We had a team day at work recently where actors came in with pretend problems, and we had to practice “active listening” for four minutes. The idea was that we would be asking questions to understand their perspective and situation. I was proud that in about 40 seconds I had figured out the cause of the issue and solved the problem.
When it was time for me to get feedback on the exercise, I was surprised that they told me I had only listened enough to decide what I would say in response. Their impression was that I had asked questions to find out and fix the problem but had not been seeking to understand the person.
I agreed with the feedback but secretly thought I’d done the more efficient and loving thing by getting to the solution faster than anyone else.
Fast forward a few weeks, my husband and I shifted in with a friend to save money while we build our new home. It’s pretty embarrassing to admit, but I was really struggling with the transition to a smaller space, an older kitchen and feeling like one of my biggest passions (cooking and entertaining) had been taken away as I didn’t have the environment to relax and enjoy it.
I was sitting in my room, wrestling with the grief of letting go of having space with my husband, of the time and expense of the house, along with a bunch of other (let’s be honest) first world problems. I hadn’t talked to God about any of it, as I was too embarrassed to ask Him to change my situation - I already knew the problem bigger than the situation was my lack of gratitude. Gratitude for everything I had and would have in the future. I knew that if I showed him my heart, admitted that I was feeling trapped and stuck, that he would tell me to get over myself and be grateful.
So I began to say out loud all the things I was thankful for, and as I did, I saw in my spirit the scene from John 11:32-36 where Jesus approaches Mary on His way to raise her brother Lazarus from the dead. He knows that in about 3 minutes time Lazarus will be alive and all the mourning will be over. But the King of all creation, the solution holding, miracle making God, stops and weeps with her. Because he saw pain in the eyes of His friend. Because He understands.
Then the vision changed and I saw him walking toward me, arms outstretched. No words were spoken but in His eyes, I saw pure compassion. Permission to feel. Released from guilt, and totally understood.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
Many of us are trained to analyze problems and create solutions. We forget that our life with Jesus is relationship. Religion tells you that you are a project to be completed or a problem to solve.
Religion has a goal of defending ourselves or setting other’s straight. Religion wants messy things cleaned up. But relationship, above all, wants to discover your thoughts and feelings - no matter how messy. God wants to understand you.
Jesus will never move quickly to the solution at the cost of relationship. He doesn’t struggle with four minutes of active listening! His desire to understand the depths of your soul was so strong, that He took on human flesh to experience first-hand what it’s like to walk this earth. Then he took up residence inside your heart to experience first-hand what It’s like to walk in your shoes. There is nothing you could experience that He has not felt. You cannot fathom how deeply He understands.
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
Can I encourage you today, whatever you’re walking through, instead of looking at your heart like a problem to solve or a project to be completed, to let Love’s loudest voice be one of understanding. Give Him a chance to actively listen, He never grows tired or weary.
Side note- but definitely worth mentioning- I am writing this from an apartment one block from the beach that my husband and I have been generously gifted for a week. His understanding no one can fathom!
Touching down in Auckland airport last week, my husband and I realised that not only did it feel like we were coming home, but also that we were away from home. Such a weird feeling, yet it gives a bit of insight into our world and where we find ourselves.
Two and a half years ago, we moved our family over the other side of the Pacific Ocean to Seattle, Washington. Had I known what would follow, would I have still said yes, or would I have run in the other direction?
Do you ever stop to consider where you’ve come from to get to where you are today?
There’s something beautiful about looking back, not to live in the past or to wish it were the good old days, but to see all that God has done.
I think about who I was before I said yes to stepping out into the unknown. I knew what trusting God meant, I mean, I had grown up knowing who Jesus was from a young age, attended a Christian school, been involved in various areas of leadership in church, but little did I know how much that trust would be tested.
I think about Ruth, in the Bible, when she found herself presented with the opportunity to follow her mother in law to a foreign land. She had just lost her husband, brother in law and father in law, and had to choose whether to go back to what she knew, or to step into an unknown path ahead of her.
Her response is recorded for us:
“but Ruth embraced her and held on…….Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge.”
As we journey in our walk with Jesus, we get presented with these intersections of decision: an opportunity to continue on with what we know and what is comfortable, or to pursue Jesus in the unknown.
There have been moments and days in the last 4 years, where I have wondered what the heck I’m doing, did we really make the right decision to leave everything we knew? So many things that when weighed up, could easily point to us going back to where we came from.
