The Happy Soul


“To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.”  (Psalm 25.1)

One of my hero’s is George Mueller.  A remarkable man, in 1834 (when he was 28) he founded The Scripture Knowledge Institute for Home and Abroad. The Institute was comprised of five branches:
1) Schools for children and adults to teach Bible knowledge,
2) Bible distribution,
3) missionary support,
4) tract and book distribution, and
5) “to board, clothe and scriptural educate orphans who have lost both parents by death.”

All five branches had great impact, but the one he is best known for is the orphan ministry. George built 5 large orphan houses and cared for 10,024 orphans in his lifetime. When he started in 1834 there were only accommodations for 3,600 orphans in all of England and twice that many children under eight were in prison.  One of the incredible marks of Mueller’s ministry was, “fifty years after Mr. Mueller began his work, at least one hundred thousand orphans were cared for in England alone.”

He did all this while he was pastoring and preaching three times a week from 1830 to 1898. When he turned 70 he fulfilled a life-long dream of missionary work laboring abroad for the next 17 years! (until he was 87!).  During His mission work he traveled to 42 countries, preaching at least once a day, and addressing better than 3 million people along the way!

Mueller read his Bible from cover to cover over 200 times during his life.  He prayed in millions of dollars (in today’s currency) for the Orphans and never asked anyone directly for money. He himself never took a salary in the last 68 years of his ministry!

Indeed a remarkable man…who was incredibly busy.  His secret?  In his own words, “The first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day is to have my soul happy in the Lord.”  Now stop there and read that again.  EVERY day his first and PRIMARY business was to get his soul happy in the Lord.

So my question is: do you know how to get your soul happy in the Lord?

I’m learning…slowly!  But I’d like to take the next few posts to get you thinking.



Your Dashboard

oil light
I heard Paul Harvey tell a story about a driver who fried their car.  Apparently the person thought the oil light flashing meant everything was OK.  Not so.   You know “the rest of the story”.

We desperately need to pay attention to the signals that our coming our way…especially those on our soul’s “dashboard”.  As I mentioned in the previous post, our bodies are the dashboard of our soul.  When we are worried, that emotion “flashes” through our bodies.  It can be a strained look, tense shoulders, or a migraine.  But somehow the soul is signaling it’s distress and hoping for some attention please!

Now if someone would have explained to that driver about the oil light coming on, they would still have a car.  In like fashion Jesus cries out, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Mt. 11:28)  Is your dashboard flashing weary and burdened?  Do you know the signs to look for?  Pause for a moment right now and look at your “dash”.  Is your body tense anywhere?  Jaw tight?  Heart racing?  Do you know what your body does when stressed?  Most don’t.  So they keep driving until finally the motor burns up.   Learn to be a master at reading your dashboard…it just may save your soul.

Soul Aid

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. (Psalm 62:5)

Remember the Beatle’s song, “I’m So Tired”?   John Lennon sounds pretty tired until the refrain where he screams:

“You know I’d give you everything I’ve got for a little peace of mind!!!”

Even if you don’t know the song…you can relate to the scream right?!  So what do you do when your soul screams, “I’d give you everything I got…for a little peace of mind!”  I’d suggest giving some ancient spiritual practices a try.  Now these practices aren’t the goal.  The aim of the practice is to connect us with the Living God in a manner that deeply settles our inner being (soul).  Keep that in mind.

Here’s some practices that help our bodies get in line with the Spirit (we will talk later about specific exercises for the will and mind as well):

  1. Practice stillness.  How often do you take a long deliberate space to just sit still?  I’d suggest taking 5 minutes at the start or close of your day, to sit somewhere quiet with God.  Let your body slow down.  This takes practice!  “Be still …and know He is God.” (Ps. 46:10)
  2. Fasting.  I hear the groans.  Skipping some meals doesn’t sound all that fun, however there can be great spiritual gain as we do…just ask Daniel (see Dan. 1:12).
  3. Sabbath: Taking a deliberate break from work  so you can rest in God’s presence is critical to our life’s rhythm.  We tend to run around as if the world depends on us…when in fact He’s got the whole world in His hands.  Take a break this week.

If you are like John Lennon and need a little “peace of mind (or body!)” step into one of these practices for a season.  They are tried and true helps to restoring our soul!


Get Your Self Together!

You and I hear them all the time.  A person scrambling by moans, “I’ve got to get myself together!”  Another confides, “I think I’m losing my mind.”  Or the ever-popular, “I think I am falling apart!”  Each phrase truthfully captures what is going on in us.

A soul is comprised of: our will, mind, body and soul.  One could sketch it out like this:


Let’s define* each of these:

WILL: The innermost circle is the will — the capacity to choose . The will is what makes you a person and not a thing. It is important but it is also extremely limited.  When people study “will-power” they notice it has a relatively small “fuel tank”.  Hence the infamy of “new year’s resolutions”.

MIND: The second circle is the mind-a person’s thoughts and feelings.  What we “will” is instructed by our mind’s complex processing of thoughts and feelings.  If you have a co-worker who treats you rudely your “feelings” are hurt and your mind records that incident.  Future encounters with that person will tap into these stored memories (thoughts) and feelings and informs our actions accordingly.

BODY: The third circle is the body. Our bodies “house” the less visible attributes of will and mind.   I like to think of our body as our “dashboard”.  It often signals to us what is happening inside our wills and minds.  For example, if you are stressed out your body can feel tense, anxious and worn.  It is sending you tangible signals that your insides are struggling.

SOUL: The final circle is the soul. The human soul is what integrates all of our different parts into a single person.  There will come a day when we will “shed” the body, but our souls will live on.  I have had the privilege of watching people pass from this life.  One minute “they are here” and the next “they are gone”.  What remains is a shell of a person…their body.

