Fasting, Stillness and Celebrations

For the most part I love social media. I think it’s a great avenue to connect, learn and grow….along with sharing pictures with friends. I have made friends just from online communities that I spend time with IRL, and I have found ways to decorate and cook as well. Recently though, I was having a bit of a chaotic mind and heart that I was frankly compartmentalizing and distracting with social media.

For the first few days of November I took a fast from it all. My head and my heart craved the quietness, the space, the stillness. It was nine days of finding a heart that needed to breathe, a mind needing to settle. Honestly I needed to learn to pare down and shut down, to listen more to my self and the call to my heart from God.

heads and heartsIf I am honest with you all, it was difficult the first couple of days when it got quiet. I’d want to go to the phone for distraction, but as the days grew on I realized my dependency on noise to fill the quiet was not healthy. For me, it’s become a noise-filled culture that my head and my heart really can’t quite come to terms with living in 24/7. Even more so, as I have spent time in prayer and reading and just being still I have come to find it’s allowed me time to reflect on the seasons I have been in over the last few years and hear more from God on the one I am finding myself in.

As I was reading the last bit of my study of Esther this morning, I couldn’t help but realize that we’ve subbed out reflection and stillness, in remembering God in our midst and at our defense for quick snippets of Scripture and posted prayer requests for the masses. (I am just as guilty y’all) We quickly jump to the very next thing without sitting in the moment of God’s provision, His timing, His beauty. We can celebrate God’s great strength and faithfulness in our circumstances, but how good are we at marking them for remembrance in our own hearts and lives? How well are we doing at tuning our minds and hearts to see His providing, His rescue and His defense in our lives every single day? I’m really good at knowing what’s going on in my HOA group online, but not so much about God’s working in my heart if I’m not careful.

As I read deeper about Purim, first marked in those pages of Esther, I found that often we forget the faithfulness of the God we love and serve. We move on to the next project, next task, next circumstance without celebrating the goodness of a God Who intervenes, who wants all things to turn out for good in us, who asks for our attention and who absolutely deserves all our devotion.

For me, it’s about tuning out more of the noise and tuning my head and my heart to stillness and quiet, to reflection and celebration of God’s unwavering faithfulness in my  lives of others. That means fasts from social media, choosing time alone, and recognizing the ways in which He provides daily.

Distracted and Consumed

I am chief among sinners. 

I thought about Paul’s words as my pastor spoke the words “Distracted and Consumed” yesterday. I felt the arrows of conviction hit straight and true as he continued on with his sermon, knowing those three words had struck at the heart of a problem. One that I know many wrestle with, even as a society and culture we are suffering from the very disease of distraction and consummation.

I get the irony of writing about this on a platform (and sharing it on other platforms) because it’s the very thing which is distracting and consuming this heart, this mind, and this time. I like to say “well it’s to keep up with this or to share my writing.” Unfortunately though it’s to the detriment of my heart and my focus.

Maybe it’s not so much social media that distracts you, maybe you don’t get consumed by the words, the actions, and the thoughts of others in such a divisive culture we are living in. Maybe the distraction is binging on the newest release from Netflix or your kids’ ballgames (this one I saw first hand last weekend y’all). It is whatever is consuming your time and distracting you from the very thing which God desires of you.

What is consuming your heart that it’s not allowing Him in? What is distracting you to the point you cannot hear Him? I am the first to admit that I willingly would choose those over time with Him, time digging in to His Word, time spent in silence with Him, waiting on Him. I would rather be consumed with distractions than allow Him space in my life…that’s what I am telling Him when I “scroll for just a few minutes.” Or when I say “just one more episode” or let someone else take up residency in my heart.

When I am distracted and consumed, I am more prone to worry, anxiety, doubt, fear, and control. I find that peace and stillness are commodities in short supply. The quiet filling of connection is negated with an empty longing to be known when we are consumed by anything other than the God who desires to know us more.

Maybe it’s time to stop the fighting for our attention and our hearts by simply giving them solely to Him. Not a screen, not the success or failure of our child’s pee wee league team, and not some fictional characters we enjoy.

 

Wrestling with Rest

Do you ever pray for rest and then when it comes despise it?

No? Just me then?

For a few years I felt the overwhelming sense of busy and hurried in my life. It felt like I was sprinting for an entire marathon, and my entire being was just slap out of energy. I felt drained, emptied out fully in every part of my life. It as so bad that my emotions couldn’t be kept in check on anything and I was at a point of no longer caring if they were in check. I poured out to God that I just needed rest, I needed the breath that could only come in Him. I needed carrying and I needed the quiet of Him.

What I didn’t bargain for was an equal amount of wrestling with having rest over a particular season. The resting season He gave me and that I have found myself in for longer than I had drawn up, was turning into a bit of a wrestling match with Jesus. That I was done with the rest, the seeming quiet and the landscape that felt more like a desert than a dream.

We plead for rest and then when it’s given to us, it’s not how we expected it to be. We start wondering if God’s forgotten us, we doubt He has any good in this time for us, we question whether He is even with us in the quiet, the seeming silence of life. And so we start doing, start filling life with busy again because we have become people who cannot be still and know. We can’t revel in the rest He gives us, that He beckons us to with Him. We would rather carry the burdens than take on His yoke of of easy, His burden that is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Learning about rest in Him means that I am not in control, and let’s be honest, I never have been, but I like to lie to myself that I do have control. Learning from Him in a time of rest means I am taking on a gentle and humble heart, just as He spoke in Matthew, one that doesn’t continue in the fretting, one that knows that I am the star nor am I in any control. What we find in rest is waiting. A silent waiting where security, our security, isn’t dependent upon us but fully in Him.

