Tag Archives: quiet

Focus, Breathe, Listen

Sorry I’ve been so hit or miss this year. I could easily pull the “I’m so busy” excuse, but the truth is, writing has always been a priority for me, and if it’s not happening, than something besides busyness is going on in my life.

As for the last two months (some might say last four?), I’m not exactly sure what that is, except that today it feels like I might finally be pulling out of it. Nothing has changed. I still have all of my commitments and potential distractions, but I sense a pattern emerging.

That, and I am learning a truth. For at least the last two months people have been telling me how they have so much filling their lives – school, activities, obligations, relationships – and yet, if they rest in God, if they focus on Him, if they give Him a bit of time each day, it all gets done in a comparatively unharried manner.

Honestly, I didn’t pay much attention the first, I’m sure twenty, times I heard this. I mean, it’s something you hear a lot of as a Christian.

“Focus on God; He makes all things better.”
“Give God your time.”
“Tithe your time too.”
“Are you doing your devotions? They’re critical you know.”

The thing is, traditional devotions have never done anything more me except make me antsy and feel guilty that I’m not having amazing, huge revelations. And so I’d spend time with God in my own way. Like, journaling when I needed to vent to Him. Or praying in the car on the way to any one of the many places I travel in a week.

But, the thing is, I need to be more intentional than that. I need to sit down, expectant that God is going to meet me in whatever fashion He desires. I need to quiet my mind and just listen. Sure, having a Bible nearby is a good idea, but having my journal near by or my ipod with music is just as important. And I need to be still. I need to remind myself that He really is my first Love. I need to treat Him like that instead of just taking Him for granted.

I need Him to be first, my motivation.

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In the Still Of The Morning

Morning Reflection by the Lake

 

This last Sunday I was up early, and so had the time to sit out in the backyard, drink tea, and just soak in the early morning sun, the fresh air, the bird songs, and the general quiet.  I never seem to do that sort of thing enough, and yet when I do, I am always aware that I need to be doing it on a much more consistent basis, and just how very good it is for my mental and spiritual health.

When I am quiet, still, and listening, when I am purposefully spending quality, enjoyable time with my savior, there is something deep within me that awakens.  I am healthier.  I am bolder.  I am gentler.  I am more patient.  I am so much more aware of the needs of those around me, and so much more willing (and able) to enter into that need and minister as I may.

So, I guess that’s my challenge for you and for me this summer.  Regularly spend quiet time*  with the one who created you, with the one who loves you better than anyone else, the one who knows you better than anyone else, the one who stretches and protects you.  Spend time listening to Him, quiet in His presence.  See where He takes you, what He does in you!

* By quiet time, I do not mean spending 30 minutes reading the Bible.  Do that too if you want, and certainly have it nearby, with, perhaps a journal, but spend the time simply being quiet, praying with words only if you must, and listening. 