However, the more I say yes to Jesus and to following where He is leading me and our family, the more at peace I find myself. I believe God has written a story for each one of us, a story that invites us to trust Him with our lives, to trust that He knows us better than anyone else.
The beautiful part about Ruth’s story, is that you see God’s fingerprints all over it. In chapter 2 we read:
“So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers and she ‘happened’ to come to the
I love how it says, “she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz”. Boaz goes on to show her favour and ends up being her future husband. When we trust Jesus with our lives and we truly want to follow after ALL that he has for us, He shows up time and time again, in the places of our lack, to remind us, that it’s not about us, but that HE is all we need.
Ruth’s story concludes with her being married to Boaz, and to becoming the great grandmother of King David, being a woman included in the lineage of Jesus.
The beauty of being part of the story God has written for you is that it’s not just about you! Ruth’s journey ended up not only having a direct impact on Naomi, through provision and a whole new family, but her legacy became part of something so much bigger, pointing to the story of Jesus.
Where in the story do you find yourself? Have you let God in to write your story, or are you fighting to write your own? Are you at an intersection where God is inviting you to trust Him more in the unknown? What’s on the other side of saying yes to Jesus - who’s lives are yet to be impacted through your story?
He is the best author, and He knows you better than anyone else. He is so trustworthy.
I've often thought of myself as someone who colours inside the lines. You know, a good girl who gets on with what's expected of her and keeps the rules. But the more I journey with God, the more I can see that I've learnt to colour outside the lines; to go against the grain and walk with Him by faith.
Isaiah 55 tells us that God's ways are not our ways - they often sit outside of our logic and reasoning and because of this, faith often calls us to a path that feels counter-intuitive.
Sometimes faith says pull back when we would think rush in
Sometimes faith says give when we would like to hold back
Sometimes faith says go when we would prefer to stay
This has been the pattern all throughout Scripture:
God asked Noah to build an ark when he'd never even seen rain
He sent Abraham on a journey to an undisclosed location - asking him to pack up all his belongings and leave everything he had ever known
He asked a destitute widow to share the last of her provisions when she had no means to replenish them
He sent the disciples out in pairs to do ministry and wouldn't allow them to take any provisions with them, asking them to rely on those they ministered to for sustenance
All things that fly in the face of conventional wisdom - that go against the grain of forming a plan, of making provision, of having a safety net. Yes, while faith isn't about being reckless, sometimes it will sure look that way!
In my own journey, I've come to realise that my ability to walk by faith - to be obedient to what God is asking of me - is tied to my priorities and my affections. Hebrews 11 tells us that the men and women we so often refer to as the 'heroes of faith' were able to live as they did because they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth (v. 13). The Passion Translations challenges me with this rendering:
For clearly those who live this way are longing for the appearing of a heavenly city. And if their hearts were still remembering what they left behind, they would have found an opportunity to go back. But they couldn't turn back for their hearts were fixed on what was far greater, that is, the heavenly realm.
These heroes of faith both endured and achieved much for the Kingdom of God because they had determined where their treasure lay. They had fixed their heart to His.
When this world and all of its comforts has more of a hold on my heart than He does, my capacity to embrace His wisdom and to walk in faith is diminished. When He is no longer enough for me, then I hesitate to walk in surrendered obedience and even my frail human logic seems safer than the path that He has set before me.
Yes, this life of faith requires on my part a constant checking of my heart and my pursuits.
Am I distracted by what is temporal instead of engaged with what is eternal?
Am I self-reliant or God-reliant?
Am I craving the approval of the world or anchored by His love?
The current landscape of my own life is both exhilarating and terrifying. And truthfully, I find myself having to continually determine and redetermine to walk by faith. It's not a one off decision but a day by day, sometimes moment by moment process of choosing to trust and obey. To keep my heart fixed to His.
But the last two years have reminded me afresh that not only are God's ways not our ways, they are higher.
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
And because they are higher than ours, we find rest and strength in them; provisions for the journey that He has sent us on. The path of faith might be uncomfortable, but because it is marked out by His presence we can expect to experience His comfort along the way.
However much sacrifice walking by faith invites, the rewards are far greater.
How is He inviting you to fix your heart to His today?
Curled over clutching my stomach in pain, I was all too aware of what I had been trying to avoid for well over a year - I was gluten intolerant. Gluten-based food was making me sick; yet I kept on eating it, living in denial hoping, maybe – this time - I’d be okay.
