The Rest of Sabbath

128983854_8963f7d9fcAbout a month ago, I had a fuller-than-usual Sunday planned.
I try to set aside as much time as possible on Sundays. It’s not about a legalistic practice for me (although there have been some times in my life that was true). It’s about rest, a retreat, a Sabbath, a set aside time to intentionally steep in God’s presence, letting Him recharge me and prepare me for whatever is next.
But sometimes, I have responsibilities that need my attention on a Sunday. This was one of those days. The commitment took a three-hour block out of the middle of the afternoon, but I had peace about serving. It was important, not just to me, but to others. It was a sacrifice I was willing to make.
I still focused on rest as much as I could every minute that wasn’t scheduled. And at the end of the day, I glanced back and realized the vast amount of rest, reading, and journalling that would normally not fit into a day if I had nothing else scheduled, let along fitting it between this and that.
A Sunday overflowing with Sabbath. Even in the midst of some busyness.
Only God.
He meets us in the chaos when we’re willing to still ourselves.

Our Spoiled Children Prayers

It’s difficult to describe the difference between a spoiled child prayer and a sincere, God-centered prayer. Every example I try to type could be misinterpreted, because all you read are the words. Each of us could repeat or hear the same words but interpret them in different ways. The words we use aren’t as critical as the approach we take. Attitude matters.

When we approach God as a spoiled child, we expect we’ll get what we ask. To a spoiled child, a question is simply a demand in disguise. One Lifescript.com article that identifies seven signs of a spoiled child.

  • Does not understand the word “no.”
  • Confuses wants with needs.
  • Does not follow the rules.
  • Must always have his or her way.
  • Needs to control others.
  • Is easily frustrated.
  • Often feels bored.

I see the spiritual implications of prayer life all over these.

  • “I don’t understand why I didn’t get what I asked for. God says I’ll receive whatever I ask!”
  • “God isn’t meeting my needs.”
  • “Why should I pray if God already knows what I’m going to ask?”
  • “I know God has given this to others. There’s no reason I shouldn’t have it, too.”
  • “What you need to pray is ___________________.”
  • “It’s frustrating to be told to take everything to God and then not feel as if it does any good!”
  • “Prayer gets monotonous. It’s like I’m having the same conversation over and over.”

I’m not saying every person who prayers selfishly has all of these qualities or anyone who has one of these qualities is praying spoiled child prayers. What I know for sure is that I’ve seen some of these signs in my own prayer life at times. What spoiled child and selfish pray-ers  have in common is a lack of maturity. But there’s hope!

A spoiled child doesn’t have to become a spoiled adult. Guidance, discipline, and life experience are strong teachers. The same is true when growing in prayer. Guidance and discipline from others and God’s Word will provide challenges to shape responses and habits. Life experiences, framed in biblical truth, are firm building blocks.

If you pray spoiled child prayers, you need to ask God to teach you how to approach him differently. Ask him to convict you of attitude adjustments. Once you stop throwing your temper tantrum and stand quiet long enough to listen, you might find yourself in a temporary time out, but it will be worth the lesson learned.

Being Resolute in God’s Wait

Wait for the Lord’s help. Be strong and brave, and wait for the Lord’s help. Psalm 27:14

What is the most difficult thing about waiting to you?

When have you recently had to wait for something beyond what you wanted to wait?

When have you benefitted from a waiting period?

Waiting isn’t easy. It’s something we’re being taught more and more that we don’t have to tolerate. If there are more than three people in a checkout line, another cashier is summoned. If our internet or phone connections are slow, we can upgrade. Movies are available on demand. We can record television shows to watch at our leisure. Books are delivered to our e-readers in an instant. Waiting isn’t easy because we don’t exercise our waiting muscles.

We can easily generalize the speed of available information in every life to the response of God. After all, God is always present. He knows all. Why can’t he respond instantly? Well, he can, but that doesn’t mean he does. Time isn’t an issue for him. He can command a mountain to move, but he might not remove a small stumbling block from your path for years. Why? Perhaps he’s building his relationship with you. He wants you to experience him. He wants you to rely on him. He wants you to trust his timing instead of demanding your own. When we acknowledge his omnipresence and omniscience, we also have to yield to his will. He knows more than us, so wouldn’t he know better what the perfect response timing would be? Perhaps he has you in wait-training to build your spiritual muscles.

