Overstimulated and Underwhelmed

In my defense, I only bought one of them!

But, that’s not the purpose of these writings–to defend myself. Rather, to publicly humble myself, seek God’s face (and hopefully point to it for the sake of others) and turn from my wicked ways so that God might bring healing, hope, blessing and favor. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

What did I buy?–a noise maker. A battery operated toy that blinks and blings, tosses hard plastic balls in the air or rolls them across the floor. The rest were generous gifts from family and friends (and don’t get me wrong, I’m very grateful for them and will continue to use up their precious batteries many times over!)

BUT …

Yesterday, as I usually do, I set Eve on the floor of her bedroom to entertain herself for a few minutes and then flipped the switches on one, two, three, four toys. I watched her begin to play with her favorite hungry hippo, gleefully. But the moment the next toy barked, she glanced that way. Then behind her when the next one woke up — She did a full 360 just trying to keep her eyes on all the entertainment and decide what she wanted to do next.

Finally, I stepped over the baby gate and headed to take a shower. Within 30 seconds, she was at the gate crying! All those wonderful, animated toys and she was over it all ready! Overstimulated, she was quickly frustrated and wanted only the secure and simple arms of her post-workout, sweaty mommy. 

Abba tapped me, “Listen to me in silence, O coastlands; let the peoples renew their strength; let them approach, then let them speak; let us together draw near for judgment.” Isaiah 41:1

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” Exodus 14:14

“Teach me, and I will be silent; make me understand how I have gone astray.” Job 6:24

And for good measure, He had me look up what an inspired dead guy had to say about being quiet: February 13, 1949 – “It seems to me that what I am made for is not speculation but silence and emptiness, to wait in darkness and receive the Word of God entirely in His Oneness and not broken up into all His shadows.”  Thomas Merton

Do you ever feel that way–over stimulated. But are you also terrified of what might happen in the scary silence? I know that there’s scarcely a moment I’m not, at the very least, audibly entertained: the news, worship music, a sermon, a phone call … nothing bad, but rarely silence.

Last night, when we returned home late from a meeting, I set Eve on the floor while I made dinner and dumped a bag of colored balls in front of her. She was thrilled!

So what of silence? Where do you find it and do you think it’s really all that important? Can we truly know the heart and mind of God amidst the cacophony of our lives? If not, then why do we still avoid the silence?

Advertisements

LASTing Peace, Becoming Perfect: Shut Up


Last week we started talking more about spiritual maturity in light of my upcoming book, Beyond Belief: Jesus Saved You, Now What?

James said that it any man can control his tongue, he is a perfect man. Let’s learn the first step to doing just that.

Digging In

I’m of the persuasion that more is better. I mean, isn’t most of America? Supersize it! Go big or go home. Strive, push, go, run, driven, goal-oriented, persistent…everything we want to be, right?

I’ve internalized this message and applied it to my vocation as a writer. It feels like I’m cheating to reach back into my repertoire to say the same thing again. All past pieces, published or not, are just bits of gravel strewn along the path behind me. Admittedly, they have some merit to have brought me here, but to be a real artist, a real writer, I must only make new, not build upon ruins. Or so I have believed. I have dozens of folders of scraps. Half-digested ideas that made their way onto the page, but were soon forgotten and deemed irrelevant to current pursuits.

But recently, I’ve come to a stand still. I don’t know if you can tell (I don’t know if I want you to notice) every noun seems forced, verbs evade me, sentences seem slippery and limp. I can’t seem to make anything new. It feels like I’m slogging through molasses. I…can’t…seem…to…press…on…

A very perceptive friend emailed me last week. He took the time to write me a long letter, encouraging from one perspective and a bit convicting from another. Realizing that I am thrashing and flustered by my lack of creativity, he reminded me of my own words: when I first found your website years ago, I picked up on your words “Sometimes it takes pain for us to hear the already God-given permission to rest”, so make sure you practice what you preach.

Oh my, practice what I preach. Indeed. Guess I might have caught that if I ever “wasted” the time rereading my own blog. At the time I wrote it, I was so certain that God was speaking to and through me. I could barely spill the words fast enough. I must have assumed that I mastered whatever God was hoping to teach me, because just as quickly I pressed on.

While rereading that post, I stumbled upon a whole season in which God kept insisting rest, rest, rest. 

My friend continued to talk about the futility of striving. He gave specific accounts of his own life. Striving took its toll, but when he stopped, too tired and worn to press on, God did beautiful, complete things in his life.

I thought about the physical parallels of this. An image of myself treading water formed in my mind. Usually, swimming  laps seems superior to treading water. But have you ever tried to tread water for any length of time? It takes more strength to pedal your legs and flap your arms just so, in one spot, than it does to perform a perfect crawl stroke for the same duration. Not to mention, it takes incredible mental stamina to tread water.