Here’s what I painfully discovered: ignoring a problem does not make it go away. Doing the exact same thing over and over changes nothing, in fact it usually makes matters worse. The stomach problems only increased after each glutinous intake causing me to cancel appointments and miss out on events.
During my most recent episode racked with pain and saying “Never again”, I really did decide – never again. The Holy Spirit had got through to this tough nut at last, telling me “If you do not face your problems, they will not go away, you need to make some life changes”
Of course, it wasn’t lost on me that this didn’t only apply to food, but also to the bad habits and sinful behaviour patterns I was struggling with. Talk about God having to take strong measures to get my attention!
I hadn’t wanted to admit I had issues with gluten, neither did I want to accept or cease the sin in my life. I was afraid to make life changes in case God did not come through for me. It seemed easier to just carry on as I was in my miserable condition.
My journey the last 5 years has been no glutinous cakewalk. I’ve physically and emotionally hurt, I’ve been disappointed, I’ve suffered losses and felt acute grief. I know I am in a pruning and character building season but I’ve been bucking against it all the way. Yet throughout Jesus has revealed to me by grace that He is the Good Shepherd watching over my life.
God has been taking things away that do me harm and the pain has been part of the process, revealing what is within me when the pressure is on. I can see He’s been setting me free step by step and am humbled like Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10:
But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I cannot boast in myself at all. I’ve discovered what I thought was good in me, is not whatsoever; and that what is bad in me doesn’t stop God loving me either. All I know is that I’m more real than I’ve ever been, holding on with child-like faith.
2 years ago, I became dairy intolerant and I had another period of denial and pain before I accepted life changes needed to be made. The crux of the matter has been coming to terms with giving up what is not good for me – even though I still crave it. The desire to eat dairy and gluten don’t leave me, and neither do the habits of a life time want to go either. Oh, but the consequences – are they worth it? Think slowly about that one.
Now sometime into a gluten elimination diet I am already much better. I have recognised that to see change, I have to make some life changes.
I’ve learned that Jesus really is my Shepherd and He is looking after me - his sheep. (Sheep aren’t the smartest creatures around, getting themselves tangled up and off track). He knows me in my weakness yet He loves and pursues me unconditionally even in my biggest messes – especially even!
My Good Shepherd doesn’t just wrench this Sheep out of the barbed wire or bushes – no, He untangles me bit by bit. This is what He is doing in our own lives, that’s why it’s a process.
Sometimes it takes time to give things up. We may not be ready, or we may be unwilling, perhaps even facing other issues that cloud the main one. The journey may appear to be somewhat of a dog leg trek, but I can testify that God never gives up on us! And along the way reveals His true unconditional love which changes our lives.
What are you struggling with? What symptoms are you trying to ignore? Is the tolerance of sin still winning over the pain of obedience? The truth is that making good choices isn’t easy. Our flesh wants what is bad, our spirit cries out for God.
But if we want to see a different result, if we desire to be free, we need to accept that life changes are necessary. We can trust God, we can trust Jesus the Good Shepherd. God really does and will come through for us.
When my kids are fighting over something I sing 'Let It Go'. I get down on one knee and make a fool of myself, changing the mood and making them forget what they were fighting over in the first place.
I can often have an internal argument and end up singing the song to myself… which, if you were watching me, would be quite weird…
I can be quite particular. I like to do things in a certain way; I have my routine, and a method to carry out my tasks. But I struggle to keep going if my routine gets interrupted for some reason. There is a part of me that says, if you can't do it perfectly, you might as well give up now. It might sound odd, but it can be physically exhausting. And this is where the song comes in.
I have to shift my focus from whatever is blocking me to the simple truth: God doesn't ask for perfection, he asks for perseverance. John Bloom from desiringgod.org said:
Perfectionism is a pride- or fear-based compulsion that either fuels our obsessive fixation on doing something perfectly or paralyzes us from acting at all — both of which often result in the harmful neglect of other necessary or good things.
There are things in life that are beyond our control. Schedules, situations, and people are ever changing. And while I like my to do lists and love the feeling that comes when I can cross something off one of those lists, I've had to learn that when things beyond my control hinder me from being able to achieve my tasks, that I need to let go and let God. There is a prayer that I say often:
The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
This is where I thought it finished. But I have recently discovered a second verse:
Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Taking this world as it is, not as I would have it - we need to be faith-based, not fear-based, followers of Christ, accepting the things we cannot change and trusting God to make things right.