Purposefully sit quietly today. Exercise your muscles of “wait.” You don’t have to be waiting for anything specific. Sit in anticipation of God working in your life. Sit in his presence, trusting him to prepare you for something coming soon in your life. Try not to fill up the space and time of your waiting with your own requests and expectations. Keep your anticipation purely on God’s presence.

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.

This Week’s 7 – Christmas Preparation

Each Monday on the Pure Purpose blog, I feature This Week’s 7, a simple list about an everyday topic, giving you ideas and encouragement. This week’s list focuses on the season of Advent, which is the season leading up to Christmas. It’s the anticipation of Jesus’ arrival on earth, which we traditionally consider to be Christmas. As you read through today’s post, take an inventory of your heart. Are you in a season of anticipation and preparation? Are you ready?

Advent—the four-week period that leads up to Christmas—is a series of events designed not to delay the celebration of Christmas, but to enhance it. It’s a kind of delayed gratification that
culminates in a … satisfaction that is all the richer for the waiting. – Joan Chittister

The season of Advent means there is something on the horizon the likes of which we have never seen before… .What is possible is to not see it, to miss it, to turn just as it brushes past you. And you begin to grasp what it was you missed, like Moses in the cleft of the rock, watching God’s [back] fade in the distance. So stay. Sit. Linger. Tarry. Ponder. Wait. Behold. Wonder. There will be time enough for running. For rushing. For worrying. For pushing. For now, stay. Wait. Something is on the horizon. – Jan L. Richardson

You keep us waiting.
You, the God of all time,
Want us to wait
For the right time in which to discover
Who we are, where we are to go,
Who will be with us, and what we must do.
So thank you … for the waiting time. – John Bell

It was not suddenly and unannounced that Jesus came into the world. He came into a world that had been prepared for him. The whole Old Testament is the story of a special preparation. Only when all was ready, only in the fullness of his time, did Jesus come. – Phillips Brooks

God our deliverer, whose approaching birth still shakes the foundations of our world, may we so wait for your coming with eagerness and hope that we embrace without terror the labor pangs of the new age. – Janet Morley

Advent is the perfect time to clear and prepare the Way. Advent is a winter training camp for those who desire peace. By reflection and prayer, by reading and meditation, we can make our hearts a place where a blessing of peace would desire to abide and where the birth of the Prince of Peace might take place. Daily we can make an Advent examination. Are there any feelings of discrimination toward race, sex, or religion? Is there a lingering resentment, an unforgiven injury living in our hearts? Do we look down upon others of lesser social standing or educational achievement? Are we generous with the gifts that have been given to us, seeing ourselves as their stewards and not their owners? Are we reverent of others, their ideas and needs, and of creation? These and other questions become Advent lights by which we may search the deep, dark corners of our hearts. – Edward Hays

It might be easy to run away to a monastery, away from the commercialization, the hectic hustle, the demanding family responsibilities of Christmas-time. Then we would have a holy Christmas. But we would forget the lesson of the Incarnation, of the enfleshing of God—the lesson that we who are followers of Jesus do not run from the secular; rather we try to transform it. It is our mission to make holy the secular aspects of Christmas just as the early Christians baptized the Christmas tree. And we do this by being holy people—kind, patient, generous, loving, laughing people—no matter how maddening is the Christmas rush. – Fr. Andrew Greeley

Boys!

The first time I ate supper with my husband (then boyfriend) and his family was the quietest meal I’ve ever eaten. My mother-in-law is a homemaker/keeper extraordinaire. Each room is set up “just right” and each meal is served “just right.” Everything is neat and organized and proper. And her house is filled with antiques. We were waiting for Tim’s dad to come home from work before eating. Too much time on their hands, Tim and his brother had to do something. So they started to wrestle.

