“Be Still, My Soul”

(Psalm 62: 5)

Let all that I am wait quietly before God,

    for my hope is in Him.

Noise seems to be a way of life these days.  We are quite the chatty society, I must say.  Everyone has a remedy, an opinion — always something to voice.  We stand at the ready to defend and argue our points of view, and we have grown so accustomed to this way of life that we don’t know how to be quiet anymore.  Silence is now so foreign to us that it makes us feel awkward, afraid, and wary.  There is no noise, so there must be something wrong…

Have you ever been in the waiting room of a hospital?  Maybe you’ve sat there waiting for the birth of a child, or maybe you’ve paced the floor while someone that you care for was in surgery or in the emergency room.  No matter the situation, if you’ve been there in one of those waiting rooms, then you know that it can be a very long and agonizing experience.  You just want to know what is happening, how your loved one is faring, and what the outcome will be when it’s all finished.  All of the thinking and worrying often lends to an even longer time-frame, or so it often feels, and what do we do when we are nervous and waiting?  We get noisy.  Very rarely have I been in a waiting room that was completely silent.  There is usually a television playing quietly in a corner.  People are either laughing, crying, chatting nervously, or some combination of the like.  The truth is that our inner noise almost always translates into outer noise.  We seem to know no other way of coping with the uneasiness that comes when we have to wait. 

However, there are times in life when we have to go against the grain of what feels natural to us.  It may feel like the logical thing for us to spend our prayer time speaking to (and sometimes at) God, but there is most assuredly a time for silence.  One of my most cherished passages of scripture is Ecclesiastes 3, which tells us that there is a time and a season for every concern of our lives — even silence. 

1 For everything there is a season,

    a time for every activity under heaven.

2 A time to be born and a time to die.

    A time to plant and a time to harvest.

3 A time to kill and a time to heal.

    A time to tear down and a time to build up.

4 A time to cry and a time to laugh.

    A time to grieve and a time to dance.

5 A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.

    A time to embrace and a time to turn away.

6 A time to search and a time to quit searching.

    A time to keep and a time to throw away.

7 A time to tear and a time to mend.

    A time to be quiet and a time to speak.

8 A time to love and a time to hate.

    A time for war and a time for peace.

Finding the discipline within ourselves to hold back our sentiments and musings, to just be silent and still, can sometimes feel impossible.  We get caught in the cyclone of thoughts and emotions that hits us when we let our thoughts run wild, and instead of holding onto the anchor of God’s truth, our HOPE, we let go and let the storm fling us around among the noise — our noise — until we land in a heap, still bewildered, still waiting.  Holding onto Him can be hard for us, because we forget that our strength comes from listening to Him, and that listening is much more than just being silent on the outside.  We have to quiet the inner tempest as well.  Every part of us has to submit to the calm and hush.

…all that I am…

It is in these moments when we are truly quiet, truly trusting in Him, earnestly and actively seeking His voice, that we find our hope — our peace.  Silence is more than just being quiet.  It is fully surrendering every part of ourselves, from the inner workings of our minds to the outer manifestations of what we reveal to the world.  He sees it all, He wants it all, and He waits for us to trust Him enough to take the time to hear Him. 

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me.  (John 10: 27-28)

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, part of being human is that we sometimes go with the way of the world, rather than relying on Your voice.  But…Your word says to trust You with all of my heart and to never lean on my own understanding — my own ways.  So help me, Father.  Help me to listen to and know Your voice.  Give me the patience and the diligence to just be silent in Your presence, so that I can follow You, holding tightly, with my all, to Your hope.  Amen. 

“I’m no longer a slave to fear…”

(Psalm 55: 4-7)

My heart pounds in my chest.

    The terror of death assaults me.

Fear and trembling overwhelm me,

    and I can’t stop shaking.

Oh, that I had wings like a dove;

    then I would fly away and rest!

I would fly far away

    to the quiet of the wilderness.

I began having panic attacks when I was a teenager.  Certain fears would sweep over me and quicken my breath, tears pouring down my face in a never-ending deluge — the sobs taking over my breathing patterns and forcing me into hyperventilation.  I would literally think, “This is it.  I am going to die.”  There aren’t adequate words to describe the terror that accompanies a panic attack, but it is crippling and overwhelming.  In that moment, the only thing you can focus on is the fear that if you don’t die, you are very well going to lose your mind.  Like a cornered deer, you lose your composure, because all you want is to escape to safety and to be at peace.

Fear is contrary to everything that we stand for as Christians (peace, hope, joy, and the greatest of all things — love).  Fear is our enemy’s greatest weapon, for when all other attempts to destroy and cripple us fail, fear is the one thing that seeps in through the cracks, seemingly unnoticed, and fills in the spaces left behind by our questions and doubts.  Fear is not the vulnerability of the weak.  It is not an indication of an immature and feeble spirit.  It is the weapon that the devil breaks out when all else fails against the tenacious and relentless ones — those of us who have wrestled and won the battles with most other vices. 