* thanks to John Ortberg for the core of these definitions. 

When all is well with our soul, there is a harmony between these parts.  The body is at rest because the mind is at peace and therefore our will is content.  I know what you’re thinking…”can that actually happen?!!”  Yes it can!  But often when life hits we get unsettled and scattered.  Our souls look more like this:


Instead of that settled harmony depicted in the first picture, we are splintered and feel scattered.  For example, if our body feels sick, often times our thoughts  aren’t functioning well either.  It’s also easy to be crabby (feelings) when we’re under the weather and generally our will to accomplish much is shot.  This is when you say something like, “I feel like I’m falling apart.”  In essence you are!  So what can you do to  “get it together”?

The healthy soul would respond something like this:

  • the will would surrender to the mind’s deduction that we’ve “caught a bug”.  Further thoughts would instruct us in what we need to do to care for the body.  Drink fluids, take a rest, etc.  Although this isn’t our favorite place to be our soul would begin to find harmony because our will, thoughts and feelings are working together.

An unhealthy soul would look like this:

  • the will is caught in a struggle because we feel terrible and should take the day off, BUT our boss is a driver and he’ll have a fit if we are gone.  So the mind’s process is impaired with competing thoughts and feelings. We push ourselves through the day and finish with a worn body, stressed mind and a frustrated will.

About now a lot of people say to me, “Mark, reality is my boss is a driver and it would be far more stressful to lose my job, so I choose the lesser of two evils.”  I get it.  But in the midst of living in an imperfect world there are some ancient practices that can help restore our soul.  I’ll pick those up in the next couple of posts.


Mind of Christ

If our minds are, “the process by which we interact with the world around us and the world inside of us”;  what does Paul mean when he says we have the “mind of Christ”? (1 Cor. 2:16b)  Let’s ponder that.

Paul’s writing this letter because he’s deeply concerned about the Corinthians thinking. The “process” they are engaging life with is largely fueled by self-centered desires. It’s an, “if I want it, I’ll take it” attitude.  They gorge themselves at communion meals (1 Cor. 11:20-30), or argue over status (see 1 Cor. 1). Racy sexual issues (I Cor. 5) and lawsuits (1 Cor. 6) demonstrate they are not thinking with a “sound mind”, but rather a “fleshly, self-centered mindset”.  So Paul tells them, “What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.” (1 Cor. 2:12-italics mine)  He highlights that God gives us His Spirit so we can understand life in a new way (or with a new “process of thinking”).  So now, my “process” of discerning what’s best in a situation considers not only my needs, but God’s desires as well.  I don’t fill my plate to overflowing at communion dinners, because I’m concerned for the people behind me in line.  Arguing over my status seems childish, because I see clearly that everyone matters to God.   Those new thoughts reveal that my mind is actively partnering with the “mind of Christ”.  I think AND live differently now because I have the “mind of Christ”.

What do you think about that?








Mind your mind

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. (Phil. 2:5)

The apostle Paul talks quite a bit about our “minds”.  In Romans 12 he tells us why- “we are transformed by the renewing of our mind”. (Ro. 12.2)  In other words, our personal growth is deeply impacted by how we think.  So it is important to think about how you think.

But, what is the mind?  When asked this question people often refer to their brain.  The brain certainly is part of our mind, but the two are uniquely different.  The brain is an organ and the mind is a process.  We can actually see your brain in a scan, but we can’t see your mind.  It’s real, but abstract.  It’s visible not on scans, but rather in HOW we think, act, respond and live.  So the mind is, “the process by which we interact with the world around us and the world inside of us.”

Our minds are daily processing a host of things like: “is this person safe?” or “is this really a good buy?” or “why am I so stupid?” or “where is God when bad things happen?”.  All these questions involve an interaction of your personal mind with the world around you. How you respond to them is greatly influenced by your mind.  If you have been poorly treated by people in the past, it is very likely that your mind is slow to categorize someone as “safe”.  The problem with that is how do you actually know they are safe?  If you have been mistreated in the past, you have mixed models of safe and unsafe people.  What features of a person qualifies them as safe?  The gaps you feel in your process can then cause you to withdraw.  But withdrawing provides you with even less interactions and feedback for better identifying safe people.  Yikes! Who can save us from this terrible peril?  Jesus.  Paul declares in 1 Cor. 2:16 that we, “have the mind of Christ”.  Now what does that mean?!  We’ll cover that in my next post.  But for now consider my definition of the mind.  Do you agree?

The importance of going SLOW!

If your team is going to learn and grow…you will have to move SLOWLY!  That is so contrary to our culture’s inflamed pace, but every learning study affirms this.  Look at these educational diagrams and learn!:

For decades now we have known how important a reflective process is for learning, but have adamantly ignored it for convenience sake.  We delude ourselves that we are making learning happen by plowing through reading assignments and regurgitating disconnected facts on paper (ok enough ranting Mark!)

Lets not make the same mistake as many of our educational institution-let REAL learning run its full cycle through some kind of process of reflection.

Now to do that you and I as leaders are going to have to be vigilant in a number of ways:

1. Don’t rush!  The goal isn’t to race through data or meetings!

2. Review often.  Check back with people in and out of gatherings.  Ask them what they are learning and noticing.

3. Practice ourselves.  As leaders we are busy people.  There are a lot of demands on our time.  FOCUS.  Find a way to note what God is teaching us and stay on it like a dog on the hunt.  Do the same for your co-workers.  Stay focused.

4. Make fruit your aim.  Ask, “how will I look/act different if I really get what God is saying to me”.  You’ll know you are there when you see it!  So to the person who says, “Oh God wants me to slow down” ask them, “and what does a slowed down Mark look like?”  They may need time to really think on that…fine give them time.  BUT be sure to come back to it because the clearer they SEE it the sooner they will move towards it.