Grace in Stillness

graceGod says, “Be still and know that I am God. I will be praised in all the nations; I will be praised throughout the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)

Ponder It.

  • How often are you spiritually still?
  • How do you struggle with spiritual stillness?
  • What do you anticipate from God through spiritual stillness?

Receive It. Grace meets us where we are, but we don’t always meet it face-to-face. We skirt around it or walk over it because we’re too busy, or we fail to focus on it in the stillness. As we still ourselves, it seems obvious that we would experience God’s presence, but that’s only the case when we still ourselves in God’s presence. We must be intentional about the stillness of our lives. We often struggle with stillness, because we don’t seem to find the time to be still. We feel guilty because we’re not still often enough or long enough. We see the shortcomings of our stillness. Or sometimes, we’re too still. We refuse to move out of fear. We all need a slight nudge, whether it’s into stillness or out of the wrong kind of stillness.

When we enter stillness in the presence of God, we experience the consistency of his presence, but our experiences will be different. Because God engages in a relationship with us, he works in our lives in a variety of ways. Sometimes we are filled with his presence and grace over a season in our lives. Stillness doesn’t equate inactivity. We can be engaged with the activities of life but find a stillness deep within, where God gives us his peace and grace to sustain and fuel us. Stillness can also be a moment, when we close our eyes to our surroundings and open our hearts to be surrounded by God and his grace. We can be still when the chaos or noise of life surrounds us, and we can be still when nothing but the sights and sounds of nature surround us. Spiritual stillness begins in our hearts and consumes our minds. But spiritual stillness is always teeming with grace.

Live It. Practice being still during a noisy moment in your day. Whether the noise around you is in what you hear, what you see, or what you’re thinking, get still. Focus on God’s presence. Trust him to pour into you in the quiet place of your soul even among the noise of your surroundings. Thank him for his reliable provision despite your circumstances.

The Cost of Waiting

©2015 PurePurpose.org
©2015 PurePurpose.org

My very favorite treat in the Old City of Jerusalem is freshly-squeezed pomegranate juice. Some prefer it mixed, half and half, with orange juice. I like it full strength. Stands are easily found throughout Israel, but to me, there’s something special about the pomegranate juice in the Old City. It’s the first place I had it, and I enjoyed it as often as I could. During my most recent trip, I passed many opportunities the first several days in Israel because I wanted to return to the Old City for my first cup.

It was a relaxed Shabbat morning. The Old City was quiet. Only a few shops were open on David Street, which was bustling only a couple hours later. For now, most the people were shopkeepers, Jews on their way to or from prayer, and a few tourists who were slowly meandering.

11.8.14 Promeganate juice
©2015 PurePurpose.org

There was only one woman in the shop when we arrived, but it took a while to fill her order of a liter of pomegranate juice. The shopkeeper’s son split one pomegranate juice after another in half and squeezed each half tightly under the juicer. Then he began working on ours.

The street quickly filled with a large touring group. As they moved past us, one couple saw the pomegranate juice and slowed down. I’m not sure what language they spoke, but I was confident the woman wanted juice, and the husband tried to quickly get some for her before they were left behind by their group. “Quick” juice wasn’t possible. I motioned for him to take one of mine. My friend and I could wait. After all, I had already been waiting for a long time. A few more minutes just built my anticipation.

11.8.14 Promeganate juice (2)
©2015 PurePurpose.org

It was worth the wait.

It often is.

We don’t like to wait. We think it costs too much. Too much time. Too much preoccupation with the possibilities. Too much anxiety, doubt, questions…and not enough control or satisfaction.

Waiting is more often worth the cost than not.

Not waiting well has costs as well. When we don’t wait well, we likely aren’t prepared to give and receive as God intends. Our preoccupation, impatience, and manipulation rob us of the preparation God knows we need to have when we finally reach “that moment.” And “that moment” is really only one of many moments.

Savor each moment today. Life–faith–is a process.

 

 

Being Resolute in Quiet Time

Job, pay attention and listen to me; be quiet, and I will speak. If you have anything to say, answer me; speak up, because I want to prove you right. But if you have nothing to say, then listen to me; be quiet, and I will teach you wisdom. (Job 33:31-33)

How do you struggle with quietness?

When and where are you able to quiet yourself?

What could you gain by being more quiet?

We’re surrounded by noise and distractions. We can find something to consume our time and minds at any time. Being quiet isn’t a default setting. We must step away from the tendency to look for entertainment. We have to choose to be busy with quietness instead of mayhem. We know God speaks to us in all situations, but it’s often when we quiet ourselves that we most experience his presence and hear his guiding voice. It’s in the quietness that we draw close and are reassured, convicted, and directed. We need to be still. But how?

In order to be still consistently, we must develop the habit of stillness. Stillness isn’t going to crowd its way into our daily routines. We must be intentional about it. Schedule it. Ink it onto the calendar. Start small. One minute today is a great place to start. Try two tomorrow and work your way up to ten. Stay there for a week or so to develop a consistent habit. As you develop the habit, you’ll miss quiet time when you skip or postpone it. Avoid imposing too much structure onto your quiet time. Sit in silence or play soft instrumental music. As your mind begins to wonder, pull your attention back to God by committing to listen. Avoid giving up even when you get frustrated with yourself. Growth requires perseverance.

Set your phone alarm for your quiet time today. Before you begin your quiet time, reset your alarm for one minute, so you can wholeheartedly remain quiet instead of checking the time regularly.