Fear is probably the greatest weapon in our enemy’s possession, because it doesn’t have just one face.  It can emerge in just about any situation, and it looks different depending on what circumstance is at hand.  Maybe it looks like a mother who thinks in “worst case scenario” at all times, operating in fear that rides in on the coattails of caution.  Maybe it looks like a loner who regularly cancels plans and shuts people out, who is held back by fear that is disguised as introversion.  It parades around behind the mask of complacency, and other times fear even hides inside our sins and failures. 

If you struggle with fear, please don’t let the enemy fool you into thinking that your worries and anxieties are just a part of who you are and how you are meant to live your life.  Because of the blood of Christ, we are given power over our enemy.  We are joint heirs with Jesus, which means that we share in His power and might.  We have access to all that God has to offer, and victory is but a breath away. 

But I will call on God,

    and the Lord will rescue me.

Morning, noon, and night

    I cry out in my distress,

    and the Lord hears my voice.

  He ransoms me and keeps me safe

    from the battle waged against me…

(Psalm 55: 16-18)

My victory today is that I no longer suffer from panic attacks.  I asked the Lord to stop them, because they were holding me back from living my life — from operating in obedience to Him.  Do I still battle my fears and anxiety?  Every day.  But…I haven’t had a panic attack in over four years.  That’s my triumph. Fear is no longer navigating this ship.  I am no longer a slave.  I claim my victory, for I am a child of God.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank you for giving me the ability to see beyond the disguises that fear hides behind.  I know that I am safe with You, no matter what may happen — that in every battle, You are with me.  Amen.

More than Okay

Matthew 6:25-33-  25“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life…  26Look at the birds of the air: … your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?7 28And why are you anxious…? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin… 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you…31Therefore do not be anxious… your heavenly Father knows what you need… 33But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

According to statistics discovered by the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 40 million North American citizens, ages 18-54, suffer from anxiety disorders. 65% take prescription meds daily, 43% take mood-altering prescriptions, and 42% use recreational drugs to cope with their constant stress. And in a world where responsibilities, sickness, crime, and chaos are unrestrained, I can understand how these numbers climbed so high.

But, I wish the statistics were different.

I know several people who deal with anxiety on a regular basis. Some of them see this Scripture as a means for others to subtly minimize their pain. Others see it as a rebuke of sorts. But, I don’t believe that’s true at all. I see a loving God, holding a shaken soul, determined to assure them He’s got them covered.

And He does. Next time the pressures of life start to overwhelm you, go straight to Him. (Psalm 61:2) Don’t allow one second of your life to be overshadowed by fear. He won’t reject you for a “lack of faith.” He won’t turn you away because “you don’t trust Him enough.” It’s a constant battle with this flesh. He knows that. But let Him hold you while you tremble. You’ll see just how quickly that spirit of worry will be stomped out by peace when you rest in Him. (2 Timothy 1:7)

I struggle with change. That’s when anxiety starts knocking on my door. I get comfortable with how things are, and the thought that something different might be worse causes so many mixed emotions for me. What if this destroys everything I’ve already worked for? How will this affect my family? What if I just messed my life up?  But, one thing I try to remember is something my youth pastor said to me when I was just 16 years old, praying and fretting about a decision I was supposed to make, with these same worries on the brain. He said, “Kristi, you can’t just step out of God’s will. He’s not going to make it easy for you to fail. He’s guiding you and He will get you where you need to go.” Then he quoted a Scripture,

Psalm 37:23- “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.”

Once again, I realized why I didn’t have to worry. He has my life in the palm of His hand, and as long as I’m letting Him lead, I’m going to be okay. No need to panic. I just need to seek Him. He’ll take care of the rest.

Questionable, uncertain, uncomfortable, and even scary situations come into our lives at times, but He can use them to ensure our growth, if we let Him. As Steven Furtick said, “We don’t want Him to prevent the fight, because we need Him to provide the faith.” When a stressful time comes your way, look at it as another opportunity to become stronger and even more secure in your faith. Just be open with the Lord. (He already knows your heart anyways!) He’ll provide you with strength, peace, and comfort. He will take care of you. Rest assured in that fact.

Worry doesn’t empty tomorrow of its troubles. It empties today of its peace. No one expects you to be able to handle it on your own. No one could. That’s why He tells you to come to Him. Get it off your chest. Pour your heart out. He wants you to!

(1 Peter 5:7- “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”)

Don’t wait until you’re a mess; the moment it hits, start a conversation with the One Who sticks closer than a brother.

There is something comforting about a billion stars held steady by a God Who knows what He’s doing.” And that same God who holds the universe in His hands is holding you. You are going to be okay. More than okay.

Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for the assurance that You give me in Your word, that You will take care of me. Thank you for providing peace that can’t be explained. Help me to turn to You the moment I sense unease come my way. Thank You for loving me like You do and for providing all of my needs. In Your wonderful name I pray. Amen.

 

Peace!

