Silence

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I found this in my “drafts” folder today. To be honest, I have no idea how long it has been sitting there.  Probably at least a year (the photos is from this morning though!)  But I liked it.  And it still rings true for me.  Perhaps more than ever, and so I thought I’d hit “publish” today.  May you find space for silence today, as you go about whatever your day brings!

For the last year, the Lord has been teaching me of the value and need for silence in my life. This is a concept I have struggled with over the years (despite being an introvert!) and I tend to lean towards filling my space with sounds, talking or music.

There are many reasons for avoiding silence. It seems that our contemporary society is uncomfortable with silence, and longs to avoid it. Silence makes us anxious.  We fill it with music, incessant talking, the radio or even the social media just to avoid being alone with our thoughts.  Perhaps we don’t know the value of silence, and haven’t had the opportunity to practice it in the context of our lives.

But, my friends, maybe silence is something that we need to lean into. No matter how awkward and uncomfortable it is, no matter how odd we feel practicing it.  Because there is value in practicing silence, particularly in our noisy, busy, over stimulating world.  Silence is where we are truly able to hear God’s voice, the gentle whispers that speak directly to our hearts in ways that no audible words ever can.

Dallas Willard writes (in the introduction to Ruth Hayley Barton’s “Invitation to Silence and Solitude”) “Solitude and silence are the most radical of the spiritual disciplines because they most directly attack the sources of human misery and wrongdoing. To be in solitude is to choose to do nothing for extensive periods of time. All accomplishment is given up. Silence is required to complete solitude, for until we enter quietness, the word still lays hold of us. When we go into solitude and silence we stop making demands on God. It is enough that God is God and we are his. We learn we have a soul, that God is here, that this world is “my Fathers world”.

I don’t know about you, but choosing to do nothing can be hard for me at times. I feel like a slacker. I feel like someone is going to judge me and call me lazy. And the biggest hurdle I face is the fact that I feel like I should be doing more. I often don’t even know what “more” would look like, but just more than sitting still and being in silence.

My spiritual director reminds me that often the spiritual disciplines we feel the least like doing are the ones our soul needs the most. So I have been pressing into silence. Sitting in the uncomfortable, awkward moments, setting aside my agenda and my lists, and waiting. Waiting to hear from the Lord. Some days this time feels rich and meaningful, and on others it feels awkward and contrived. But I keep trying. I remind myself that an important aspect of practicing silence, is simply showing up, and making space for God to speak and move.

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

~ 1 Kings 19:11-13 NIV ~

 

Below is an excerpt from the Book “Invitation to Solitude and Silence” by Ruth Hayley Barton (pages 106 & 107).

As you enter into silence today, take several deep breaths as a way of settling into these moments and becoming aware of God’s presence with you- closer to you than your breath.

When you feel ready, hear God ask you the question he asked Elijah, What are you doing here, ­­­­­­____________________?  Sit quietly with the question, allowing it to penetrate all the way to the core of your being.

Allow your response to this question to emerge from your heart without trying to edit it. You may want to write your response in your journal, you may want to respond with spoken words or you may need to just experience the emotion that comes. The point is to communicate with God as honestly as you can about what is drawing you deeper and deeper into solitude right now.   It may be serious and weighty, but it doesn’t have to be…

For right now, let it be enough to say what is true about you and then just wait in God’s presence.

 

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The Helmet of Salvation

 

I’ve been pondering the concept of “The helmet of salvation” for a few weeks now, and have had a hard time wrapping my head around the whole idea. How can Salvation be a helmet? What’s Paul getting at here? How does this apply to my life today?

The helmet of salvation is the second last piece of armor Paul instructs us to put on for battle and it has an important job. As anyone who plays sports such as hockey or football knows, a helmet is a vital piece of equipment, protecting not only one’s face, but also the entire head; in effect protecting the brain, and the mind. A blow to the head, or a concussion, can have serious long-term consequences.

If you’ve ever had a concussion or a migraine (or even a headache for that matter!), you’ll know that the pain that occurs in your head makes it very hard to think, or to process things clearly. Research shows that when one has a migraine, it not only affects the body, but also the emotions. It is easy to doubt oneself, to second guess what we are thinking and feeling about what is going on in our lives and our hearts. Before we know it, we are caught in the grips of anxiety, doubt and fearfulness. When we experience these feelings we begin to doubt God’s promises for us. Our Salvation saves us from danger, from sin, from attitudes and ways the world thinks and ultimate death and separation from God.

The Helmet of salvation can act as a protection for our mind and helps to keep the doubts Satan throws our way at bay. Knowing that our Salvation comes from God can be a grounding point for us within the hard times and can bring focus and clarity to our minds and hearts. If we put our Salvation on as a helmet, it protects us from undermining the power of God in our lives. If we act out of our fears and anxieties, we aren’t able to live in the confident hope that we are saved and that we will continue to be saved. Our helmet of salvation allows us to live differently from the world, separate from patterns and beliefs that the world pushes upon us.