We are reminded of this in Proverbs 3:5:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
I love worship music. It soothes my heart and fixes my eyes on God. It Is Well With My Soul is a popular hymn and has been remade by many musicians, but the second verse of the original lyrics seems to connect with me:
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
Although Satan will continue to strike repeatedly, attempting to knock me off course, I can stand sure that my God loves me and gave His only son for me. (John 3:16)
Can I encourage you: whatever is holding you back or frustrating you, give it to God. Through praying, singing or writing. Let go of what is holding you to this world’s lies and grasp hold of His truths that you are loved and you are worthy. Let it be well with your soul.
Keep shining, you never know whose dark day you might be lighting up!
There’s a long and layered backstory to this blog (which I may put into a book someday) but for now I'm going to summarize the relevant information in 3 points:
1. I really want to have children and be at home with them (at least while they are little)
2. God has made it extremely clear in a number of ways that he wants my husband and I to build a house
3. 1 & 2 are not compatible with our current financial situation (in order to service the mortgage we both need to be working)
About a month or so ago, we had a number of “out-of -our-control” situations that meant the cost of our build almost doubled (keeping in mind point # 3 was a thing before this happened).
Now, I’ve never really been a fearful person. I’ve been graced with childlike faith and carefree hope, but the moment I saw that number something flipped inside me and all I felt was trapped and powerless and ashamed.
I began to do mental math – what sort and how many promotions I would need; calculating what I could earn from doing extra jobs or hours or what I could possibly do to make this work. I spent the afternoon swirling around in a frenzy of anxiety and numbers that I knew would never add up. I was so caught up in this spiral it was hard to hear His voice, so when I got home I returned to the original promise we had been given, to reassure myself that God had called us into this process and would not abandon us halfway through.
A song of the stairway, by King Solomon
When I was first given this Psalm, I was understandably captured by the parts about children and houses. But this day, the moment I heard His voice again was in verse two. My one and only question was “How am I going to pay for this house?” and His answer came gentle and firm.. “Get an early night.”
So I did. I went to bed before 8pm and had the holiest sleep of my life. When I woke up, not a single thing had changed about my 3 realities listed at the start, but I just understood on a deep and unshakeable level that striving is senseless and His gifts are good. And that some of His best work happens, not necessarily when I do nothing, but more when I lay my head down in confidence that he's providing and doing His best work while I'm at my most vulnerable.
Bill Johnson says, "You only have authority over storms that you can sleep in." (Matthew 8:23-27) I am convinced that once God has given a promise, there is nothing the enemy can say or do to stop that promise eventuating. The only thing that is up for debate is your rest, peace and joy in the process. Your rest, peace and joy are yours. Don’t sacrifice them, don’t squander your beautiful inheritance as those things are yours right now and can be with you on every journey and in every storm as you walk toward the future He has declared for you.
I’m beginning to learn that sleep is a prophetic demonstration of trust and rest, and is one of His most precious gifts to us. He provides sleep to His beloved, AND provides for His beloved even while they sleep!
Since that night, I’ve had a growing awareness of just how much sleep is contested in so many people’s lives, and the impact that it has. With that growing awareness has come an increased authority to see this precious gift restored. To my tired, exhausted or weary friend: If you’re reading this, regardless of the reason, I release grace over you right now and declare that the contest over your sleep has ended and the winner is Jesus. It’s always Him. He’s never lost a battle. Tonight, is the beginning of you sleeping soundly, and waking up refreshed, regardless of the number of hours you got. He can do a lot with a little, you know.
As for the house, we have had at so many instances where the impossible has become possible including one where we needed $50,000 in one week and 7 days later it was covered (through about 5 different creative and random miracles). I’m embracing this season for the extravagant demonstration of Love that it really is, and pondering these things in my heart until a day where I have the full and powerful story to tell. And until that time, I’ll be over here with more than enough peace and joy for the journey.
P.S. I’d love if you would get in touch with your stories of sleep provision in your current situation, or your stories of provision while you sleep!
I am no green fingers gardener (my wife Pip will attest to that), but I have noticed one thing about our fruit trees: they produce their fruit by standing still in one place and sending their roots down, silent yet bearing their fruit each season. You cannot hurry them. Thomas Merton made a similar observation, pointing out that as the world goes about its busyness and noise, all the plants and trees continue to “bring forth fruit in silence.”