I felt God lean into my heart with the words: Go deeper, not wider.  I’m still unearthing all the treasure associated with that little phrase, but this is a start: Stay here. Tread deep. Reread. Relearn. Don’t go forward. I love the way Exodus 4:37 says this, “But if the cloud did not rise, they remained where they were until it lifted.” My cloud isn’t moving.

At this time, I don’t think still necessarily means stationary. It simply means not going forward. I need to do what I have here to do. Go deeper with my platform, the publications for which I am already writing, in my blog and talking here with you, in the church and the small groups I have now, in my marriage, with my friends. I must wrestle with this discontent, this inkling that where I am isn’t good enough and I must do more, reach farther.

I’ll leave you with this for today. I wrote an article prompted by the word “silence”. My heart kept seeking the word “silence” in Ps. 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” It’s not there, but what I discovered about the command to be still surprised me. 

So I’m settling in. I’m going deep. I’m staying right here. Until He tells me Move. 

Stilled by Silence

Silence
Lights the fuse of smoldering, quiet fear.
In chaos lay dormant all my fears.
Of nothing to say, no value to add,
No wisdom to offer.
Beneath layers of chatter and sketches,
Of Bible study books and tattered journals,
Lay a heart so searching,
Now papered with proof of fearful efforts.
But one fell-silent swoop
One hour of hands tied, lips sealed, eyes wide
And I am stripped of pretense.
And I am afraid.
But I am listening.

Embrace the Silence

“A time to keep silent, and a time to speak.” Ecc. 3:7b
Silence makes most of us uncomfortable.
The silence of a vacant page is enough to rip the words right from a writer’s finger tips. So, as I frantically searched the hall of my mind and the pages of my commentaries for a way to explain to you the profundity of this word, silence, I panicked when God said, “Be still.”
“As soon as I figure this out God,” I whispered back, “As soon as you tell me what to say!”
“Be still, and know that I am God.” Ps. 46:10
The Hebrew word translated, “Be still,” is, raphah, which means: to sink down or drop into, to let it drop, let alone or to be quiet.
Has someone ever told you to, “Just drop it.”? They mean to abandon an argument or discussion, to withdraw from your frantic pursuits.
That’s what God is calling us to here. He desires to spend time with us, not only to hear our petitions or worries, but so that we can know Him and love Him more because of who He is. And that happens in silence. It happens when like a little child we come into His presence and sink down deep into His loving arms. It happens when we drop our fears, frustrations and pleas (and our discomfort in quiet).
If you’re struggling in your walk with God and feel as if you do not know Him like you want to, or don’t have a strong relationship with Him, be still. Sink into His arms and get to know Him in the silence.
This post was written for Swagga4Christ and also featured on FaithWriters daily devotional. I hope you’ll visit their incredible website and read the other inspiring and aspiring Christian authors.

Stripped of Chaos

“The devil has made it his business to monopolize on three elements: noise, hurry, crowds…Satan is quite aware of the power of silence.” Jim Elliott

“We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private.” C.S. Lewis

Have you ever said: “I was home alone all evening, on a Friday night. What a loser.”

Have you ever done: Flipped on the TV, the radio, a CD or all of them at once – just for “background noise?”

Have you ever thought: The more the merrier?

Have you ever found: Yourself in such a hurry that you don’t remember the last time you read a good book?

I venture to say that most of us have done all of the above at one time or another. There’s an odd dichotomy in our culture right now, an expressed longing for quiet, juxtaposed with fervent applause for the busiest, most productive among us. We see sentimental quotes everywhere, on bookmarks, refrigerators, office walls, that tell us to stop and smell the roses. Mattress commercials remind us that none among us get enough sleep. Doctors decry the effect of stress on our hearts.

Simultaneously, the first question we ask any bloke on the street is, “What do you do?” essentially, equating an individual’s value and their relationship to us primarily on their occupation.

And noise? Even sitting here, I can hear my husband’s television show from the other room. A few hours ago, as I made breakfast, I listened to a sermon on my iPhone. As soon as I headed upstairs to shower, I turned on the Christian radio in my bedroom. God-forbid I entertain silence for a moment!

Have you ever felt: Like God has deserted you? As if you’re all alone and your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling? Like you’re fighting a losing battle? What if you quit fighting? What if you stopped praying and listened? 

Exodus 14:13 “And Moses said unto the people, ‘Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.'”

If God doesn’t build the house,
the builders only build shacks.
If God doesn’t guard the city,
the night watchman might as well nap.
It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late,
and work your worried fingers to the bone.
Don’t you know he enjoys
giving rest to those he loves? Psalm 127