Boot strap pulling/loin-girding or trust

Reflections on Isaiah 30:15

For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not. (KJV)

In repentance and rest is your salvation,
    in quietness and trust is your strength,
    but you would have none of it. (NIV)

If you repented and patiently waited for me, you would be delivered;  if you calmly trusted in me, you would find strength, but you are unwilling. (NET)

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:  In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.  But you refused. (NRSV)

Loins girded
Note bootstraps sticking up

Somewhere in my past was a motto with “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength”. Perhaps I read it “be the strong silent type”.  For me, the motto’s meaning had shifted to bootstrap lifting or loin-girding.  So, I must prepare myself for battle.  Be ready to work hard (lift, take care of, protect myself by my own efforts).  Later thinking took me in two directions.  First, I found in this passage personal comfort and encouragement.  Later I looked at the context of the verse.

The context of this verse with the use of the words “Israel” and the acknowledgement “you refused” suggests an historical context.  Here, like in chapter six (where Ahaz wanted a military alliance with Assyria), Israel was ready to trust an alliance with Egypt rather than trust God.  God’s prophet gave this word about their prospective ally: “Egypt’s help is worthless and empty;” (verse 7 ESV).  The next verses have some vivid language detailing how worthless Egypt is.  So, in the context, the word from God has to do with public policy for the government.  Am I justified in shifting the use of this passage for personal comfort and encouragement?

First reflection on the passage.

In resting and turning to God will be your deliverance. In quietness and trust will be your strength. (my paraphrase of verse 15)

To rest, repent and trust,

Brings strength and hope in God.

We rest who turn and trust;

We trust who in Him rest.

To rest and trust brings hope;

And hope in God is strength.

Breath Prayer

These reflections later developed into a breath prayer. (See for some background on “breath prayers”.  The article makes a useful connection between science and faith.  Or, do a general Google search.)  My breath prayer helped me deal with several medical procedures and in times of frustration with life events.

Just three words, one on inhale, the other two on exhale:

Rest … and trust.  (Or, one might use the following: Rest in God . . . trust in God.)

*For the technique of girding up loins, see:

**For the current socio-cultural meaning of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps”, do a search on that phrase.  Be sure to click on the “Images” link to see some of the graphic interpretations of the phrase.

The Great Peppermint Patch Disaster

Developing trust, hope and new skills

Our mint grew along the property line between us and a lot recently purchased by the college.  The peppermint and spearmint patch furnished us fresh leaves for cool drinks in the summer and dried leaves for hot tea in winter. The gas line had been dug on the other side of the line.  Then, the backhoe filling the trench, scraped across my mint bed, apparently destroying it.  I wanted to complain about the destruction.  But the property owner happened to also be my employer.

The Great Peppermint Patch Disaster came a year or two after I experienced a major hearing loss.  The Meniere’s disease brought me recurring dizziness, nausea, ringing in my ears and then hearing loss.  The hearing loss left me nearly deaf.  Hearing was essential to my work as reference librarian. Losing my hearing was threatening, both to my work and to my faith.

I was transferred out of the position of reference librarian that I had enjoyed for ten years.  What a disaster!  Especially I felt frustrated with this change because I had just completed a post-master’s specialist degree.  I was looking forward to applying the ideas learned during that study.

Struggling to understand God’s working, I complained to God about this loss.  I questioned how and why my hearing loss could happen, given the loving God I believed in.    How do I deal with the possibility of renewed attacks that could take the rest of my hearing?  Did God bring the illness and hearing loss to me because that was the only way I could learn something about myself or about God?  Was God “chastening” or disciplining me?  I was angry with God for bringing or allowing my hearing loss and not allowing me to see how things would work out.  Not only was this a disaster.  Not being able to understand why this was happening or how it would work out seemed more than I could bear.

I was also angry about the loss of my peppermint patch and ready to take my complaints about the destruction to my employers.  All winter the ugly scar reminded me of the disaster.  The next summer a brought a different view.  I thought the backhoe had destroyed my mint bed.  But actually, it had scattered mint roots the all along the trench-line next to the garden.  By the second summer after the “disaster”, the mint’s rapid spread required pulling out the excess.  The first winter’s perspective showed disaster; the following summer presented different picture.

My new work assignment included periodicals and special collections, which included the videotape and computer software collections.  The latter proved the most important part of the “special collections;” and it grew rapidly.  Especially challenging was the development of a networked Macintosh computer lab in the library.  The Macintosh personal computer had just been introduced and I enjoyed the challenge of working in a frontier area.  Providing instruction in the use of word processing and other software, gave me an opportunity to return to the work of helping people again.  I had an opportunity to develop skills in organization, in supervision of student workers, and in software use.  With better hearing aids and improved speech reading (lip-reading) skills, I could understand normal conversation at least with limited background noise.

During the first stages of my hearing loss, I wondered where was the God who promised that “in all things he works for the good.”  (Mt 6:33) Nearly ten years after my initial hearing loss, I accepted a job at another institution that I had wanted for some time.  The computer proficiencies and other skills I had developed in doing the unwanted job helped me get the new job.  I began to see that I made my complaints about my hearing loss during the first winter of God’s time.  Still in difficult times I am inclined to see the first winter’s bare, brown scar.  The Spirit nudges me to see the ribbon of lush, green, mint spreading the length of the garden.

Rev.  November 15, 1998


Postscript October 2017:  It is now nearly thirty-five years since the “disaster”. Thinking about the “good side/bad side” of the “disaster”, I remember that there were weeds to be pulled out of the mint scattered along the utility ditch scar.  It was a problem to mow around/along the mint strip. I was continued to experiencing hearing loss until I was deaf. I received a cochlear implant in 2008.   But, I had developed new computer skills, periodicals management skills, and gained confidence in my ability to adjust to new situations.  The computer skills are finding new uses.  See the earlier blog “Saving books”.  God has provided in many ways.