We live in an age where we seem to be obsessed with speed, with doing everything fast - faster internet, fast food, faster travel and so on. In 1909, the Futurist Manifesto stated, ‘we affirm that the world’s magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed’. Yet despite this speed, our world is in a hurry and we complain about never having enough time. The reality is, we have all the time we need, but the faster we go, as one writer put it, ‘the hurrier I get’. Or in the words of Psychotherapist Carl Jung, ‘Hurry is not of the devil, it is the devil!’
I recently saw two seminars offered for church Pastors – ‘Further, Faster – How to Take Your Church Further Faster!’ I wondered to myself where ‘further’ was and why we had to get there fast? The second was entitled ‘Leadership Faster’. I have done leadership ‘fast’ and the results are generally not great. The faster I went the shallower I became, skimming the surface of relationships and decision-making, both wrought with potentially risky outcomes.
It’s interesting that Moses asked those he was leading to ‘stand still’ so he could hear what God was saying to them (Numbers 9:8). Yes, there are times in life we need to make quick decisions, but I have learnt that those moments aren’t really many.
This theme of stillness, of rest and quiet is interwoven throughout Scripture. As our Shepherd, God tells us that He will ‘lead us bedside still waters’ (Psalm 23). The word for ‘still’ in this verse means resting place, quietness. We are also promised that in ‘quietness and confidence we will find strength’ (Isaiah 30:15). Maybe, just maybe, there is something in this being still, being silent and still being fruitful?
I have always been intrigued by and loved verse ten of Psalm forty-six where God defines for us the posture of heart and pace of life we need to live in in order to know Him:
Be still and know that I am God.
The Hebrew word for ‘still’ conveys the sense of to relax, refrain, to be quiet, and to slacken. The word is also from the same group of words for ‘heals’ as in Exodus 15:26 where we are told that God can heal. Speed produces stress, even illness; being still produces rest and the opportunity for healing.
I am on a personal journey of healing from several ‘punches’ to the brain (aka strokes), and the professionals who are assisting me in this process keep telling me that sleep, stillness and even silence, help the brain to heal, renew and restore itself. This has meant making intentional choices to do less as I learn to live life more unplugged. And I've realised that being still and silent before God can be as fruitful as being busy for Him.
God knew that stillness is how we should live healthy in the first place.
That’s why He invites us to meet Him, to get to know Him - to not only hear Him but to follow where He leads and as we do, to be healed by Him through stillness and even in silence. The Father’s in the early church period thought that silence was an integral part of prayer. In the seventh century, Isaac the Syrian described ‘stillness’ as being:
“…a deliberate denial of the gift of words for the sake of achieving inner silence, in the midst of which a person can hear the presence of God. It is standing unceasingly, silent, and prayerful before God.”
We need to find ways to be still; to practice silence so that we can hear the presence of God, allowing Him to restore our soul. We need to realise that sometimes in doing less, we achieve more - that going further faster does not necessarily equal going deeper and being fruitful.
I cannot tell you how or what to do in order for you to find God in the stillness - not without knowing the context of your story and journey - but I can urge you to slow down, be still and know God. To let Him lead you. And I know that as you do, you will be like the trees on my property – your roots will go down deep and rather than being busy, you will be fruitful.
How can you practice silence today?
I was sitting at the lights - running late, yet again. Inwardly I was berating myself. Why, why do I try and squeeze too much in? Why couldn't I just be on time for once?!
When I resigned from my role as an Associate Pastor earlier this year, I had all these visions of what life would look like with all this extra time. I was going to be the best home-maker ever. The house would be tidy; the cookie jar (if we actually had one - we have an assortment of mismatched containers) would be full; and on top of getting the kids to school on time, I'd be making memories and establishing traditions with them. I was going to be super-organised for Christmas (I started shopping this week), and life would look like one big Pinterest board!
Let's just say that life has conspired to be anything but over the last few months. Most weeks have seen us waiting at the doctors - so much so that the kids have called it our new tradition. When we had to go this week, they marvelled that a full four weeks had gone past without us needing to visit. Definitely not the traditions I had intended to be making with them!
But in the demands and pressures of this season, I have been so aware of God's grace. So overwhelmed by His presence and His strength. I have learnt that I can be busy, I can be tired and under pressure, but I can still be at rest. Because more than time I carve out of my schedule, true rest is the posture of my heart.
