loses his own soul?”
(Mark 8:36). We can gain all kinds of public accolades, yet if our soul is shrinking, what good is it? We can financially succeed and grow our ministry or business, yet if our soul is unhealthy, what a loss. Jesus calls us to peer beneath the surface of the superficial and attend to our soul, the most essential part of who we are…

How is it with your soul? 

There are seasons when our lives can become so packed and hurried that we fail to reflect and listen. Get alone. Get quiet. Ask God, How is it with my soul? Listen…
Is it well with your soul?
What are the predominant undercurrents of thoughts and emotions lately?
(Peace, Joy, Patience, Fear, Anxiety, Worry, Stress, Agitation, Loneliness, Discontentment, etc)

Is your soul healthy or unhealthy?
What adjustments need to be made to your daily/weekly/monthly routine and rhythms to better posture you toward a sustainably healthy soul…?
Remember, your soul is a stream and you are the keeper.

*The opening story can be found in the book Soul Keeping by John Ortberg

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