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Sugar and Noise

I did not grow up with Lent.  In fact, I’m not sure I even knew what “giving something up for Lent” meant until I read the story of the Von Trapp Family Singers (the family Sound of Music was based on).  Maria gave up sweets, or maybe it was just chocolate, for Lent.  And I read that book sometime in early high school I think.
Lent was something “those Catholics” did.  Not something us enlightened and freed from the law Protestants participated in.  I had a lot to learn.
In college I heard a lot about different takes on Lent – all from Protestant Christian types.  They talked about using the Lenten season to re-connect with God, to re-focus.  And so they suggested ADDING something to our lives.  Like focusing on a sense of gratitude during Lent, or taking 30 minutes out of our day to spend quietly before the Lord, and many other cool ideas.
At that time, I didn’t care enough.  The first time I can remember giving something up for Lent was when I was in Bahrain.  The girls I taught with and I gave up chocolate….sorta…kinda…maybe.  I tried anyway.  About three years ago I wanted to participate in this season, but knew I needed to keep it do-able.  So, I turned off the radio in my car and didn’t turn it back on until after Easter.  I tried to use the time to pray, but often became convicted of how easily my thoughts wander.  But somehow, the quiet is good for me, even if my thoughts don’t stay focused in prayer.  So it’s become a tradition during Lent.
This year is interesting, because while I’ve always driven a lot, I am driving like three or four times the distance than I have been, due to how far away the Seminary is from my home.  And so I live in silence for at least an hour a day…or relative, busy-road silence anyway.  And I cannot tell you how good that has been for my soul!
Noise adds so much clutter to our lives.  It often does an amazing job of cancelling out God’s voice in our lives.  And I haven’t done any studies on the subject, but I bet minds that have quiet as part of their daily routine are incredibly healthier than those that are constantly bombarded by music and noise.
But I also added something this year, mostly because the idea that the idea that my body is God’s temple, and so I need to take care of it as such, has been niggling at the back of my mind for months now.   Not that I have been abusing my body, per se.  At least, not anymore than the normal American.  But I do eat way more sugar than my body needs, and, indeed, over the last four months or so, I’ve come to notice how dependent I am on it.  Whenever I’d get stressed or tired or wanted to write or stay awake during class, I suddenly craved chocolate, or doughnuts or a mocha, or maybe ice cream.  If I was hungry for a snack, I’d grab something sweet.
A desire for dependency on God and not myself or things in my life has been growing.   So, with that two-fold goal of treating my body with better respect and with wanting to be more dependent on God during my times of stress and tiredness, I decided to give up sugar – to the best of my abilities.  I’m pretty sure to completely go off of refined sugar I’d have to only eat meat, veggies and fruits.  And I’m not going that extreme.  But I’m giving up everything that I can that I know has sugar in it.  AND IT’S CRAZY HOW MUCH DDOES!!!!
And while I do have sugar cravings every now and then (and fully expect them to get worse), it’s good.  I can’t say I’ve noticed any major difference in my body, but I no longer beat myself up for eating sugar.  And really, at least for now, that’s not the point.
But the coolest part of giving up sugar, is how present God is in my thoughts these days.  When I choose to eat a certain way that is radically different than how I was eating, then everything I put in my mouth is suddenly a very conscious choice…which reminds me of God, of His love, and who He is.   And what He’s done for me.  Which is the point of this season.
And that is worth it.
So, take some time this Lenten season (so, from now until Easter, April 20th) to remember God.  To be silent and listen.   And maybe, if you’re brave, ask yourself what you’re depending on instead of Christ.

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Stop and watch the leaves

DSCN4566

I am crazy busy right now.  Midterms are in two weeks, but because of papers and other projects and youth group stuff and friends, I haven’t even really begun to start studying.  That will change this evening.

I’m not complaining about my life.  I’m enjoying every second of it – maybe more than I have in years.  I love my classes.  I love my friends and where our relationships are right now.  I love my beautiful teen women and can see God doing so much in them.

But I am busy.  Granted, I am always busy, generally, but this is more than normal.  I’m having to schedule things that I normally don’t schedule.  I don’t see my friends as much as I’d like to.  And any ability to just drop things and go do something because I have time to do what I was going to do now, later – is just gone.

And, to be honest, I hate that part.  I feel like I’m running in circles.  I’m actually pretty worried about falling behind and never being able to get back on top of everything.  It’s not good.

It’s in moments like this – moments of chaos and uncertainty  – it is these moments that surround the verse in Psalms 46 – when God commands us to “be still”.  Now, sometime in the future I fully intend on doing a study on that word and verse, but for now, simply knowing “be still” is enough.

Granted, I can’t really “be still” right now.  Not physically.  But my spirit can be.  My spirit can abide in Christ, and trust that He’s got my back, that’s He’s protecting me and working in me through all the crazy stuff that is my life right now.   The problem is, I’m not any good at that.  So, I get to work on it.  Which is okay; He has definitely given me the perfect setting to do just that!

Especially when He helps you.  For me, there is nothing like a calm, peaceful Autumn afternoon, hanging out by running water, taking pictures of the beauty around me.  There is very little like a good conversation with a close friend, to remind me to abide.  To slow me down.  To give my soul room to sigh, smile, and bask in His goodness.

Which is exactly what He did for me Saturday afternoon.  Sometimes He hijacks what you think you’re doing, and you discover He’s done so much you didn’t expect.

So, look for your moments, your things He has given you that remind you to slow down.  Those things that give you peace.   Those activities that revitalize you.  And remember to breathe, to smile,  and just look around you.  The Earth, especially this time of year, is gorgeous.  It’s a great reminder.

 

Psalm 46: 9 – 11
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our fortress.    Selah

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