Posts Tagged ‘stillness

23
May
17

The Right Time

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…”
Ecclesiastes 3:1, NRSV

TimerContrary to what I am inclined to believe, “right now” is not always the correct answer.

On the other hand, “later” is also not universally acceptable – as some might have you believe.

“When?” is the question in question… as in “When should I do ­­­­_____________?”

When trying to solve a problem, it is no small victory to have tackled and nailed down the “What?” Pat yourself on the back a couple of times for that one.

But don’t overlook the importance of “When?”

Of course some acts come with their own built-in timetable. The time to begin cooking dinner, for example, is: well enough in advance of the desired serving time.

The time to begin your drive to Colorado is set by a combination of several factors, including the prevailing road conditions and the time you would like to arrive.

But there are other “whens” that are a bit harder to pin down. For example:

  • When will I take time to practice the guitar?
  • When will I pull those weeds?
  • When will I call to check in with my son?
  • When will I buy Joan’s birthday present?

These can all happen at any time. Which, sadly, means sometimes they can also happen at NO time.

But of all the “ whens” I struggle with, the one I probably struggle with the most has no built-in timetable or urgency about it. The answer could be “right now.” It could be “later.” It could very well be, “whenever I feel like it.”

The question is: “When will I do my ‘soul work’?” Or to ask it another way “When will I devote priority time and attention to listening to God’s voice and being shaped by God’s guidance and Spirit?”

Each of us has those times when we feel anxious and disconnected from God. In response we engage our “problem-solver” mode and set to work, looking to “fix it” somehow.

In one sense, there is nothing that should be a higher priority, right?

The very idea of saying, “Let’s see… I have to mow the lawn first… reply to some emails… then pick up the dry cleaning; I suppose I could probably squeeze in 10 minutes of ‘soul time’ before I have to leave for the softball game,” is really pretty silly.

But the more I thought about it, the less sense the original question seemed to make.

I mean, how can you really use the word “project” to talk about something as fundamental as becoming what you were designed to be in the first place?

Genesis 1:26-27 tells us that we were each made, “… in the image of God,” right? So then why would I be grunting and straining to try and manufacture something that is already there… that has been there in fact since before the beginning?

It might sound a little Buddhist to some, but maybe the “doing” I should be paying more attention to is more like an “undoing”… the undoing the attention I give to the standards of behavior the culture imposes upon me… the undoing of all of my devotion to the little “g” gods that stand before me… the undoing of my desire to seek the approval of people in my decisions and actions… the undoing of my anxiety to measure up.

And so, if that is true… if I am indeed called to less of a doing and more of an undoing… then the answer to the question “when” is pretty easy:

NOW.

And: CONTINUOUSLY. WITHOUT CEASING.

And: FOREVER.

Today let our project be one of emerging… emerging from under the pile of debris heaped upon us by the events of our lives… and emerging into the bright sunlight of God’s embrace.

Abundant blessings.

 

16
May
17

LISTEN!

SHHHHHH1“God told me to.”

Have you ever heard those four words offered in response to the question, “Why did you do that?”

If you have heard someone say that before, tell me honestly: what were the first thoughts that popped into your head?

Did you think, “Well, good for you! Follow courageously where He leads!”?

Or was your response more along the lines of, “Hmmmm. Interesting. Tell me more.”?

Maybe you even went with something like, “OK then… And did God also reveal the Seventh Sign of the Apocalypse to you personally and tell you to be sure and make yourself a tin-foil hat to protect yourself from solar radiation?”

I have to confess… I have probably reacted by saying all three of those things at some point or other. And the response I gave probably had a lot to do with the identity of the person telling me that God told them to do something.

I suppose when we hear someone say that God told them to do such-and-such we flash back to memories of the mother who heard God tell her to drown her five kids… or the brutal dictators and cult leaders who said they were following God’s direct commandment in committing their own atrocities.

So I can’t help but wonder: what have people thought when they heard ME use that very meaningful, yet also very loaded phrase?

“God told me to” is the essence of my answer when anyone asks why I decided to go into the ministry.

It is usually the answer at the heart of why I might decide to preach on Topic A instead of Topic B on a given Sunday.

I am sure it is the explanation behind those times when I get a sudden, inexplicable urge to pick up the phone and call someone… and then listen as they say, “Wow! It is so weird that you would call just now…” and then listen as they tell me about an event or a dilemma that has arisen recently in their life.

But where do we finally choose to come down on this question; does God communicate directly to us? Or does God not?

And if our answer is “YES,” how do we sift and sort between the random murmurings of an active imagination and The Voice of the Divine?

Personally, I am not sure I have a good answer to that question. My own history is littered with miscalculations on the topic of “the will of God” – in both directions.

But I found something in this morning’s devotion that might shed helpful light. It is from Mother Teresa’s book, My Life for the Poor, written in 1985. She says:

Once I asked my confessor for advice about my vocation. I asked, “How can I know if God is calling me and for what he is calling me?”

            He answered, “You will know by your happiness. If you are happy with the idea that God calls you to serve him and your neighbor, this will be the proof of your vocation. Profound joy of the heart is like a magnet that indicates the path of life. One has to follow it, even though one enters into a way full of difficulties.”

I like that.

I like the fact that her confessor talks about happiness as a signpost for discerning that it is actually God’s voice we are hearing. It affirms the essential notion that God – rather than being the nasty, punitive tyrant some paint God to be – is actually in favor of our happiness.

But I also like the idea here that says our path to happiness can take us through places of great difficulty. The confessor is telling Mother Teresa that HAPPINESS does NOT equal PROBLEMLESSNESS… that it is possible to experience profound joy in life and still encounter adversity.

How easily we forget this…

Yes, God does still speak. Sadly (for me) God does not use billboards, TV commercials or skywriting to communicate his messages.

God speaks most often in the stillness and devoted times of silence when we make LISTENING a priority.

Listen! Did you hear that?

It was God saying, “I love you and want you to be happy.”

 

– Abundant blessings;




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