I have been invited by the “Daily Word” team to offer a few final “Daily Words” before my last days as your Rector. As some of you know, a few years back, Church Publishing published my book, “Bits of Heaven.” It is a collection of devotionals appropriate for the summer months and as summer is upon us, I thought I would pull a few of my favorite passages. I hope you enjoy them and if you do not yet have a copy of the book, you can pick one up at St. Martin’s Gift Shoppe, Amazon or other online book sources.
Each meditation includes a title, a Scripture, a meditation, a probing question of sorts and closes with a prayer — either from my pen or that of those much better and wiser in authoring prayers.
Let us continue to pray for one another and I pray that we all — all of us — have a blessed summer. May it, indeed, be a little bit of heaven.
The Rev. Dr. Russell J. Levenson, Jr.
So grateful to be
Fourth Rector, St. Martin’s Episcopal Church
Meeting your Desires

“Delight yourself in the Lord
and He will give you the desires of
Your heart.”
                                                           Psalm 37:4
What are your deepest desires?

Since my wife and I married, one of our annual traditions has been to travel to her Uncle Neil and Aunt Bea Jobe’s for the Fourth of July Weekend. Their home, nestled deep in the woods near a place called Primm Springs, Tenn., is surrounded by acres of rolling hay fields and abundant vegetable gardens. Even thinking of it as I write plants in me a bit of solace that is hard to describe.
The Jobe home has always been a place of abundant hospitality. The penultimate unveiling of that hospitality is the annual Fourth of July picnic. It is open to everyone in the county willing to come. There is no cost to attend, but people are invited to bring their own favorite dish to share as a supplement to the fried catfish that the Jobes caught earlier in the day in a nearby fishing hole and have been preparing since early in the morning. After singing the National Anthem, a patriotic speech or two and a heartfelt prayer, the bountiful buffet is opened.

As the daylight begins to wane, tummies topped off with sweet tea and blackberry cobbler produce gentle smiles, which open to quiet conversations between friends new and old, loved ones and family members. Hardly one of these special days pass without the feeling that, at least for that afternoon, every real need is met.

Psalm 37:4 has been an inspiration for humans in need since its inked Hebrew text first melted onto parchment. Read it again, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” There is an obvious caveat there; not necessarily all of your desires are promised by a heart that delights in the Lord, but the “desires of your heart.”

If one were to list all of his or her desires (perhaps you would like to take a moment to do that now), my guess is it would include a hodgepodge of things from a new car or refrigerator, a raise or winning lottery ticket, perhaps a date with someone who has turned you down or just a nice and uninterrupted meal with a loved one. My list might include tasty food without the side effects of cholesterol or triglycerides! But the promise of the Psalm is not for any of those things; the promise is if one delights in the Lord, the desires of the heart are met.

Now what are those desires? Those deep desires may have different words, but my experience from my ministry business tells me, for the most part, they are the same: peace, security, freedom, hope, love – things that really cannot be bought or obtained through the meeting of our physical desires.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh revealing wrote of her own deepest desires in a wonderful little book called “Gifts from the Sea:”

“I want first of all – in fact, as an end to these other desires – to be at peace with myself. I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can. I want, in fact – to borrow from the language of the saints – to live ‘in grace’ as much of the time as possible. I’m not using this term in a strictly theological sense. By grace I mean inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony. I’m seeking perhaps what Socrates asked for in the prayer from the Phaedrus when he said, ‘May the outward and inward man be as one.’ I would like to achieve a state of inner spiritual grace from which I could function and give as I was meant to in the eye of God.”[1]

Let me go back to that gathering at the Jobes’ for a moment. Remember I wrote that everyone is invited to bring their “favorite dish.” But of course, in coming to the big, wonderful banquet with a favorite dish, in exchange, everyone is given so much more – and as they share, they are filled, not just with the nourishment of food, but fellowship.

In a very real sense, God invites us to bring our “favorite dished up desires” to Him and trust that bringing those will, in turn, mean that we receive far more in return than we could have ever imagined. There is a catch though; the delight you seek must be released in favor of a greater delight – a delight in the Lord. Allowing that delight to be born then means what you really want, you are given.[2]

You might remember that Jesus makes a similar promise to those who bring their many desires to God. “... seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.”[3] Jesus did not promise that every single desire would be met, but the deepest desires that are the fruit of seeking God first will, in fact, be satiated.

So, if you seek as Lindberg sought – to live as the inner person and outer are the same, to live in grace, a core of existence that enables both an inward and an outward harmony – then Psalm 37 has just the recipe for you: delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires — of your heart.

A Question to Ponder
If you have not already done so, make a list of the desires that first come to mind. How can those be met? Beside that list, write those that are your heart’s desires — your deepest desires. Can you bring them to God, lay them aside, delight in Him and find, in the end, that all you really need is met?

A Prayer
We taste thee, O Thou living bread,
And long to feast upon Thee still;
We drink of Thee, the fountain-head,
And thirst our souls from Thee to fill.
Our restless spirits yearn for Thee,
Where’er our changeful lot is cast;
Glad when Thy gracious smile we see,
Blest when our faith can hold Thee fast.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux, d. 1153

[1] Anne Morrow Lindbergh, “Gift of the Sea.” (New York: Pantheon, Random House Books, 2003).
[2] This will be addressed a bit more in the next meditation.
[3] Matthew 6:33.
The Rev. Dr. Russell J. Levenson, Jr.
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