Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Purpose Behind the Practice

Last week, I blogged about a new practice that God has been inviting me to start in my life. Here is the summary again:

“I believe that we need a place, a sanctuary that is inviting.

I believe that we need a purpose, to sit still and soak in His illumination.

I believe God’s promises that give me sustenance and are invigorating.

I believe that I will see progress whereby my soul is nourished and I will have internal peace.”

Now that we have the place (or where) established (click here), I will get more specific with this blog about my purpose (or what) behind the practice. My communing with God looks a little different every time. I am not legalistic about it. Actually, I try to avoid having plans when I pause and spend time with God.

As I think about my relationships with my husband, children, family, and friends, the most memorable times I have spent with them were mostly unplanned. Except for the showing up part…and sometimes that has been unplanned, too!

So you might be thinking, what do you do when you are in your sanctuary…there’s that word again. Do. Well, I don’t do a whole lot, but show up and be still.

I come before God, ask for His presence to fill me and my office and I am usually surprised by what happens. I don’t have any grand plans. Only my love for Him and my desire to be in His presence.

Sometimes I pray and listen. I write down a few things He reveals to me. I sing a lot. I take a few deep breaths. I often repeat a verse or two of scripture in my mind. Or read it out loud. I keep some post it notes in the drawer on my red table so that I can write down those “to do” list things that bubble to the surface once my mind is quiet enough to give them oxygen.

Often, I thank Him for the overflow of goodness and mercy that He has given to me. On the altar of thanksgiving. I break bread with Him and enjoy His fellowship. It is like having dessert before dinner.

Some days I hear from God and other days, I don’t. But, the more important thing is that I keep showing up. It is similar to my relationship with my husband. Some days we have great conversations and we plan for the future. Other days, we just sit with a cup of coffee and enjoy each others presence.

The purpose, my friends, is to be with Him. Simple. Yet, so difficult for me to sit. Still.

Regardless of what may or may not happen during my communion with God, I long to soak in His illumination. When I view my life and my small, yet significant role in this universe, it only comes into focus when it is viewed under His Light.

When I am with Him, all is truly well.

If you would take the time to be still in God’s presence, what would you share with Him?

In the next few days, I will blog about some of God’s promises that give me sustenance and invigorate me to come back for more.

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A place for me and Him

Yesterday, I blogged about a new practice that God has revealed to me:

“I believe that we need a place, a sanctuary that is inviting.

I believe that we need a purpose, to sit still and soak in His illumination.

I believe God’s promises that give me sustenance and are invigorating.

I believe that I will see progress whereby my soul is nourished and I will have internal peace.”

Today, I want to focus on the first one. The importance of having a place to practice. A sanctuary all your own. Where you invite His presence.

Does that sound foreign or enticing?

Honestly, it sounds like both to me. Foreign because I have access to God anywhere and enticing because who doesn’t want to be in God’s presence??

When I speak of a place for you and God to meet, I am referring to a physical place that is devoted to spending time with God. This will be different for all of us. My sanctuary or altar where I commune with God is in my office. I have a comfy red chair, a candle, a table, and a lamp. My bible is there as well as some of my study materials, prayers that I like to read, and an old hymnal.

It is located by the double window where the light cascades as the sun shares its life with me in the afternoon. Sometimes I use music in my sanctuary as well.

Some may feel that the word altar is too strong to use in this instance, but I don’t. The Eucharistic meal (Bread and Wine) is displayed and eaten from an altar. Eucharist is a Greek word that means “thanksgiving”.

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  I Corinthians 11:23-24

When I sit in my sanctuary with God, I am communing with Him. I am partaking of the Bread of Life. Sometimes, I do take actual communion with Him. He is always with me.

The word communion is also greek:  koinōnía. It means to fellowship, share, or participate.

When I commune with God in my sanctuary with Him, I am accepting His invitation to be with Him. And it is as sweet as honeycomb…

You know how you love spending time with your husband, children, friends, and whomever you love? It doesn’t really matter what you do. As long as you are with the One you love, the rest will come.

Don’t force it. Just show up. You may be delightfully surprised. I hope you are.

