Patience

Patience is a virtue that took over sixty years for me to grasp. It took a lot of patience on God’s part to teach me the importance of patience. Stillness and patience are kindred spirits, so it’s not surprising they came into my heart at the same time. I’m not claiming to always be still or patient, but I do have a greater understanding of both thanks to God’s lessons of late.

I’m learning to wait in a different way, and I believe that is at the heart of Advent. My busyness kept me from the patience and stillness needed to wait as God desires, but that was my own doing. Busyness is the perfect hiding place, and that was just what I was looking for. God, however, had something much better in mind.

Busyness kept all that was whirling around me from crashing down on me. Like staying in front of a wave on the shore, those breakers could not catch me if I kept moving. God knew I would have to face the waves eventually, and He knew they would break me. He also knew I must come to a stop on my own, so He didn’t force me. He just held my hand and picked me up after they hit.

Fear of the waves and a lack of faith kept me from experiencing the stillness and patience God knew would bring me nearer to Him, but He also knew it would only work when I chose to stop. As I told my grand daughter, God doesn’t cause the bad things that happen to us; He simply holds and loves us while they are happening. Like mommy and daddy, He is there to make sure we know we are never alone. She liked, and understood, that kind of love as only a loved child can.

In the same conversation, she asked if she could ask God for things. I told her God heard our prayers and would answer them, but we don’t say give me this or give me that to God. Her response was, “No, that’s Santa!” I grinned and said, “Yeah, and there’s a big difference!”

I love learning from my grand daughters, but I’m afraid they didn’t offer much help with patience and stillness. Children are wiser than we, but they are still novices when it comes to patience and stillness -particularly at this time of year 😉

They do, however, sit  beautifully still when there is something worth waiting for or watching. This photo of the girls is a beautiful example of just that.

 

Thankful

Embracing that which is in my path is giving me a grateful heart. I’ve wasted too much time fretting over what might have happened or what isn’t happening, and it’s kept me from enjoying what is. This Thanksgiving was the best ever because I savored every single moment.

One of the sweetest moments was when I held my new grand daughter while sitting between her big sisters. My heart was as complete as it’s ever been, and that caused me to pause and offer thanks to God in the stillness of that moment. Most of the moments were not still ones, but the stillness I was feeling didn’t require me or those around me to be still.

Thankfulness requires mindfulness, and mindfulness requires stillness. I’ve struggled with being still for most of my life because I saw it as something I had to do rather than something I could be. Relaxing into obedience is not sitting still and being quiet. I learned at an early age to do that or suffer the consequences. It took every fiber of my being to accomplish the feat, but fear is a powerful motivator.

The stillness God has in mind is not about sitting still or being quiet. It is about letting go and trusting God to know what He’s doing. True stillness allows me to see and hear things I never noticed, and that is allowing my heart to listen in a powerful way.

Hearing God, hearing my own heart, and hearing the hearts of others is what stillness is all about. I am very thankful to finally understand that beautiful truth.

 

From Stagnant to Still

Stagnant Water

You know the feeling you get when you want something and just can’t figure out what it is? I had it and hated it yesterday. A sense of longing filled me, and I couldn’t focus on anything except figuring out what I wanted. It took all day and most of the night for me to realize stagnancy had replaced my stillness.

I graze when I’m empty, and that causes overfilling and under satisfaction. My exercise routine has been disrupted by the weather, and munching has caused me to slowly settle into a stagnant state. The trouble with settling is getting back into action. I needed rest this winter, but my body at rest has tended to stay at rest. I needed was an external force to get me going, and I knew One Who could do just that.

I had an English teacher in high school who loved the old Latin proverb “Still waters run deep.” She said it frequently, and I often wondered if she was trying to get me to be quiet. I was a bit of a babbling brook in high school and still am in uncomfortable situations. I understand babbling, but stagnancy was beginning to stink. My heart longed for the deep movement of still waters, so I went to the Source of Living Water and asked for help.

The difficult lesson in lethargy is that the longer I stay stagnant, the greater the force necessary to get me going. God made it clear in the wee hours this morning that the power that raised Christ from the grave is in my own heart. There is no greater power in existence, but God will not force His power upon me. I must come to Him. In the coming, I see how far I’ve wandered. I have to travel the road that took me off course in the first place. As I backtrack my way, I find the humility to go His way.

Stillness is a constant movement that draws me closer to God, to myself, and to those around me. Rushing leads to babbling, and that takes me further downstream. Settling brings stagnancy, and that’s the worst state of all. I’m hoping the image of a stinky stagnant pond will keep me from wandering and help me move toward His still, deep waters because my heart will never be satisfied with anything less.

The beauty of still waters is that they reflect whatever they are facing. David paints a beautiful image of such water in Psalm 23:1-3

 God, my shepherd!
    I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
    you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
    you let me catch my breath
    and send me in the right direction.” (The Message)

I love this interpretation because it describes my own heart. God gave me drink from His quiet pool, let me catch my breath, and put me back on the right path this morning. I love it when He does that!

 

Still Waters

Starting Point

The starting point is more important than the final destination because it defines my journey. If I’m stuck in the past, I’m never able to catch up to myself. If I keep a foot in the future, I hobble along at a pitiful pace. I do both and end up stuck or stalled as a result. If I start where I am by making peace with my present, the journey will be as God intends. I rehash my past, rehearse my future, and miss my present.