Bliss of Ignorance

I sat beside my husband and watched a young couple exchange vows. The bride and groom are a beautiful couple who have been together for many years. They were happy to have finally reached their wedding day. They looked joyful in the present and anticipatory for the future. I thought of their innocence, their lack of knowledge of the road ahead. And I thought of the journey between my wedding day and where my husband and I are today.

I wasn’t nervous on our wedding day. I was excited and full of expectations. If I’d known to expect the bumps and potholes of the road ahead, I think I’d have been a bit more frightened. Of course, I didn’t think the journey would be smooth. I knew we’d have issues and struggles, but they weren’t specifically identified, so we dealt with them as they came along, and we have a stronger marriage because of it.

Perhaps not knowing everything that’s coming in the near and far future is a blessing.

There’s no way to pass along every nugget of advice to a young couple. Oh, we certainly try. We say, “Just wait until…..!” Or, “You think you have problems now? Well, let me tell you…” Marriage is a daunting enough commitment without hearing discouragement as the foundation is being laid. There’s sound advice we can give young couples. There are some commonalities about commitment, communication, and authenticity we can give to every young couple, but the specific experiences will be their own.

As I watch the bride and groom pour sand from each of their vases into a larger vase, symbolizing the intricate coming together their marriage involves, I thought of the grains of sand. Each grain remains distinct, but it is mixed with other grains in such a way that makes it nearly impossible to completely separate. Separate, but one. Individuals, but a couple.

Someone told me and Tim before we were married that we must take care of three distinct people in our marriage: Tim, me, and us. We would retain some of our individualities in our personalities, interests, and experiences, but we would do life together in a way that should never be separated. I didn’t fully understand the advice until we had to live it out.

The same is true with every bride and groom. They can’t know it all before they’ve experienced it.

I definitely don’t know it all as I’m somewhere in the process of the experience.

I’ve learned a few things along the way. Perhaps something on this list will be helpful to you. Perhaps you have something else to share. Ignorance might be bliss as we begin a journey, but we should certainly learn along the way. As we learn, reflect and grow, let’s remember the lessons we’ve learned and apply them into our marriages, as well as other relationships and experiences.

  • Our backgrounds, experiences, and personalities lead us to react to each other and situations in different ways. And that’s okay. Our differences make our marriage better.
  • Men are different from women in not only the obvious by also many subtle ways. When I assume my husband needs and wants what I need and want, we both get frustrated.
  • Honesty, no matter how difficult at the time, is the only option when facing a situation that might divide our relationship.
  • When one of us is weak in an area, the other one “taking over” isn’t the best option. Complementing each other means coming together where we are and walking together toward a common goal.
  • Dream together. Not “if only we could” dreams that breed discontent but a vision of where we want to go and grow together in our lives.
  • Competition can be fun but it has no place in our roles in marriage: who does what and contributes what. Replace competition with encouragement.
  • Say “I was wrong. You’re right.” as often as possible.
  • Express your love and respect for your spouse as often and in as many ways as possible. Say it. Do it.
  • Build each other up outside of your marriage…in front of your children, spouse’s family, coworkers, etc.
  • Don’t pack your bags. Avoid baggage by not packing any! Choose to face your spouse and resolve an issue or leave it behind. Packing it for later use only gives you a sore back and cranky spirit.
  • Develop a multi-faceted realtionship. Be friends, lovers, co-parents.
  • Foster healthy relationships outside marriage. Women need to hang out and do “girl” stuff.” Men need to hang out and do “guy stuff.”
  • Don’t assume. We can’t read each other’s minds and no matter how sure we are of our spouse’s motivation, it’s always better to ask instead of assume.
  • Expect changes. You’ve (hopefully) grown in the last several years. You’ll continue to grow and change. So will your spouse.
  • Take time for each other. Every day.
  • Clean up each other’s messes. Big stuff and little stuff.
  • Take responsibility. Don’t blame your parents, kids, work, etc. Grow up and own up.
  • Remember it’s not about us. We made a commitment to both ourselves and God. To break one shatters the other.
  • Have hope. When times are tough, hope for better. When times are good, hope for better.

Marriage should be honored by everyone, and husband and wife should keep their marriage pure. Hebrews 13:4

Learn the truth and never reject it.  Get wisdom, self-control, and understanding. Proverbs 23:23

Soaring Adventures

When Mom looked out the kitchen window, she saw us in the second-story barn window. My older sisters held me by my legs and arms, and they swung me back and forth several times before tossing me out the window.

What she couldn’t see was my landing. The garage obscured her view. She charged out the door in a panic, rounded the corner of the garage and…saw the hay truck stacked with straw and me rolling in laughter and delight. What a great day! Mom, on the other hand, didn’t share my joy. She was relieved I was okay, but her initial fright gave her enough momentum to yell at all of us and demand we stop the fun.

Bummer! I was having a blast. It might not have been the safest way to pass the time, but many of the “fun” things we did on the farm weren’t necessarily safe. Some of the most memorable experiences are the adventurous ones. We’re creative through adventures. We learn through adventures. And we often struggle through adventures. Struggling often produces growth.

What’s one adventure that thrilled you?

What’s an adventure that challenged you?

Consider how you grew through each.

Adventures often involve risks and usually involve excitement. Approach today with an anticipation of adventure. Learn. Struggle. Be creative. Make some memories.

Children, come and listen to me. I will teach you to worship the Lord. You must do these things to enjoy life and have many happy days. Psalm 34:11-12