Do you have a place for you and Him? If not, what do you want your meeting place to be like?

Check back in tomorrow when I will blog about the second part of the practice:  I believe that we need a purpose, to sit still and soak in His illumination. Now that we have the place established, I will get more specific about my purpose behind the practice. I will also share more about what my communing with God looks like.

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I am not a monk

A friend of mine challenged me this week with this question: “When was the last time you sat still in silence?” Well, to be honest, the first thing that came to mind was, “I’m not a monk.” Sarcastic…I know.

If silence is the absence of noise and being still is not moving, well I don’t do either of those too well. Mr. B is shaking his head with an emphatic yes.

Do.

Such a little word. With so much attached to it. Reminds me of leaving the bathroom with a toilet paper trail stuck to your shoe. It’s just toilet paper, but when it’s attached to your shoe, it becomes so much more!

It’s just a phone call or cleaning out my inbox. Or a load of laundry that turns into Mount Everest. Or dinner, dishes, and evening round-up. OR, Words with FRIENDS……

And then, there is no time left for those two S words…

Silence and stillness.

To me, being still before God is not the same as studying. Reading His Word and journaling and making my requests known to God are all different from being silent and still before Him.

So, after I told my friend that I am not a monk and we both belly rolled, I honestly said, “I don’t know.”

I then remembered something that I read in “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp (there’s that book again…if you haven’t read it, go to amazon.com now):

“Progress is born out of rhythm, routine, and regularity…set times” and “daily discipline is the door to full freedom.” Ann Voskamp.

The fog started to lift.

The practice of being still and silent before God. Resting in His presence. Focusing on Him. Where more of Him means less of me and the world around me.

This practice started to get lost for me around August of 2005. Anybody want to guess what happened then? Yes, my first child was born. And life demanded more of me. And I opted for less silence and stillness. Less of Him. More to do.

No excuses. I get that. But for me, the connection became clear when a dear friend asked me a curious question.

From that one question, God has given me a practice. And I am so excited about it, that I must share it with you!

I believe that we need a place, a sanctuary that is inviting.

I believe that we need a purpose, to sit still and soak in His illumination.

I believe God’s promises that give me sustenance and that are invigorating.

I believe that I will see progress whereby my soul is nourished and I will have internal peace.

For today, meditate on the practice above. Tomorrow, I will blog about the first one. The importance of having a place to practice. A sanctuary all your own. Where you invite His presence.

And, yes, it is practice for me. It goes against every part of my being. That’s how I know God is up to something big! I have to depend on Him. Join me as I practice sitting still and being silent in His presence.

 

 

 

 

 

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Our Growing Family…

Yep, you read that right. Our family is expanding. By 8! No, we’re not having octuplets…but I bet I got your attention!!!

Since we can’t have a dog or cat without buying stock in Kleenex, we are adding 8 African Cichlids to our family. For those of you like me (until this week) who thought that African Cichlids were the African version of cockroaches, they are tropical fish. And here they are:

Aren’t they beautiful?? We started with four this week and will add four more next week. We have Goldy, Lapper the Lemondrop, Stealth, and Blueberry. Only the good Lord knows what the next four will be named!

Here is their home:

 

I will let know you who joins the bunch next week when our brood doubles.  I honestly don’t know who is happier, my children or my husband.

 

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Attitude

I am a quote addict and I eat them like some people eat M&M’s. Today, I have been pondering this quote from Attitude by Chuck Swindoll:

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.  Attitude, to me, is more important than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than success, than what other people think, say, or do.  It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill.  It will make or break a company. . . a church .  . . a home.  The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we embrace for that day.  We cannot change our past . . . we cannot change the fact that people act in a certain way.  We cannot change the inevitable.  The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. . . I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.  And so it is with you . . . we are in charge of our ATTITUDES.”

I am learning to be bold by expressing truth in love. There is a balance. I pray that my attitude is in line with God’s Word today and everyday. When I make a mistake, I can go to Him and ask for forgiveness. I believe God wants us to have an attitude of love for Him and others. If it starts there, you won’t miss the mark. Where you start makes all the difference in where you finish. I want to finish well.

We have a choice everyday regarding our attitude. We have little control in what happens to us, but we have ultimate control of our response to things that happen to us. What are you choosing today?

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One of Those Weeks

In the past, before I read “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp, I would have been the most grumpy and ungracious mom on the planet this week. Two sick babies. Deadlines. Stacks of laundry. Dinner and dishes. A sick mommy. And several other unmentionables make for a not so good week.

I tried to do it all in my power this week, and I could sense His presence…as Ann says, “I feel Him hold me — a flailing child tired in Father’s arms.”

In my weakness, He has been strong and I have been able to see with new eyes. Eyes that have been able to count the graces of each hour. My vision has changed. I can choose to see each and every moment through His plan, His Word. What a difference this makes! And with that, this week that could have been a disaster was not so much…it was more flailing a little and then remembering that He is holding me and I can stop striving and just be.

I don’t have to have it all together for Him to love me. The opposite is true. The more I don’t have it all together, the more I need Him. And needing Him is just where I have been this week. And for that I am grateful.

In the midst of this week, I have been able to utter thanks and give praise for many things:

1. Healthcare and medicine at my disposal within hours.

2. Otherwise healthy and spunky children full of vitality and love. I have friends who have spent months at Duke and UNC-CH with very sick children.

3. My sweet son’s logical mind. Here is an example that made me cackle out loud: We were talking about squirrels, birds, and rabbits that frolic in our backyard and I asked Sean the following question, “Sean, did you know that mommy used to eat rabbit when she was a little girl?” Sean: “No…” Me: “Yep, my nanny would fry them like chickens after my granddaddy hunted them.” Sean: {who was sitting very quietly at the kitchen table pensively focused on birds at the bird feeder outside the window} “Mommy, did they hop away when you tried to eat them?” I couldn’t help myself…I laughed until my side hurt and wrapped my arms around my sweet feverish son and held him tight.

4. My loving and gracious husband. He is a gem.

5. God’s Word…manna for each and every day.

6. The many varieties of birds that visit our bird feeder each day.

7. Warm fuzzy blankets and socks.

8. Extra cuddle time with both of my babies.

9. Music that brings energy into my life.

10. New eyes to see what God sees. Life in every moment. Resurrection around every corner. A new hope for a new day.

I am thankful for Ann Voskamp’s book, for it has allowed me to “wear my lenses and pray to see.” Lord, may I see what you want me to see and when the world becomes distorted, remind me to put Your lenses back on. Thank you that you are my El Roi, God who sees.

If you haven’t read the book yet, what are you waiting for?? I can almost promise that you will not be the same person after you read it. I pray that you will accept the challenge and soak and meditate on the manna of “One Thousand Gifts”.

It truly is all Grace…

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… Selah …

Before I get out of the shower, while the sun is still perched beyond the horizon, 300 thoughts have wound their way through my morning routine.

Breakfast. Clothing. To wash my hair or not. Lunch for Callie. Medicine. Coffee! Deadlines. Clients. My calendar. New opportunities. Writing topics. Sore muscles from a run. Did I put the clothes in the dryer? Call dad. Call the pediatrician. Take chicken out of freezer.

Shower’s done and hair is washed. Coffee pot has been turned on, and the thoughts continue to fight for space in my brain.

A never-ending cascade of mental snapshots that intrude into the quiet stillness of my morning. I am the only one up. Oh, how I love to pause and watch my babies sleep, all three of them!

But the thoughts continue.

Selah. Pause. Stop. Breathe.

What makes this so hard for me? For you?

How do I turn off my brain? Now that’s a rhetorical question if I have ever heard one. It is a machine that only rests when I sleep. Thankfully. Maybe that’s why I covet my sleep?

Selah. To pause and reflect. To stop whatever you are doing or thinking about and ponder something else. More deeply, with more intention.

In a way, it means to get a handle on your thought life. To tell it what to do instead of it dictating your haphazard day.

I believe that this is critical. If we can master our thought life, our emotions and behaviors will fall in line.

That’s what I am reflecting on today. What about you?

Selah, friends.

As a man thinketh in his heart so is he.Proverbs 23:7

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

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