(Isaiah 26:3 ESV) 3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

This has always been one of my favorite verses in the Bible. When I was a kid, our church used to have us stand up on Wednesday nights and quote a Bible verse. I liked to quote this one because it was easy to say. It had a natural rhythm that I connected with; it enabled me to rattle it off with confidence! Truthfully, as a kid I really didn’t have an appreciation for its meaning because I was happy as long as mom and dad were happy! I can’t really remember being worried, bothered, or otherwise troubled.

It wasn’t until I got a little older and more aware of the “stuff of life,” that I occasionally thought about difficulty. Even then, the things I worried about weren’t life-changing. I threw an after-school paper route and I remember worrying about whether or not the weather would be good! Big stuff.

As I matured… gained a wife and kids… I started worrying in earnest. I mean, MY family depended on ME to provide for and take care of them. Then I started worrying about MY ministry assignments. After all, eternity hung in the balance for the souls of the people who attended MY church. I didn’t want to fail, so I worked very hard not to disappoint anyone. The problem was… I was taking on a role that God never intended for me. My family was in HIS hands. The church that I pastored was HIS church–NOT mine! I had to learn to trust Him.

Consider these observations…

  • You KEEP him… The bowling alley often adds inflatable bumpers when children are bowling to keep their ball on the lane. It’s as though God sets up bumper guides to keep us on a straight path.
  • PERFECT peace… This is the description of mature peace. One that is free from worry even in the face of challenging times.
  • Whose mind is STAYED on God… Obviously, none of us think about God every second of every day. But, that is not what this is talking about. The writer is suggesting a consistent mindset that always remains peaceful.

How does this happen? It happens when we trust God. I have another “favorite” scripture that is appropriate here. (Isaiah 40:31 ESV) 31 but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

That’s good stuff!

PRAYER: Father, I trust You. With Your help I will discipline my mind to remain focused upon You and Your ability to keep me in peace at all times! Amen.

 

They Beheld God

(Exodus 24:9-11 ESV) “9 Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, 10 and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. 11 And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.”


Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel were given an opportunity very few people have experienced. They beheld God!

Most scholars agree that what they saw was a real, albeit, obscured vision of God. Other passages of Scripture make it clear that no man was permitted to see God in His fulness. When God revealed His glory to Moses, He only showed His back because Moses would not have been able to behold God’s face and live to tell about it. What these individuals saw was a partial vision focused on the sapphire stone on which the feet of God stood.

Notice, they ate and drank after their vision of God. It caused them to experience peace concerning the future, and prepared them for the revelation of God’s plan for Israel. He was about to release detailed plans about preparing a place where His glory could dwell perpetually.

As I thought about this, I was reminded of times in my own life where I felt God’s presence. Obviously, I did not see God. But, I felt His spirit as close as if He were standing visibly beside me. It was as though I could reach out and touch Him.

God is still revealing His glory to mankind. We see Him in the various movements of life. Every challenge that we overcome points to His goodness. Every blessing provides hope for the future. Every breath is evidence of His constant presence.

It is so easy to focus on negative things; to lose sight of God’s involvement in our lives. But, God is calling us higher. He wants us to rest in the knowledge that He is near, and He is interacting in love with His own people.


PRAYER: Lord, Your presence is heaven to me! Just to see you is the desire of my heart today. Reveal Your glory through the movements of life today, and allow me to rest in your provision. Amen.

Fly Away

(Psalm 55:6-8 ESV) “6 And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; 7 yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; Selah 8 I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest.””

The Orchard Child Care children have adopted a dove that sits in a nest under the drive thru at church. They call her Mamasita!

The dove family has taken up residence there for the last 5 years. Like clockwork, when the weather begins to change from winter to spring, they construct their nest on top of the brick column in the corner. The location of the nest is perfect. It is shaded from the sun and the column provides a shield from the wind and rain.

Seemingly, the dove has nothing to worry about. Even so, the nest is located in a very busy location. It sits above the mailbox so there is a lot of activity. The mail lady drives her truck up to the box and creates chaos by opening a closing the mailbox doors. Then, the church secretary comes out and opens and closes the boxes. I usually go to the same location to retrieve my personal mail shortly after. Finally, the children come looking, and shouting their greetings to Mamasita. Safe, but far from peaceful.

This year has been a hard year for the dove family. Mamasita laid her eggs, but somehow one of the eggs rolled out of the nest and smashed onto the driveway. The second egg hatched, but the baby died shortly after. In the midst of such chaos, Mamasita sits peacefully in her nest.

When I observed her today, I couldn’t help but think of the words of the Psalmist who said, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; 7 yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; Selah 8 I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest.”

The Psalmist acknowledges that we will have times when we want to simply fly away and be at rest. But, Mamasita has taught me to settle in, rest, wait and know that it will be alright. I’m safe in the Father’s care.


PRAYER: Father, I will rest in your care today. I won’t run or fly away… I’ll simply wait in peace as you work your will for my life. Amen.

%d bloggers like this: