Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The List

Today I am overwhelmed with thankfulness. I haven’t won the lottery, a trip to Hawaii or been offered something other than my minivan to drive. I’ve had a couple of quiet hours to sit here on my porch to read and pray and realize how very fortunate I am. I have a wonderful house to live in, a good job, amazing friends, a loving family and the list goes on and on. Yes, there are some hard things too – but that makes me normal. Everyone has difficult things to deal with at some point in their lives. One of the keys for me has simply been to recognize that even when I was at a low point, God still cared for me in so many ways.

When I was in the midst of a particularly difficult few months, my best friend and I would exchange emails listing the top 10 things we were grateful for that day. It helped me to keep things in perspective. Yes life was hard, I was emotionally drained and the drama seemed to drag on forever. But, when I took a few minutes to be grateful for all the many things that were good and ways I was blessed, my heart softened and I felt thankful. The list kept me grateful.

I love Psalm 16 because it’s about taking refuge in God and his loving care. I am particularly drawn to verse 6. In the midst of my sadness I didn’t feel as though I had landed in a good place, but now looking back I see that all along God had his protective hands around me, guiding me to just the right spot emotionally, physically and spiritually. Indeed, my boundaries have fallen in very pleasant places.

Psalm 16
1 Keep me safe, O God,
for in you I take refuge.
2 I said to the LORD, "You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing."
3 As for the saints who are in the land,
they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight. [b]
4 The sorrows of those will increase
who run after other gods.
I will not pour out their libations of blood
or take up their names on my lips.
5 LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
you have made my lot secure.
6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
7 I will praise the LORD, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
8 I have set the LORD always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the grave, [c]
nor will you let your Holy One [d] see decay.
11 You have made [e] known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Life is hard!! There seems to be loss at every turn – job loss, the death of a loved one, an empty nest, a divorce, or an estranged relationship or ___________ (fill in the blank). Difficulties come in so many forms. Take a few minutes next time you are in the midst of personal crisis and make a list of the top 10 things you are grateful for – it may change your perspective a bit. Here is my list today.
1. Time to be still this morning
2. A beautiful day
3. The sound of wind chimes
4. A phone call with my best friend
5. Happy children
6. A vehicle that is paid off
7. Reconnecting with old friends
8. Pretty flowers on my porch
9. An upcoming vacation to the beach
10. The view from my porch

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Be Still

There is a big party going on at the neighbor’s house down the hill. I can hear the sounds of laughter and fun in the air. I’ll probably venture down later on to be social and see some old friends, but right now the silence feels like an old sweatshirt – cozy and comfortable – and I can’t bear to pull myself away from the sanctuary that my porch provides. I need time alone today to recharge my heart and connect with the Lord. More and more often I long for time to be still; whether I’m reading, journaling, praying or simply sitting on my porch listening to the birds. I need that time to process what goes on in my day to day life and to let my soul recharge.

Jesus understood the need to be alone as well. In John 6 we read that Jesus spent part of the day teaching a large crowd of people and then, not wanting to turn them away hungry, he fed five thousand. After spending time giving to the people, it says in John 6:15, “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” He needed time alone, time with his Father and a chance to be renewed. In the next verse it mentions that later that evening, he met up with the disciples. We don’t know exactly how long he was off by himself, but the impression I get is that it was a good chunk of time – perhaps even a few hours. Jesus took time to be alone other times as well, leaving the disciples or getting up early to find time to be on his own. Even Jesus, the perfect Son of God, needed time alone and with his Father in order to be spiritually whole and refreshed.

Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

I am learning to be still and in my times of quiet I have realized that in stillness there is the possibility of depth. Without quiet, or time for introspection and listening, relationship can become distorted, performance oriented and shallow. This is true in our relationships with one another (there has to be time to talk, connect and listen to each other), and also in our relationship with God. My most moving and intimate time with the Lord is when I have a day or so alone and I’m able to pray, sit quietly, or simply take time to write for long periods of time. That is my form of worship. That is what connects me to Him, and helps me to grasp who He actually is. I long to give my heart the opportunity to grow and become mature by embracing solitude.

I can still hear voices and laughter drifting up the hill. Perhaps later on I’ll go down the hill and say hi, but for now I’m content to be here alone and enjoy the stillness.