Yes, It Is Well with My Soul

GodReflection:Is It Well with My Soul?

gary-2015Thank you for reading over my shoulder as I’ve attempted to reach a more comprehensive understanding of my soul. My trust-confidence level has increased through multiple circles around a complex subject.

Yes, my soul is me. It is designed by God for God. Powered by the Holy Spirit, my soul mates of body, mind and heart move through life’s dark valleys and celestial peaks toward perfect wholeness with Father, Son and Spirit.

As I bring this series of posts to a close I’m drawn to a rich hymn of soul affirmation given to the church in the late nineteenth century. The back story of both lyrics and music connect to deep soul pain. Horatio Spafford penned the lyrics after the death of his four daughters in a shipwreck.

well2Three years later in 1876, Philip Bliss wrote the music and gave it the name of the fatal ship, the Ville du Havre,  that took the lives of the four little girls. One month after the hymn was first sung in public worship, Bliss and his wife died in a tragic train accident after it plunged into an icy river in the state of Ohio.

Yet, in the face of death and destruction their hymn stands as a monument to the indestructibility of the soul that is placed in the care of the Holy.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,well4
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

well6But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul, it is well, it is well with my soul.

My prayer for all who read this blog is that we can join together and sing with complete confidence; It is well with my soul.

Will you join with me?

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells

A GodReflection: Yes, It Is Well with My Soul

Soul Flight

GodReflection: Is It Well with My Soul?

gary-2015Twice I’ve been at the bedside to witness a soul take flight. The first time was my twenty-one-year-old son and the second time was my eighty-eight-year-old dad. Both times I watched the body fight against the departure and saw how the soul struggles to be set free.

At an exact nanosecond it happens—the soul takes flight and the body becomes lifeless—left fit for only a grave. But where did the soul go?

My concern in this post is what happens to the soul of the one who departed earth as a disciple of Jesus?

To be clear I do not question the ultimate destiny of my soul housed in an eternal body living on the new earth under a new heaven. However, that will only take place after Jesus’ return to escort his body of saints to the Throne Room of God. But that is then. flight3What about now? To where does my soul fly when it leaves my body?

At the moment of death what happens to me—my heart and mind—who the Holy has been transforming throughout my earth walk?

Here is where I think I am on this one.

When I combine the totality of Scripture added to what I’ve experienced as God’s care I reach a couple of conclusions.

First, I’ve witnessed enough of God’s hand through the dark valleys as well as the occasional mountaintops to be convinced He is faithful. In my heart of hearts—even as my legs sometimes wobble with doubt—I know I can trust Him.

flight8Second, I suspect the story and information God shares through the Bible is elementary and written in the language of “human speak.” Creator God knows my gnat size human brain would explode if the Almighty was shown to me in the full Glory of His Holy reality.

When the apostle Paul was carried by Jesus for a visit to Paradise he shared that he saw, inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell (2 Corinthians 12:4). For all of the above reasons the clues of my soul’s flight from my body are somewhat limited.

However, I do find signs of my soul’s destination as it departs after my last earthly breath.

In Scripture I read of Enoch, Moses and Elijah who seem to have bodies in their post death reality (Genesis 5:24, Luke 9: 28-36, Hebrews 11:5). From Jesus’ story of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16), and the martyrs (Revelation 6:9-11) there is possibly an awareness of the situation on earth. John even noted the martyrs apparently had clothing as each of them was given a white robe.

flight9Jesus told a man on an adjacent cross, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Sounds to me like I will be conscious and in the presence of Jesus once I make the death journey.

Likewise, Paul affirms, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8, Philippians 1:23).

Rather sketchy don’t you think?

flight10So, I find myself back at my little five letter English word that I seem to encounter on each step of my faith walk—trust. I suspect trust is a gift of the Spirit that is available upon request. I repeat. As a Jesus follower I’ve seen enough of God’s faithfulness to know I can trust Him.

I guess my bottom line conclusion on the flight of my soul is the fact that I will be in the presence of the Holy is all I need to know for now. However, after my soul makes the journey I am confident I will awaken with a delight I’ve never known to those inexpressible things, things that as of yet are not permitted to tell.

What do you think? Shouldn’t we look with great anticipation to the time of our soul flight?