In Romans 5:3-5 we read, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”

Spend some time today reflecting on today’s scripture passages. If you need some food for thought, consider these questions:

  • What does the helmet of Salvation protect me from personally?
  • What does my helmet look like?
  • How can I strengthen my “confident hope of salvation”?
  • How is God calling me to share this piece of armor with those around me?

 

River

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In the last several weeks, I have been drawn to the Red River that runs through Winnipeg. I have no idea why, or the significance of that (if any?) but I have found myself ending up on the banks of the river a lot as I go for my walks.

While a river might have harsh connotations, raging, rushing and flooding the land around it, I am also drawn to it’s gentleness. It’s a slow, measured, meandering path that it takes, continually heading north, winding back and forth, creating many hairpin curves on its route. Eventually it runs into Lake Winnipeg and then into the Hudson Bay.

A river can cut through rock, not by flooding the land it meets and expressing it’s greatness and power, but through it’s gentle persistence. Continually running past rocks and soil. Time after time, slowly wearing down thousands of years of nature. Bit by tiny bit.

Our gentleness can be like that. Slowly wearing down our rough edges so gradually that we don’t always see the difference in ourselves until we look back to see where we have been, and who we have been.

God’s gentleness is like the river. Working in us first, pouring into us frist, filling us like a river fills a lake. And then, the most beautiful thing happens, the lake fills up and continues to pour out. Our gentleness begins to pour out of us and begins to change those around us. Changing their lives, and filling more lives in the process.

Rivers. Gentleness. God’s love.

“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” Philippians 4:5

How has the gentleness of someone affected your life?
In what ways is God calling you into gentleness today?

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Great is Thy Faithfulness

As I have prayed and reflected about writing this post all week, the only thing that has come to me, continually, is the old hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness”. And so, we are going to embrace that today.

If you have five minutes today, I would encourage you to listen to Great is Thy Faithfulness

 

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father;

there is no shadow of turning with thee;

thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;

as thou hast been thou forever will be.

Refrain:

Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning new mercies I see;

all I have needed thy hand hath provided;

great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

 

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,

sun, moon and stars in their courses above

join with all nature in manifold witness

to thy great faithfulness, mercy and love. Refrain

 

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth

thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide;

strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,

blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! Refrain.

Words: Thomas O. Chisholm  Music: William M. Runyan  Words & Music © 1923, Ren. 1951 by Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188.

Sit back and close your eyes. Let the music surround you. After you listen to the song, I encourage you to reflect and pray about the following questions.

  • How have you experienced God’s faithfulness in your life?
  • How have you experienced a pardon for sin and peace that endureth?
  • How does God’s faithfulness give you strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow?
  • How are you able to share God’s faithfulness in your life with those around you?

 

 

The Goodness of God

As I write this, I am reflecting on the last week of lent and the passion week and I can’t help but be in wonder and awe at the Goodness of God’s plan. During times when I might doubt God’s goodness and sovereignty, I need to remind myself, that God has always come through for me. Even when it has been hard for me to see God’s plan at the time, God’s plan has always worked out better than I could ever have imagined.

Most of us have probably heard the cliché church phrase “God is good, all the time” to which another responds “All the time, God is good”. Looking back in my life, I am truly able to say that I am grateful for some things that have happened in my life, bumps in the road, twists and turns that I would never have seen on the map. Even though they were not what I expected or even wanted at the time. Now I am able to look back at the goodness of God, but can I truly speak of God’s goodness, even before I see how things turn out?

Our lives and our world are messy. There’s a lot of sadness, brokenness and pain, and it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed by this. There are countless stories in the Old Testament that illustrate this and remind us that God’s plans take time. The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years, waiting to enter into the Promised Land. Abraham and Sarah waiting for God to fulfill the promise that they would have more descendants than the stars in the sky. And nearly 400 years of waiting for the messiah that they were promised as proof of God’s goodness and plan of hope and life for them

And then the messiah arrived, giving us the ultimate example of God’s goodness and love for us, and he was called Jesus! And he grew up, and became a teacher, and spread God’s message to everyone who would listen, and things looked brighter, and hopeful again. And then the unthinkable happened and life and the world got messy again. God’s plan took a twist once again and got messy. God’s son, this man who was so well-loved by many, was not loved by all and God’s goodness was again put into question when his son was to be sacrificed on a cross.

God intended for good to overcome the sadness and darkness of our world. For goodness to bring hope, and peace. We know from scripture that even though Jesus was willing to sacrifice his own life for us, he struggled with God’s goodness and prayed in Gethsemane “My father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done” (Matthew 26:42), and again later on the cross he cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And yet, he followed God’s plan for ultimate redemption; giving his life, for ours.

I think it is only natural to wonder and question what is going on in our lives, and even experience some doubts. But more importantly we need to remember that in the darkest moments of our lives, the goodness of God can and will shine through if we are looking for it. The darkest of nights will always give way to the rising sun. The darkness and stench of Good Fridays grisly picture is turned on its head and gives way to the light and life of Resurrection Sunday. Always. God’s goodness always comes through for us; we only need to turn our eyes towards God.