I’ve tried a few times today to write this blog & found myself relatively speechless – an unusual experience for sure ,)
Obviously, something happened because I’m writing now. Actually, nothing happened, except that I remembered Job’s friends. Whenever I read this book, I’m not just a little disappointed or pt off with his buddies. Their words seem harsh, condemning & altogether insensitive. Indeed, the last verse of Job 2 seems to be the high point of their contribution to consoling Job. In this verse it says, “Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.”
Sometimes the best thing we can do for a friend who is suffering is just to quietly be present with them. Sometimes our words can be unhelpful, particularly when we don’t know what to say. Sometimes, silence is golden 🙂
It seems of late that I’m always going somewhere – AZ, CA, NC, PA etc & it feels like I’m in perpetual motion. This is good because I get to share about the daily & supernatural presence of the Holy Spirit. On the other side, I find myself desiring that peace from being still & knowing that God is. With all of the traveling & stresses of work, home, schedules, family etc, we would be wise to learn about carrying peace on the inside. In Job 20:20 it says, “Because he knew no quiet within him, he does not retain anything he desires.”
Here are some ideas about carrying some quiet in our heads wherever we go:
remember to give your anxieties to God
turn to God as a habit & not just in overwhelm mode
let those unexpected cancelled events give you some pause space – don’t fill your schedule to the gills
life has seasons, ebb & flow & we would be wise to go with the flow
it helps me, on occasion, to sit in my car for a few minutes, with no phone or music & just be still
Sometimes people treat “alone” like a disease that needs a vaccination or a dysfunction that requires a remedy. We tend to fill our minds with music, social media, events, appointments, text messages, books, entertainment and anything we can conveniently grasp to immunize us from this “scary” state of being alone and quiet. It’s a conundrum to me that we’ll tolerate zombies, vampires, ghosts & spooky Halloween stuff with a lite comic wink but what shivers our spine & tweaks our nerves is solitude & the thought of being alone.
Yet being alone is an important ingredient for being human. Consider some of the incredible outcomes Jesus experienced from being alone:
Jesus’ testing in Matthew 4 was initiated by the Holy Spirit leading Him into the wilderness – He came out of that experience with anointing & power.
Jesus went up on a mountain by Himself to pray through the night – when He came down, He chose His 12 disciples who perpetuated Jesus’ ministry.
Gethsemane was an alone time for Jesus – He surrendered His will so that we could live in reconciliation with God
I get that we aren’t Jesus, but maybe some of the things we most desperately need come from what we most ardently avoid 🙂
Christmas is a wonderful time of the year when we celebrate lots of things & in lots of ways. We lavishly spend time, money, people interactions, parties, etc and revel in the celebrations of the season, opulence and abundance. Then there’s the day after, today, when we might be groggy, overstuffed and possibly fatigued. On this day, I find my heart longing to recover a sense of balance, desiring some still and quiet, centering into what’s really important, the One Thing that Jesus spoke about with Martha at her dinner party in Luke 10:42. Sometimes it helps us regain our core when we sit at Jesus’ feet like Mary, waiting, listening, watching and paying attention to Who is the most Essential in our lives, Jesus 🙂
Recently, I’ve had some experiences that have been really tricky: conversation I didn’t agree with, uncomfortable situations that made me feel insecure, topics being discussed that are WAY outside of anything I know about, etc. As I’ve been in these situations, it’s been difficult for me to figure out what to do or say because there didn’t seem to be any easy or obvious solutions, answers or escape routes. In the past, I’ve found myself saying stupid stuff, or just withdrawing to a wall flower status & getting internally frustrated.
But I think I’ve found some help with these types of problems: quiet prayer. In the last few days as I’ve been in these challenges, I’ve stayed quiet, but quietly in my heart asked God for help and that’s exactly what’s happened. God has answered my quiet prayers in several different ways by giving me:
insight & wisdom into the situations & conversations
patience & strength not to say something stupid or that I’d later regret
discernment on how God was leading the discussion or situation
awareness that God has purposes for stuff that doesn’t always make me feel good
There’s a boatload of value in long & loud prayers, but also in short & quiet prayers: the full truth is that prayer is very good 🙂
I was reading in Job this morning & I read a verse about when God is silent. This kind of started me thinking about the times when God doesn’t seem to be talking. These times can be really frustrating or let me suggest that these times can be really rich in getting to know God better. Here are some things that could really help you in those times / seasons when God seems silent:
*sometimes God may seem quiet because we don’t give Them (Trinity) the chance to speak – we do all the talking
*for me, I know that God is sometimes quiet, because They (Trinity) are waiting for me to talk
*sometimes I think God is quiet because They want us to lean in & get closer
*sometimes quiet can be an indication of displeasure – is there something I’ve done or said that has been displeasing to God that I need to adjust? This can be a good exploratory question with God
*quiet in a relationship can be an indication of closeness & intimacy: I feel comfortable being quiet with some of my closest friends
I find that my world has lots of noise and not just from the radio, TV or my kids having fun. There just seems to be lots of noise, even in my thinking. The noise in my brain might be similar to yours: tasks I haven’t finished, people that I’m concerned about, issues I need to discuss with my husband, work things to get through, planning my dinners for the next week, topics I need to talk about with each of my kids, the brake light & head light on my car that need to be replaced, . . . . . Just lots of things flying around in my brain, probably just like yours. But these things can become annoying if I don’t take some time to get quiet and be still. Initially, when I try to settle down my thoughts, they only seem to get louder & demand more attention. But if I stay with it, pressing in to being still and quiet, I can often find some quietness and I love these moments because it seems like these are the times when my fellowship with Jesus is very rich. So, maybe we could agree to take some time this weekend to get quiet and be still – listening to Jesus and giving Him our presence and attention. The effort can pay indescribable dividends! 🙂
I just read in the Bible this morning about Elijah in a cave hearing a MASSIVE windstorm, feeling an earthquake & seeing an unexplainable fire – all things that would TOTALLY GRAB OUR ATTENTION!!!!! But Elijah didn’t respond to any of these huge & loud cataclysms. But when he heard a small whisper or a faint breeze, that’s when he put on his coat to go outside of his cave & chat with God.