My key scripture for 2016 has been Isaiah 30:15, and throughout the year, God has had me revisit it, revealing new facets through its words. In it, God declares this truth:
"Only in returning to Me and resting in Me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength..."
When God spoke these words through the prophet Isaiah, the Israelites were facing war and enemy occupation. They'd spent themselves, and their resources, on trying to build an alliance with Egypt that would turn out to be worthless. And God offered them this opportunity to try a different approach. To try depending on Him and not on themselves. And He offers us this same invitation - to find rest in who He is.
Resting in God is a conscious choice to redirect our thoughts - to allow His truth and love to overpower our fears, our disappointments, our impossibilities, our brokenness. When we choose rest, we are allowing Him to be bigger than what we face. And far from weak, far from lazy or passive, rest is a battle strategy. A powerful weapon that releases God to be God, and enables us to experience first-hand His acts of salvation.
I've found that the more I give my attention to who God is; to what He says in His Word; to His past and present activity in my life, the quieter and stronger I become. Because when we quiet our anxious thoughts; when we quiet our busy schedules, we make room for Him to be with us. And this is what Christmas is all about - it's about celebrating the arrival of Christ, of Emmanuel, God with us. More than preparing our homes; more than preparing food and gifts, it's about preparing our hearts. About making room for Him to be with us - not just in part, but in full.
There is something about the Christmas season; something about the closing of a year, that brings to the surface the cries of our hearts. What we have been able to push through and push down throughout the year, seems to bubble up to the surface. We pray for Christmas miracles and we hope that the new year will somehow magically wipe the slate clean.
But your circumstances do not need to rob you of your peace, because our hope does not lie wrapped under the Christmas tree or even in the changing of the hour - it lies in God Himself. He is our hope. He is our salvation. He is our place of victory and of rest. So invite Him to be with you in those places that feel heavy or empty. Let Him be your battle strategy. And I pray, that as you fix your heart and mind on Him this Christmas - as you make room for Him to be with you - that His truth quiets your soul and His presence enables you to be at rest.
Live today with purpose,
Learn how to experience rest with The Power of Quiet reading plan - you'll find it for free here.
If you haven't already figured it out, I'm a words girl! I love nothing more than getting lost in a good book, having a long conversation with a friend or having the opportunity to use my words to inspire and equip others. Words are my gift, but I am also well aware that my words have the potential to be my greatest downfall. Because sometimes I just say far too much!
Compounding this excess of words, is my tendency to be an external verbal processor - which is why God's word to me this year that in quietness and trust is your strength, is such a challenge. When I encounter obstacles, quietness is not my natural response - its not that you're likely to find me complaining and wallowing in self-pity, but I will talk and talk and then talk some more about my problem and how I think I can fix my problem. But the more I talk, the bigger my problem feels - and this preoccupation with trying to solve everything myself often fills me with fear about how things will turn out. Before I know it, words of impossibility, of negativity, of criticism and defeat are coming out of my mouth.
In this current season when I am tempted to open my mouth to speak about the challenges I face, I can sense the Holy Spirit saying, "just shush Aimee!"
Last week we looked at God's strategy that He gave the Israelites in Isaiah 30:15 saying,
“In returning [to Me] and rest you shall be saved, In quietness and confident trust is your strength.”
God puts the four aspects of His battle strategy into two groups – repentance and rest bring us salvation; quietness and trust bring us strength. The words for rest and for quietness have similar connotations in the original Hebrew. Rest meant rest, quietness, a quiet attitude; quietness – to be quiet, tranquil, at peace, lie still, to show or display quietness.
In other words the ability to be quiet is an essential part of experiencing God’s saving power and strength in our circumstances. But we will only have the ability to ‘just shush’ if we have reached that place of, as the amplified puts it, ‘confidently trusting’ God; we will only be able to display quietness when we know the One that we wait on.
Isaiah gives God two names in this verse:
This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says...
Our God is THE Sovereign Lord – that means that He possesses all power and authority; He He is on His throne and we can trust Him to rule and reign in our lives and circumstances. He is also the Holy One – He is sacred, and perfect, not a single flaw to be found in Him.
And if those two names were not enough to fill me with the confidence to wait quietly before Him, as I have meditated on the verses that follow on from v. 15 I have learnt that He also:
Longs to be gracious
That He rises to show compassion
That He is a God of justice
That He blesses those who wait on Him
That He is gracious when we cry for help
That He hears and He answers
That He guides
The more I give my attention to who He is, the quieter and stronger I become.