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells

A GodReflection: Soul Flight

My Soul Rests in Good

GodReflection: Is It Well With My Soul?
“You stir us to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” – Augustine of Hippo, Confessions

gary-2015More often than not when I start to write this blog I encounter concepts “above my pay scale.” Certainly, today is such a day.

Why would my soul require rest?

It’s somewhat easier to understand that my body demands rest. Seldom does a day pass on this life walk without a shout-out from my muscles and bones for a break.

good1When I sat down to write it didn’t take long to brainstorm a list of activities that drain bodily energy. You wouldn’t have to think long to add to my list.

In broad strokes restorative rest is required to combat exhaustion from work, school, travel, recreational sports, and childcare. Then, there are the crisis times provoked by unusual health issues. Those occasions demand prolonged rest.

That’s my physical body. However, since my soul is me wouldn’t it be fair to conclude that all of the wear, tear and exertion from life results also in soul exhaustion? It is those times when the very core of my being feels too tired to move. It’s a tiredness that comes from within.

In simplest of terms, I need rest when I am tired. I need rest to combat exhaustion. I have a bed and a chair for my body but where can my soul turn for rest?

good13The Bible begins with a Song of Creation. Seven times as the hand of God crafted our world the Creator sang out It was good.

Then we read: By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done (Genesis 2:2-3).

Somehow, I doubt the Eternal Perfect God rested because He had exerted energy and was tired. The good He saw as He looked at the whole of creation delighted Him. Is it possible that God whose very nature is good, sat back and rested in Holy Goodness?

At the end of His work God purposefully blessed a day and made it holy. It was a day He would ask his people to observed as holy. His people would need restorative rest found only in Holy Goodness.

good12It occurs to me I may have missed the obvious. Perhaps the first place my soul should turn for rest needs to be His Holy Goodness. What would that look like for me?

Is there a way in which I might frame each day as a worshipful rehearsal of God’s goodness? I think of a couple of Old Testament citations.

In Psalms 116, King David cries out to God, I was overcome by trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord Save me!”

What I find of interest is the place where his soul was revived: Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. David reflected upon the occasions when it was obvious God had been good to him. In the good gifted by God David found rest.
When my soul is bone-tired might I find refreshment by doing as did David and find restoration in the rehearsal of all the times God brought good into my life?

good14Of all the good Holy God has gushed out upon me, none exceeds His greatest gift of Jesus The Christ and the protection of His Spirit, given to lead my soul to its ultimate good—eternal rest in the presence of God’s goodness.

Not a bad place to find soul rest, don’t you think?

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells
A GodReflection: My Soul Rests in Good.

Renovation Project—Enlarge My Soul

GodReflection: Is It Well with My Soul?

“Narrow is the mansion of my soul; enlarge Thou it, that Thou mayest enter in. It is ruinous; repair Thou it. It has that within which must offend Thine eyes; I confess and know it. But who shall cleanse it? or to whom should I cry, save Thee? Lord, cleanse me from my secret faults, and spare Thy servant from the power of the enemy. I believe, and therefore do I speak.” – Augustine’s Confessions

gary-portraitMy soul is a mansion designed by The One who created the universe. In its original state my mansion was perfect. It was streamlined to house the Holy. mansion1Then Satan step in with his garden wrecking crew. The destruction was so great that the walls closed in like a vice on what had been God breathed.

The good news is I emerged from baptismal waters with a new occupant in my soul. God’s Holy Spirit moved in.

Upon His arrival He was greeted by a heart, mind and body in need of renovation. Each space was far too confined for His glorious presence. He had a lot of work to do.

mansion7My heart, although it welcomed Him in was far too restricted. It would need a remodel for His love to expand.

My mind, although it made the decision to open the door and give Him a key, still thought far too much about me. It questioned if The Holy actually would look after and care for my daily well-being.

Then there was my body and my strength. For a game plan that looked toward eternal life, it seemed my body might be broken beyond even the fine print in His repair manual.

Souls drawn back to God eventually come to reality as did Augustine. There is a lot that is offensive inside and renovation is needed for the soul to return to its pristine state.

In more reflective moments when I step back and attempt to grasp the overall message of Scripture I come away with two thoughts that should calm my soul in a turbulent world.

First, life is a long-haul proposition.

mansion8My soul received such Adamic damage that its “ruinous” state can only be repaired over an entire lifetime and I assume its final restoration touches will occur when a resurrected body rises to meet Jesus at His second coming.

