"Blessed is she, who has believed, that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished." Luke 1:45

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Trusting in the silence


"Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."
Hebrews 11:11

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding."
Proverbs 3:5

We all go through times when God appears silent. It seems as if He hasn't anything comforting to share.  No guidance. Not even a suggestion or a preference is shared. It is just silent.

After a few weeks, we start to get snippy with the kids. Little things that used to mean nothing now grate along our last good, but raw, nerve.

Our spouse can’t manage to get a single thing right, no matter how hard they try, because their ESP isn’t working correctly and that just annoys us to no end.

We start to compare our friends walk with God to ours, and find ours lacking. And a little envy begins.

God is silent and then we get angry that He is letting this happen.

But is he?

God’s Word never changes. It is a Living Word. He shares it with us every time we choose to open it. He speaks it every time we seek to apply it. He encourages and comforts through it.

Sometimes we forget that and allow the world to speak a little louder than God’s silence. Food starts to offer the comfort we seek. That flirty comment from the man at the gas station begins to feed our need to feel special and noticed. The guard comes off our mouth, our thoughts and our actions. Nothing is our fault and no one understands.

We use the term silent, but God never stops speaking to us. We may just not be listening in the right place. We might not feel that warm-fuzzy that we seek. All to often we say that God is silent and want him to speak, when really we just want him to make us feel better, take away the work of the struggle, or make life easier. But sometimes God speaks by saying: You say you have faith in me. Let’s try it out a little. What will you do if you have to trust me to be there, instead of knowing I am there.

Knowing and trusting are two different things. And if we always know God is there, we can’t trust him to be. That might seem to not make sense because we know that God is always there, right?

But do we really act like it? He is there even when things aren’t going our way. When we are struggling with something. When our feelings get hurt. When we get sick. When our spouse hurts us and our kids walk away. But if God isn’t loudly speaking to our heart, do we begin to doubt that he is really there this time? It is those times when God “goes silent” that he is watching to see if we will continue to stretch and search for him, even when it seems he isn’t there.

If you feel like God isn’t speaking to you right now, consider what you are listening for.  God might be asking you to grow your faith while you are asking him to hand you comfort wrapped in a pretty bow. If this is the case, search him out.  Trust that He will continue to guide and lead you through his Word; through those prayers that seem to bounce off the ceiling (they don’t by the way. He hears every word.) He will be found in the praise music you sing a little louder, and the friend that says she stopped by just to chat.

God isn’t silent. God is growing you. Trust him enough to have a little faith.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Enough when it wasn't obvious

Many, many hours of my thought life and prayer life are taken up with the fear that I am not doing all I should to show my children how to love Christ. I always replay the day and see about a hundred ways I could have been more compassionate, showed patience, been generous, been a better spiritual leader. And on and on and on….

I tend to focus on what I have or haven’t done, and therefore completely miss what God is doing right in front of me.

As the Mom of a pre-teen boy, I understand that there are layers to him that I will never see; but for some reason I never thought one of those layers would be his relationship with God. If it hasn’t been obvious, I have assumed it wasn’t present at all.

Until dinner.

Recently I had talked to our son about praying more varied prayers, instead of the same words over and over. We talked about  sharing a concern or praise for God that had happened that day, that way he wouldn’t be stuck in a prayer routine that was more habit than anything else. Following this conversation I have noticed him making an effort to have something new every night at dinner.  This has been great as he would pray for things I didn’t know were especially concerning for him, which helps me know how to better pray for him.
A few days ago, he prayed for help in a specific area. One he has struggled with for years but this was the first time I had heard him petitioning God for strength and guidance in that area.

That’s when it hit me.

My son’s prayer life is growing right in front of me. A little more each day he shares new things with God.
In that moment I realized God wanted me to see that. He was giving me a glimpse of what He was doing in my son’s life, and he was using me to encourage and guide it. It wasn’t something big, or extravagant, but something vital. Something in the quiet of my son’s heart.  Something he was using me to help my son understand. Through God I had been enough even when it wasn't obvious. Thank God!!