I’d like to be more like Elijah – less reactionary with various cataclysms, attention grabbers and the loudness that can be so prevalent in life. I’d like to be trained to listen, watch and wait for God’s presence and voice, even when its small and quiet. I find that when God’s voice is small and quiet, I tend to get more focused and quiet so that I can hear what He’s saying with greater attention and alertness. Don’t fight the quiet 🙂
I just had the honor of attending a Veterans Day Ceremony at my kid’s school & it was really good. While I was there & on several other occasions, I noticed that people get really squirmy with “silence”. Sometimes when I’m giving a lecture or sermon, I do the silent thing for a few moments to make everyone just slightly jittery – its a little bit of twisted humor on my part. Nevertheless, the point remains that for many of us, we feel very uncomfortable with silence. In order to mitigate this discomfort we play music, talk on the phone, text our friends, hum or talk to ourselves, turn on the tv for background noise, . . . . just about anything to fill in the awkwardness we feel in silence. But there is massive solace, joy & even safety in silence. Mother Teresa said, “God is the friend of silence .”
So here are some thoughts that might help you to feel more comfortable with silence & feel free to add your own ideas as well:
quiet can be more soothing than filler noise
quiet can allow you to work through your thoughts to understand some deeper issues
try getting in 3-5min of quiet in each day (turning off everything & putting your phone on silent)
recognize that silence is an essential ingredient for listening
One of the mentors in my life has this saying, “dignify the trial”. I used to get cranky with him about this idea, but the more I think about it, the more I agree with this idea. When he’s talked w me about dignifying the difficulty, he means that when I’m in a tough situation that I can bring dignity to the challenge, as opposed to making the trial a pity party. Whenever I’m facing a hardship or difficulty, I have a choice to make – I can gripe, moan, worry, complain, fight, argue and other things that could possibly not be constructive. Or I can make the choice to dignify the difficulty. In my mind, that means that I don’t run around, complain, whine advertise my struggle & gripe about it to any listening ear. To dignify the difficulty, that means that I bear up under the struggle, looking to God for strength, wisdom & help. I may chose to share with a person my struggle in a very private way, but I’m not advertising my hardship to gain sympathy, support, pity or commiseration.
I’m exploring this idea in my daily living with some difficulties that you probably face as well & so far, this idea of dignifying the difficulty has been very rewarding in a very personal way. I’m particularly liking the idea of leaning into God for His strength & support, rather than advertising my struggle – this seems to be much more constructive & beneficial 🙂
The last few days have been kind of a whirlwind – traveling to a few cities, lots of driving for end of the season swim parties, ministry opportunities, car challenges, etc. Sometimes when we are in those super busy seasons, it can feel like we’re running on fumes. If we’re not careful, we can get impatient, sharp & dismissive.
It is particularly helpful in these seasons to do our best to keep our eyes on God and we can do this in many different ways:
good worship tunes
reviewing Bible verses that have been helpful
talking with a friend about God
endeavor to find some quiet from time to time
Job 20:20 says, “Because he knew no quiet within him, he does not retain anything he desires”
I feel like I’m the pot calling the kettle black with this blog – guilty as charged & a walking contradiction, maybe even borderline hypocrite. Here’s why: the last 2 weeks have been busy beyond any degree of rational acceptance and now I’m writing a blog about keeping margins in our lives. A margin is the empty space on a page around the written area. There are margins in this blog, in newspapers, books, etc & margins are necessary in our lives.
empty space, pause, still
Sometimes life feels like a treadmill on which the pace continues to increase & the incline just keeps going up – so many demands, expectations, deadlines, responsibilities, requirements, . . . . . Sometimes if we’re not careful, we fill up all of the margins in our lives & then continue to keep the margins full.
However, when I look at Jesus’ life, He was very intentional about keeping margins in His life. Of course He had MASSIVE demands on His time & person – people squashing Him wherever He went trying to get some of His attention, time, power, healing, love, . . . . . and His life only became increasingly popular each day of His ministry. Nevertheless, He carved margins into his lifestyle. He dismissed the crowed after feeding the 5,000. He went off by Himself to pray ALOT. He withdrew with His disciples from time to time to give them some intensive teaching & attention. When He rode in boats, He slept. Jesus modeled margins for us with perfect agility & balance.
Here are some things that help me to keep some margins in my life:
quiet in the car – it helps me to turn off things that beckon for my attention; furthermore, when I’m riding with my kids, I want to be fully present with & to them
keep some rhythms & routines: sleep when its time to sleep, wake up early to have some solitude (or stay up late if you’re a night person), grab the spare minutes in a day to look to God & still your heart
drink water as opposed to soda & coffee – my body already has enough stress on it with out adding caffeine, etc
sitting with my husband or a friend – I don’t need to have a conversation but just some togetherness
I also want to add some Bible memorizing to my margin maintenance so I can give my mind some food on which to nibble when it wants to digest various “worries”
Keep some still in your life if you want to remain effective over the long run 🙂