It is at this point we need to give ourselves as well as others abundant grace. Soul renovation is a slow process. Neither God nor His Son have ever expected instant perfection. This is difficult for us who live in an “instant push button world” who expect everything to be done at the speed of light. We want renovation done now.

mansion12The truth is Jesus’ Holy Spirit is the project manager of my soul repair. It is done within His timeframe not mine. I need to relax and let Him take the lead. Holy timing is perfect. My timing isn’t.

There is a second thought that should calm my soul.

I have one task and one task alone. Since I do not need to be in the business of fixing myself I am free to pursue only one aim. I am to answer Jesus’ daily call of “follow me.” I live from the strength of relationship not from fear. It is a relationship formed out of a conscious gratitude for God’s mercy and grace. His mercy and grace I did not merit nor was it possible to make available through my own resources.

mansion18It seems to me there is a sense in which I can simplify my interface with the content of the entire Bible when it comes to soul renovation. The more I come to know Jesus, and the more I allow His likeness to shine through me to every person I meet, the more my soul will be enlarged.

Is it too simplistic to believe if I keep my eyes focused upon Jesus he will in turn transform my soul into a mansion designed for the Holy?

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells

A GodReflection: Renovation Project—Enlarge My Soul

Soul Mates: Strength, Mind, Heart

GodReflection: Is It Well With My Soul?
“You stir us to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” ― Augustine of Hippo, Confessions

gary-portraitIn my culture I often hear a desirable home described as one with an open floor plan. The idea is a home where family time is not hindered by walls. The kitchen, and other spaces where we eat and congregate are open to family flow. The open concept is designed to promote soulmates4warmth and interaction.

It seems to me the interface within family space is a good way to describe what takes place in my soul. Remember, my soul is me. It does not consist of separate rooms but rather is an open concept where body, heart and mind live as soul mates in the present of the Holy Spirit of Father and Son.

soulmate2I am drawn back to the house of my childhood at 511 North Second Street. I didn’t know it at the time but the linear placement of kitchen, dining room and front room (known today as a living room) could be described well as open concept living.

In addition to family space, our little remodeled wood frame government barracks moved from a local airfield had three small bedrooms and two minimal bathrooms. Non-insulated walls and thin doors facilitated instant dialogue from any point within.

Anyone who has ever lived in family knows there are lots of rough edges that grind against siblings, parents and whoever else may be housed under the roof. The commonality among all who reside there is togetherness. We are housemates. The take and give of members is a refinement process for all who bump and collide within.
My Second Street house provides a symbolic image for my soul. Within my soul is housed strength, mind and heart.

Jesus taught that I am to Love the Lord your God with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my strength and with all my mind (Luke 10:27).

Body strength and health or the lack thereof is felt in my soul. My body affects my soul in ways I don’t completely understand. My mind is the conscious space in my soul. It is the soulmate10processor for every thought. Then there is my heart.

How do I describe my heart? Could it be that my heart serves as the sanctuary of my soul? It is where good (God) dwells. As in all of life my sanctuary has a long way to go to become the perfect uncompromised home of the Holy.

Here is what I think. The soul mates of heart, mind and strength interact within my Holy framed soul barracks. When we live in Jesus His Spirit and the Father’s Spirit take up residence in our soul. Throughout the process of life our heart, mind and strength bump and collide within. As these soulmates mingle together the resident Holy works on the rough edges.

soulmate12The end result will be a perfect soul that operates at full strength with a flawless mind and a heart fully dominated by the Holy. And to think I will be the recipient of all this perfection and enjoy it on the new earth in the presence of Father and Son in a relationship that will be beyond my current comprehension.

Sounds like my soulmates are in for an eternal treat when all the restlessness settles into rest within the embrace of the Holy. Seems as if all pain that comes from life’s refinement will be worthwhile. What do you think?
Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells
A GodReflection: Soul Mates: Strength, Mind, Heart.

My Soul Is Me

GodReflection: Is It Well with My Soul?
“Who can plumb its depths? And yet it is a faculty of my soul. Although it is part of my nature, I cannot understand all that I am.”  ― Augustine of Hippo, Confessions

gary-portraitThe Book of Genesis opens with a song. In this Song of Creation sung in Genesis chapter one is the overview of the beginnings of the heavens, our earth and its inhabitants.