I haven’t been focusing so many hours on my fear anymore. Those few little words prayed at dinner helped me to remember that God is much more concerned with my son’s spiritual growth, and he is working all the time to make sure my son is getting what he needs to grow into a wonderful man of faith.

If you struggle with feeling like you just haven’t been enough when it comes to modeling and teaching a spiritual life, I would like to encourage you to be intentional about observing your children. By looking for them, you might find some small, quiet qualities that have escaped your notice.  And if you happen to see something that you feel you need to address, well, that is God working through you too. Don't miss the opportunity God shows you.

Be confident in God’s working;   As the following verses tell us, God gives strength and power to all of His children, including yours and mine today. Even when we miss it.

“Praise be to you, LORD,
   the God of our father Israel,
   from everlasting to everlasting.
 Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power
   and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
   for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, LORD, is the kingdom;
   you are exalted as head over all.
 Wealth and honor come from you;
   you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power
   to exalt and give strength to all.
Now, our God, we give you thanks,
   and praise your glorious name.”
1 Chronicles 29:10-13

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Perspective in the desert

It doesn’t take long to forget where we come from, does it? The first time we come up against struggle, or things don’t work in our time frame, then we instantly start finding excuses to go back, to grumble about our present, to lose faith in what we know to be true.


“The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”
Exodus 16:1-3

The Israelites had seen, felt, heard and experienced God’s divine hand in their lives in a very intimate way. They not only had faith, but they were lucky enough to have seen God’s working in amazing ways. I mean, they crossed in-between the Red Sea! They watched God roll it back, they travelled through it, they watched the waters come back together and destroy every last man in the enemy army that chased them.

The Lord even appeared before them as a pillar of cloud or column of flame. He left no doubt where they were supposed to go and when. He literally was walking them through the desert to the Promised Land.

But God wasn’t working in the way they decided he should, or in the time frame that was most convenient for them. They let his wonders and provisions take a back seat to their desires and plans.

And their ability to see the trust got twisted.

Instead of having an attitude of praise and a heart of worship, they focused instead on the things that they wanted. All of a sudden, God’s way seemed too hard.  The Israelites began to Long for the “good ‘ol days” of slavery. Not even two months into their journey and they wanted to go back! From: "We don’t like slavery, get us out"! to: "Uh oh, this desert is hot and there is lots of walking. We don’t like journeying in the desert; we wish to be slaves again"!

We can read these verses and laugh in disbelief at the craziness of the Israelites thinking. We can mutter about the foolishness of these chosen people; rescued, led, provided for and loved by God. But do we stop to find the meaning of what God has for us?

How many times have we started a ministry only to turn around a few months later and complain about the time, energy and difficulties we face?

How often do we pray for an answer to a struggle or doubt, and then give up when we don’t get our answer in 48 hours or less?

Have you ever prayed for a change in your situation, and then complained when it happened?

It is easy to wish for what was. Sometimes we even want to go back to a situation that isn’t for our best-simply because we don’t like the new challenges or struggles. Better the evil we know…. But that isn’t true.  That is one of Satan’s best tools.  And sometimes we just want to sit down in the middle of the desert and give up on pressing on. “What’s the point?” we ask.

God would never put us in a situation that wouldn’t grow us, teach us, strengthen us and encourage us. He never asks us to go back, but he also never promises that things will be easy. Or fair. Or happy.  But he does promise to show us the way he wants us to go, to provide for us, and even in the middle of the worst of it all, we will know joy because we know Him.

“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
Psalm 16:11

If you feel you are in the desert, and that it would just be better to give up and go back, don’t let Satan fool you! What was behind isn’t nearly as amazing as what God has planned for you! The incomparable Apostle Paul said it much better than I ever could:

“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:10-14


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Chasing Connection


I twitter. Or Tweet. Or whatever.

I post to my wall.

I update my blog.

I text.

I email.

That is about all I am willing to do. Sometimes that seems to be way too much.