Both “boys” were over 6-feet, and either they had grown or the room had shrunk since their former days of wrestling when they both lived at home. I remember “Boys. Stop.” being repeated several times, but it took a loud, firm “Boys, that is enough!” to prompt Tim and Jeff to stop. They were locked in a contorted position against a chair. There was a brief moment of silence before they moved, which caused a chain reaction.

Apparently, as they pushed against the chair, the chair moved against the wall, slightly lifting an antique mirror off its nail. As they moved, so did the chair and the mirror, which fell over the split-level railing onto a lamp and continued down the basement steps. Being a newcomer to the family, I wasn’t sure if Tim and Jeff’s expressions as the scene unfolded reflected amusement or terror. Lucy wasn’t amused. To their credit, the boys jumped up to begin the cleanup, but Lucy – in her restrained Southern-lady voice – firmly demanded, “Boys, just go eat your supper. Now.”

So the three of us ate quietly in the kitchen.

We often don’t know when to stop. We’re having fun, or we lose track of time, or we take one step at a time before we realize we’ve veered way off course. And something gets broken: a relationship, values, faith. And the rebuilding begins. (By the way, the boys knew what to get Lucy for Christmas that year…a fixed mirror!)

What’s been broken in your life as a result of your actions or lack of resolve?

How is the rebuilding process progressing?

Check the blueprints of healthy rebuilding and healing and commit to taking the necessary next steps in a timely manner. Set a tangible goal and place a nail where you’ll see it often to remind you of your commitment.

Then I said to them, “You can see the trouble we have here. Jerusalem is a pile of ruins, and its gates have been burned. Come, let’s rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so we won’t be full of shame any longer.” I also told them how God had been kind to me and what the king had said to me. Then they answered, “Let’s start rebuilding.” So they began to work hard. Nehemiah 2:17-18

Moments of Solitude

I recently took a trip with all the girls in my family. It’s an annual event, usually 2-3 days and within driving distance for all of us. This year’s destination was the Lake of the Ozarks. We didn’t have a lot of plans, but we stayed near a large outlet mall, so the first thing we did after checking into the hotel was check out the mall. Actually, my two sisters didn’t even make it to the hotel first. They had to stop to shop for purses.

It’s a beautiful mall. Perhaps I should clarify, since what’s beautiful to one doesn’t define beauty to another. I’m referring to the design. I’m not much of a shopper, but if I’m going to shop, I prefer a neighborhood feel. It helps me not to be overwhelmed by the size and scope of the shopping area. I think it helps with traffic, too. The people seem to be in neighborhoods instead of crammed together as if on a New York City sidewalk. It was hot the day we arrived, and while a lot of people weren’t walking around, the parking lots and roads were packed with drivers. I wasn’t among the bustle of the crowds much, since I played chauffeur to transport everyone between the stores of choice…but the traffic itself was enough crowd for me.

The next afternoon, my daughter, niece, and I went to a local state park to hike. The trail was only wide enough for us to walk single file and was barely discernible in many areas. At one point, we had to completely stop and look around to find the next blue marker, indicating the trail. As hot as it was outside, we were somewhat sheltered in the shade of the trees. We were far enough from the road that we heard no cars. We were surrounded by the sounds of wind whispering through trees and books. At one point, we heard a deer crash through the brush.

About halfway through our hike, my daughter commented, “What a difference there is between the people at the outlet mall and here in the woods.”

A difference, indeed. And personally, I welcomed the solitude. Sure, I enjoy people, but there’s something about a few moments of quiet that energize me. I know…we’re all different and some of you reading this are energized by people and feel awkward when alone.

I guess it’s that I’m really never alone. In the woods, I had my daughter and niece with me. And I was surrounded by the gorgeous creation of God. No matter where I am, God is with me. No matter where you are today, look for God. You might be in a crowd or isolated. In a hectic, mournful, or glorious time of life. You might be uncertain or sure-footed. God is there, too. Sometimes you just need to close your eyes and ears to the sights and sounds of everyday life and savor a few moments of solitude with God.

My whole being wants to be with the living God. Psalm 84:2