Ice and snow have made for treacherous travel this week; when I finally did get out of the house, I found myself driving around with no destination in mind. It was wonderful to be moving after being sick and stuck indoors. Then, I sat in the sun and did nothing for a very long time. It was healing to soak in the sunshine and simply be. The best traveling is done when sitting still. It’s what allows my heart and soul to spiral upward, and that’s the destination I most desire.

Culture says be productive, go places, take charge of your own future, and never look back unless you need an excuse for your troubles. In Psalm 46:10, God has a different view.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.” NIV

It’s silly to think stillness is the best way to move. Love is also a lot of silliness when you think about it. In fact, all of God’s ways are silly to the world. His ideas may be foolishness to some, but I learned this week that foolishness is the greatest wisdom of all. I plan to love when it makes no sense and be still when I feel like running. God reminded me this week that stillness is the very best starting point for any journey.

Thawing Heart

Raging fire quenches the desire.

Freezing rain douses the fire.

Arctic air freezes the rain.

Salty tears melt the ice.

God brings beauty from the ashes,

Cleansing in the rain,

Stillness in the ice,

And healing in my tears.

Thawing Heart

Decisions, Divisions….

Life is a series of decisions that affect all those in my path. Every decision I make puts me either closer to God or further away from Him. It is impossible for me to make the right decisions without the help of the Holy Spirit. The old saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” is wise indeed. Doing what I think is best isn’t the way to go. I have to listen to God and trust His Spirit when it comes to decisions. If I allow His Spirit to help me obey when I don’t understand, I will find joy and peace. Good intentions often lead to divisions as differences of opinion abound when it comes to what is right and best.

Being still for an instant before speaking or acting allows time to pray and gives God space in which to work. I have always been a go-getter and a doer, and I can get a lot done in a little time when motivated. The practice of stillness in each moment allows me to do what God has in mind. I still get much done, but those tiny prayers leave me less frazzled. God has given me many opportunities to practice that stillness this week, and I can tell a big difference in what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. That’s a big step on the path to a praying life.

One beautiful side effect of the new way of praying is the quality of my sleep. Racing thoughts are gone because they are all about plowing through the day without those still moments of prayer. The stillness before each decision takes care of them one at a time throughout the day, and the time of prayer before sleep finishes off any loose ends. I’m finding there aren’t very many left at the end of the day. I’m busier than ever, watching only a few minutes of TV each day, and more connected than ever. The images God gives are clearer without all the static, and His Word is alive in a new and beautiful way.

Decisions still divide, but the divisions are ones I need. I have the tendency to make connections that are unhealthy, but I’m finding it is much easier to connect as God desires when I practice those moments of stillness. The battle is always between what I want or what someone else wants and what God desires. Selfishness and the desire to please are powerful forces, but they do not hold a candle to God’s love. Seeing Christ’s love in each decision brings a sweet unity with Him that makes each decision a little easier. My praying is often simply saying, “I love you Lord, Thank you God, or Help me Spirit.” Simplicity is best when it comes to praying; the same is true for talking:)

A sweet sense of peace comes with each decision that brings me nearer to God. That helps me know I’m going in the right direction, and that makes this journey a joy:)

Stillness

The snow started falling around noon as predicted today, and we have five inches with more on the way. The girls got up from their nap and were thrilled, especially Lillyann. She yelled for mommy to come downstairs and see the snow after looking out the window and telling me, “Oooh! There’s a lot of it now!” Together, we got the girls in snowsuits, coats, etc., and they headed to Meme and Pepe’s to go sledding. They were so cute heading down the driveway. Mylah plopped back on Lillyann which was fine with her as it was warmer with her baby sister on top of her:)

I decided to take photos and drink hot chocolate and skip the sledding, a sure sign I’m getting old! I love the snow and had two nice winter walks, but I gave up sledding years ago. Snow brings out the kid in me, but it also makes me stop and enjoy the stillness. It isn’t as much about not being able to drive as it is a sense of wonder and awe at the transformation which occurs as snow blankets everything making even mud beautiful. It’s a lot like Christ’s love except for the coldness:)

The praying life is a life of stillness in the storm and warmth in the cold. It’s been a week of high winds, power outages, and snow, a perfect backdrop for lessons in stillness. Whether the imposed stillness of snow, holding Mylah while she sleeps, or laying beside Lillyann while she falls asleep, the stillness this week has been powerful. I am learning to be still and recognize God’s glory and appreciate the stillness that comes when I enter into His presence. Praying and stillness go hand-in-hand. Silence used to be the goal as I thought I had to find a quiet place to pray.

Cookie, the German Pointer, and two very sweet little girls are teaching me that silence may be golden, but stillness is a state of heart that doesn’t depend upon silence or solitude. In fact, I’m learning that being in the midst of my sweet family brings greater peace than time alone in a reflection center designed for prayer. Time alone in solitude and silence is important, and I love to meditate on God’s Word; but I’m finding that stillness is a much deeper state that brings a sense of peace much like that beautiful blanket of snow.

Sweet Stillness

The world is so pure and beautiful right after the snow falls, and I love walking in freshly fallen snow. It amazes me how mundane objects and plants become magical when covered with a blanket of fresh snow. Stillness has the same effect. I don’t always have silence when I pray, but stillness doesn’t require silence. It comes when I stop and allow the everyday to become an expression of God’s glory.