How much time should we spend chasing connection via digital communication? What is it about a little flag, or envelope, or whatever, that has a number next to it to indicate we have a message that gives us a thrill that genuine face-to-face, flesh-to-flesh connection doesn't seem to have anymore?

I have a friend whom I used to send little hand-noted cards and letters written in long-hand. Now we blip away via digital communication. We used to say the highlight of our week was getting some non-bill mail. You know, the kind of mail that isn't asking for money?

I can't remember the last time I sent her something personal.

Could our need to chase connection through digital means also be a reflection of our general lack of manners and consideration nowadays?

We don't have to have to be polite anymore. Most texts don't start:

Dear Barbara,
How are you? It's been too long since I heard from you! How are the girls?

No, now when we need to talk to someone, we can text them:

u get ur copy of meeting notes? Txt me outline pt #2? missed it. THX!

What?? What is that?

And we don't call people anymore. No time for that. We shoot them an email that looks like this:

Hey!Gonna have a get-together at my house on the 22nd. Prolly around 5:30 or so. You in? Bring the kiddos and your YUM brownies!

Yeah, that feels really personal and warm.

And yet, with all the lightening fast connection why do we tend to feel more alone than ever?

I actually saw a post on Facebook that said they wished real life were more like Facebook. It was so much friendlier there.

That is just sad my friends.

Now, before you point out the obvious, yes I am posting this in a blog.

Ah hum.

I realize the irony. But I also have always committed to writing about things that I see, things that influence me and things that make me think. Do I get my booty kicked right alongside those of you who read my little bloggy thoughts and agree? Sure I do. I can't write about what I haven't experienced!

So, how do we quit chasing connection and actually connect?

Go to the store. Buy a datebook and some really cute cards or stationary. Disconnect from all the electronics and start connecting again. Call a friend and schedule an actual date. Meet for coffee. Get ice cream and sit at the park watching the kids play while you catch up. Go on a double date with another couple you haven't seen in awhile. Send a card of encouragement and a long handwritten letter to your friend who lives a state away but knows you like no other.

Connect.

Loneliness is a plague these days. In a digital age that makes us think we are connected, It sits inside our computers and phones and masquerades as relationships, but as soon as we click the log-off button, we are as lonely as ever. Take some steps today to get back to real relationships.

And if you are like me, then you can blog about your experience. Or post. Or tweet. Or whatever.  

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A quick observation

I was in Nashville over the weekend and I observed something quite interesting.

Tucked all around where I was were little bits and pieces of beauty. Quiet little spots to look at nature and relax in the shade while you could sit and watch the world. Little spaces dedicated to green, to nature, to beauty.

No one was there.

Broadway is a busy rush of humanity. Pushing, shopping, partying. There was loud music blaring every twenty feet, bright lights flashing, overpriced food, overpriced drinks, cheap items selling high.

All those people on vacation, in a hurry to cram as much “relaxation” in as they could; hurried past those quiet little spots of rest.

When did we decide that relaxing meant shopping? That vacation meant the hustle and bustle of loud, bright and garish?

Isn't that how we spend our lives anymore? Hurrying from one thing we think we want to another, going so fast we miss all the little bits of beauty that are designed to inspire us along the way?

These observations have flowed over into my day-to-day life as well. How often do I get up with a list of things to get done, and completely miss all those little moments that could have been memories?

The hustle and bustle of laundry and cleaning, the hurrying from one errand to the next, the frustrations of customer service calls. I walk right past the pile of crayons and paper, the swing hanging under the tree, the pretty note cards I bought to send to friends, the pile of blankets that can instantly become a fort.

My little vacation was restful and enjoyable. I made a point for it to be so. But it also re-affirmed to me that I create more stress for myself than I think I do. I can also make a point for my normal day-to-day to be enjoyable as well. It takes only a little bit of intentionality, and a whole lot of slowing down.

What is one thing that you wish you had time to do? One thing that you want to take from a missed moment to a cherished memory?

Find a way to make it happen. Let the quiet spots become something you seek with purpose. Be intentional about enjoying the day you are given.