Rest isn’t thrashing about, pointing fingers and accusing God of leaving us. It’s joy and gladness in being with Him in the waiting, in the giving of this time He has graciously bestowed. It is the very words of David that we can see as rest, what we are capable of in rest instead of wrestling with Him.

“Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because You will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will You let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your Presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand. “

Psalm 16:9-11 (NIV)

It takes learning to be in rest with Him, and not wrestling with the feelings of abandonment or aloneness. It takes choosing to rest firmly and securely in Him rather than attempts at a hostile takeover of my life. It means waiting in silence instead of lobbing doubts of His character at Him. The irony is that we were built to rest, and yet when He gives it to us we wrestle so hard against it because the world tells us we shouldn’t be waiting, shouldn’t be silent, shouldn’t be still. But stillness is where we know that He is God…where He is our security…where are filled with joy….where we are in His Presence.

God of the Unfinished

“Sit still.”

A mother said this once.

My mom has said this countless times to me over the years. Mothers and grandmothers, aunts and nannies whisper those two words, cajoling or even sternly warning with those words.

Yet I find them here in Ruth. Words that echo across our lives in profound ways if we but take a moment to revel in them, to see them as relevant to what we find ourselves in today, this week, this month, our lives.

Naomi’s put herself at Boaz’s feet, quite literally, to seek redemption for her and her mother-in-law. We think, “This is it!” and Boaz reveals that there’s another relative that can handle this for them, one closer than he. (If this isn’t a Hallmark Movie production waiting to happen, I’m not sure anything is)

Let’s change up the circumstances a bit and see if we can’t put ourselves in Ruth’s position. You feel called to something, bigger than yourself something, from God Himself as you see Him written across the calling in your heart, a drawing near. (or maybe it’s even a turning from something and you know it’s turning to God now) You go with obedience and a confident YES (or maybe it’s a quiet yes filled with concerns, questions and doubts), still  you go.

You do the work, you dig in and while it is hard you begin to see small changes leading to a bigger revelation, to a God promise that is affirmed within. Then comes the crestfallen “wait” of the situation. It’s not where you thought it was headed, and now expectations are soon ushered out while disappointment and alternate scenarios are quickly rushing in.

Someone you trust, maybe a parent or a mentor, a close friend or confidante leans in and says, “Just wait. Sit still in it til we see how it shakes out.” And you want to smack them…or maybe that’s just me in my fleshyness. You’ve been moving along and now you’re told to sit still? To wait? It truly is the hardest part in all this. Not the starting, not the doing, the waiting. You are smack dab in the middle of it and you’ve had your story hit the pause, the buffering stage to load the remainder of it.

I don’t know how long it took for Boaz to find that relative, to orchestrate that meeting at the city gate and discuss the matters with him. In the story it seems like it happened that same day, and we just want to look at Ruth and say “Girl, it ain’t that hard.” But it might have been days, weeks or even months to locate this other man who would be her redemption and not this man she’d come empty to looking for filling. Our own waiting may be much longer than we anticipated, we may be seeing it as a hindrance to the work we began by saying yes to Him.

But we sit still. We wait to find out how things will go. For God will not rest until this story is finished, our redemption brought to fullness. Because here’s the thing…

God never leaves our story unfinished;

He never leaves us unredeemed.

While our expectations at God’s work has morphed the outcome a bit, we have to sit in the stillness of His redemption at work. The people He is pursuing and meeting in special places and times so that our story is His story, our work is His work, and our redemption is fully in Him.

So we sit in the stillness of a wait. Not looking to the what-ifs and should have beens, but to the God of finishes. The God of redemption. The God of our story. Because He will not rest until the matter is done. That’s a story worth being a part of. That’s a God worth saying yes to, no matter the plot twist or long pause.

My Wagging Foot

I am really bad at sitting still. I used to get in trouble at school and when I played basketball because of it. These days I would probably be labeled as ADD, but in fact, that’s not the case. I am inherently a doer, active at all times. I laughed a few years ago because I looked down as my foot was bouncing back and forth, just as my oldest nephews was doing while we watched a movie.

DSCN2342Needless to say, my active self (mind, heart, spirit and body) often finds itself in tension with the words “Be still.” I wrestle with those words, when said by people around me as a child and when they are whispered into my heart by God now. Every few months though I stumble back into those words, when they come at me as an accusation not as a balm for a worried heart, a fretting mind. It will surprise me often because I won’t feel as though I am actively in the way of God working, but when He whispers (and sometimes shouts, to be honest) stillness I see where I have gotten busy instead of waiting and trusting on Him.

I realized this earlier this week when I wrote out the words below. It was a confession and a prayer because I needed to get honest before God about what I had been doing, justifying actions of honesty and transparency when I know full well it was my way of doing rather than being.

I want to DO rather than invite to BE WITH.

Truth of the matter is that I find being still being framed as inactivity. It frustrates me and seems rather passive. That’s where my understanding has been wildly misleading and skewed to a fleshly mindset. Being still is not inactivity with God, it’s active dependence on a living Lord. It is active obedience to be still…it’s honoring Him to turn the worry over, the fretting of a mind and say, “I will be here, in You Lord.” It’s an act of trust and worship, each and every moment I choose to not do but be.

Active dependence is being still. It is knowing and trusting, it is being with Him. It’s a fight against my own nature and one that I am finding I am having a hard time learning and applying to life, even as I walk into my 15th year as a believer. It’s seeing that bouncing foot and being mindful of stopping it from leading me where He isn’t. It’s trusting when it moves, it will be following the God of stillness.