El Camino is best summarised by borrowing from the title of the book written by Eugene H. Peterson: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. It is the way of discipleship; one step of dependence at a time, exercised day by day.
In fact, the irony of our “unchanging God” is that he is always doing something new; it is inherent in his character to constantly create something out of nothing. He is the master designer, He ...builds a road right through the ocean, carves a path through pounding waves...makes… a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands… provides… water in the desert… creates ...rivers through the sun-baked earth…
(Isaiah 43:16-21 MSG).
And for people like me, in the dark places I have been and where I need all the hope I can get; the sojourns on The Way translate to three stanchions of support for a broken spirit and a contrite heart in daily dependence on my Maker; by way of a hymn or song to encourage my soul, a teaching to transform my mind and a practice to cultivate my spiritual development.
For the theme of this blog post, the following tenets apply:
The Swedish hymn “Blott en Dag“ is emblematic of the dependence I cling to. It was written in 1865 by Lina Sandell, several years after she had witnessed the tragic drowning of her father.
That hymn translated to English (Day by Day) is sung by Russ Taff (multi Grammy award winning Christian artiste). I recall in my early years when I ardently followed him, in his role as lead tenor for The Imperials.
As he ventured on a solo career, his songs became distinctly more visceral, often weeping on his recordings, pleading for mercy to be made whole. Without prior knowledge of his backstory, his songs became a post to hang my feelings of despondency.
More recently, Russ Taff released a gripping documentary chronicling his unparalleled musical journey and years of battle with alcohol addiction. Today, he openly shares about those years of pain, shame and healing, and continues to write songs that put “amazing back into grace”.
Day by Day is available here https://youtu.be/NJWyzhvZSAs
Ray Vander Laan (That The World May Know/Focus on the Family) has a unique method of bible teaching and believes that to more accurately understand and appreciate the Bible, one has to have a sense of the land and the culture from which these events were derived. Biblical analogies were first meant to convey God’s truth to a particular people in a particular time and place.
This YouTube video clip on his teaching is a profound revelation on themes related to “wilderness” and “dependence”; quite contrary to how we may otherwise interpret “green pastures and pools of water” from Psalm 23. https://youtu.be/2x8MwiTs0hM
A true and intimate epiphany from the words of Jesus;
My sheep recognise my voice. I know them and they follow me. I give them real and eternal life. They are protected from the Destroyer for good. No one can steal them from out of my hand. The Father who put them under my care is so much greater than the Destroyer and the Thief. No one could ever get them away from Him. I and the Father are one heart and mind.
(John 10: 27-30 MSG)
Lord teach us to number our days, that we may present to you a heart of wisdom.
(Psalm 90:12 NASB).
The Bible says some of us may live through 80 or even 90 years. Numbering my days also includes being accountable for each day.
Borrowing a practice from an old rabbi, I have placed an order for about 8,000 marble chips. Each chip accounts for 1 day of my life through the age of 80. As I wake up each morning, the practice is to take a marble chip, have a conversation with God on how I can honour him in the various tasks I execute and relationships I engage.
I keep that chip with me all day to remind me that I am given this day to be used for his service; not for my indulgence. At end of the day, I have another conversation with God, review the day with him, ask him to show me where I fell short, ask for his forgiveness, give him praise for leading me through the day and then - discard the chip.
Two things are learned as I engage in this practice; to be more conscious that each day is a gift from God where his mercies are new every morning – and - that day is to be used wisely and well.
Hour by hour I place my days in your hand, safe from the hands out to get me. Warm me, your servant, with a smile, save me because you love me.
(Psalm 31:15-16 MSG)
And for those of us who belong to Jesus - he has ordered us, his ministering servants to put comfort into the hearts of people, who through their unbelief refuse to be comforted. But He will fix a time and arise and have mercy on them.
So that He may ..grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.
(Isaiah 61:3 NASB)
Please also see El Camino (part 1 and part 2)