With Genesis chapter two Moses introduces in greater detail humankind and their new home. From the first both man and woman were designed by God to live eternally.

The more literal word for word translations describe our origin in these words:

And Jehovah God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

me6I like the way the Amplified Bible translates God’s act:

Then the Lord God formed [that is, created the body of] man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being [an individual complete in body and spirit].

I must declare with Augustine, I cannot understand all that I am.

Here is what I think.

I don’t know to what extent I had spirit or soul while I resided in my mother’s womb. I have a tendency to think that it was after the journey through the birth canal when Dr. Pate whacked me on the back (or was it the bottom) that I took in the breath of life, cried me7out and became a living soul.

Although my DNA was God-wired over nine months there is a sense my soul and body started its experiential and formational trek called life from the moment of that first breath when I wailed in protest to all within earshot. My guess is that is when I started to be me.

My soul was in place. It was the me who God desired for eternal companionship. My soul was the me who held the power to forfeit itself (Mark 8:36) or the power to invite Jesus to move in and prepare it for eternity with the Holy. My soul was and is my essence.

me10The best I can tell my God assignment is to use my soul as a compass to navigate life. I am to submit to Father, Son and Spirit to make my soul a worthy home for their company.

From that home comes whatever motivation and resources I might have to serve those the Holy draws into my path. My soul is the me God uses to minister to those within the sphere of my world.

Is there a chance we would take better care of our soul if we saw it as our very essence—both present and eternal—rather than a nondescript “something” that resides in our body?

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells
A GodReflection: My Soul is Me

Is It Well with My Soul?

GodReflection: Is It Well with My Soul?
gary-portraitI had not the foggiest notion of what I was getting into when I enrolled in Professor Lemoine Lewis’ class History of The Christian Church. I wasn’t aware of a heritage larger than the local church where I grew up. Other than the Acts of the Apostles found in my Bible, I’m not sure I realized the church even had a history.

As with all teachers Dr. Lewis had his own mannerisms. That first day like every day that soul2followed he walked into the college classroom with a stack of books as high as the length of his arms. Dangling by two or three fingers hung his worn leather bookbag used at Harvard. It was the place for what few lecture notes he used, the classroom role book and any papers for the day.

At each class session he lectured for the entire hour and twenty minutes at an animated speed so rapid that a broken pencil lead or a slow turn of the spiral binder would demand extra effort to catch up. He taught the story of church history like it was an action novel.

On the first page of my College Ruled Spiral I found among Dr. Lewis’ expectations for the course: Read Augustine’s Confessions and Augustine’s City of God. Three lines later Augustine of Hippo first appeared in my notes as I attempted to transcribe my old professor’s account of the fourth century saint’s influence on the church over the centuries to follow.

Occupied with cramming for examines and with the goal to cross the finish line with a minimal grade, then with life, I’ve failed to get around to reading Augustine until last month (only fifty-years later).

Augustine was born in what we know today as Algeria on November 13, 354 to a baptized Christian mother and a father who followed the custom of the time to wait until just prior to death to receive baptism. It was thought that the longer one waited the greater the quantity of sins that would be washed away.

soul11The first nine books (chapters) of Augustine’s Confessions read like a secret journal-diary addressed to God. Written around the year 400 Confessions seems to be his attempt to understand his own soul as it related to the Creator.

Among his many observations that caught my attention was this one addressed to his Holy Maker:

“My soul is like a house, small for you to enter, but I pray you to enlarge it. It is in ruins, but I ask you to remake it. It contains much that you will not be pleased to see: this I know and do not hide. But who is to rid it of these things? There is no one but you”

Over the next several posts I envision a march around the soul. I want to look at it, examine it and inspect it. Jesus called it eternal. Sounds important. What is it? How can I feed it? Is it conflicted? Do I give it sufficient attention?

Once again, I recall the quote attributed to the author Flannery O’Connor which seems to describe my point of departure: “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”

So, over the next few soul7weeks I want to see what I think about my soul. I invite you to read over my shoulder. Feel free to challenge me with your own insights.

Just maybe we can grow together as we attempt to understand our soul and how to care for this eternal treasure entrusted to each one of us by our Heavenly Father.

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells
A GodReflection: Is It Well with My Soul?