Life gives us equal opportunities to choose fear or to choose worship. I can spend my time and energy - my words - on the obstacles that I face, or I can view them as an opportunity to turn my heart to worship; to open my mouth in praise.
When we slow down from everything that feels so pressing and turn our attention back to Him; when we close our mouths, just shush, and consciously choose a posture of quiet, of trusting worship – that’s when the real quiet enters our souls and we find rest in Him.
Live today with purpose
As I write this I am enjoying a rare moment - the house is quiet! Everyone is out and Lucas is sleeping. A quiet, still household is a luxury at this time in my life - I am ever grateful for such a full home and heart, but you'll hear no complaints from me when I get the opportunity to have the place all to myself!
When I launched this new site back in January, I did so with the post 'In Search of Quiet', sharing with you the longing of my heart for a quiet soul. A soul that was at rest, at peace no matter how much 'noise' was happening around me. Over the past few months, as I have meditated on my key passage for the year - Isaiah 30 - and journeyed through various experiences, God has enabled me to understand the power of choosing to be quiet before Him.
In Isaiah 30, the Israelites faced a very real threat - the Assyrian army. In their fear and panic to save themselves, they had reached out to Egypt and formed an alliance with her, hoping that she would be strong enough to protect them from the Assyrians. But the problem with this, is that is wasn't God's strategy - it wasn't His solution to the issues that they were encountering.
God's strategy was this:
...In repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength...
As you study the original language in its context, God was literally saying - you don’t need to race ahead and fight your own battle – in fact you need to withdraw from the fight. You need to come back and position yourself with Me. You need to slow down and wait on me; you need to stop talking to everyone about this problem and be at rest in this situation because you can have absolute confidence in who I am. And as you do this I'm going to give you MY strength, I'm going to let you see my mighty deeds and ultimately I'm going to bring you to a place of salvation, of victory. What a promise!
Sadly verse 15 ends with this statement - but you would have none of it. Ponder those words for a moment - you would have none of it. How often do we encounter obstacles, threats, mountains and just like the Israelites, allow fear, anxiety, what we perceive as time-pressures and constraints to dictate our response. We rush ahead and make our own plans - and then pin all of our hopes on these plans and on other people. Sometimes if we’re really honest – we’ve not only not asked God what He thinks, we’ve actually deliberately chosen to ignore His promptings. So we’ve pressed ahead, usually with the well-meaning intention of being responsible and self-sufficient but not leaving much room for God to do His thing in our lives!
Part of learning to be quiet before God is learning to slow down. Consciously pushing aside our fears, the timetable and schedules that seem to demand an instant decision and choosing instead to seek the Father.
Our year began with a multitude of changes as well as some significant uncertainties. Many of the decisions that we needed to make hinged on other people making decisions first, and so we found ourselves at a crossroads - did we wait to see how those decisions would play out, or did we just get on with it and make our choices? Waiting meant we faced a significant short-fall in our family budget and so getting on with it, racing ahead seemed like the logical and responsible thing to do. But it didn't sit right with us. We could sense God whispering that this was not our battle to fight, that we were to follow His strategy - we were to slow down and wait quietly, wait with a posture of trust and confidence.
As we waited, we experienced what God promises in Isaiah 30:21:
Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, "This is the way you should go," whether to the right or to the left.
Slowing down to seek Him enabled us to hear Him; hearing Him allowed us to see Him. That's the power of being quiet!
Over the last few months His strength has become our strength - we have seen His mighty deeds firsthand and experienced Him bringing 'salvation', breakthrough into the situations that we faced. His instructions throughout this time have not been how we would have gone about things, and just like the Israelites, we could have had none of it; we could have so easily missed out on the power of quiet if we'd allowed our fear to cause us to race ahead of God.
Where do you need to slow down today? What situation are you facing that is causing you to race ahead? Where do you feel like the battle is dependent on you and your limited resources? Don't be like the Israelites - embrace God's strategy of quiet so that you too can hear Him and see Him at work in your own life.
Live today with purpose
One of my favourite pass-times as a kid was writing. I used to make my own books and write poetry on our old type-writer. Thankfully both my writing and technology have come a long way!
It is my prayer that these posts from the blogging team encourage you to embrace the season that you are in and to live it with purpose for God's glory.
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